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World Cup European qualifiers round-up: A winning start for a new French regime

England’s dominant 5-0 away victory in Moldova wasn’t the only notable performance in the opening set of World Cup qualifiers in the European segment.

Two of England’s group rivals shared the spoils in Group H, as Montenegro played out a 2-2 draw with Poland.

It was a nasty match, with many bitty challenges and red cards in quick succession for Savo Pavicevic of Montenegro and Poland’s Ludovic Obraniak.

Half-time substitute Adrian Mierzejewski levelled matters for the Euro 2012 co-hosts in the second half, as they will be the happier of the two sides.

Another new dawn for France

Another new dawn for French football began with a hard-fought 1-0 away victory in Finland.

Arsenal’s Abou Diaby ended his 18-month international exile, as he scored the only goal in the first match for Les Bleus under their new manager and 1998 World Cup winning captain Didier Deschamps.

The French went top of Group I as defending world champions Spain don’t get their campaign underway until Tuesday.

Nearly 20,000 expectant spectators packed into the Cardiff City Stadium for Wales’s opener against Belgium in Group A.

It ended in disappointment for Welsh boss Chris Coleman, who was missing five key players due to injury and illness and a deserved first half red card for James Collins.

Premier League defenders Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen scored the two goals in a 2-0 triumph for Belgium.

Northern Ireland begin with defeat

In the other Group A game, Everton’s Nikita Jelavic scored the solitary goal as Croatia overcame Macedonia 1-0 in Zagreb.

Northern Ireland also began with defeat as they bravely went down 2-0 to Fabio Capello’s Russia in Moscow.

Viktor Fayzulin and a Roman Shirokov penalty were the goalscorers for the Russians in Group F.

Capello made his intentions clear with his new squad, leaving out former regulars Andrey Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko from his starting 11.

Also in Group F and Euro 2012 semi-finalists Portugal were very fortunate to avoid a potential embarrassing defeat to European minnows Luxembourg.

A long-range thunderbolt from Daniel Da Mota gave the home side a shock lead in the 13th minute.

Unconvincing from the Republic of Ireland

Unhappy Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo equalised on the half hour and Portuguese blushes were spared by a winner from ex-Tottenham exile Helder Postiga nine minutes into the second half.

In Group C, the comeback of the night came in Kazakhstan as an unconvincing Republic of Ireland edged out their inferior opponents 2-1.

Kazakhstan led from the 38th minute, courtesy of a strike from Kairat Nurdauletov.

However, experience overcame the bravery of the hosts with two late goals from Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle for the Irish.

Both goals came in the last two minutes for Giovanni Trapattoni’s unimpressive outfit.

Italy struggle in Sofia

Mesut Ozil scored twice as Germany began their campaign in business-like fashion, defeating Faroe Islands 3-0.

Elsewhere, Italy struggled to a 2-2 draw in Sofia against Bulgaria in Group B, despite two first half efforts from Pablo Osvaldo.

Robin van Persie continued his impressive start to the new season, with a goal in Holland’s 2-0 victory against Turkey in Group D.

They sit in behind Hungary, following the Hungarians 5-0 thumping away to Andorra.

Lastly, Edin Dzeko hit a hat-trick as Bosnia-Herzegovina recorded their biggest ever victory as a footballing nation.

They thumped Liechtenstein 8-1 in Group G.

2014 FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS – RESULTS FROM FRIDAY, 7 SEPTEMBER 2012

GROUP A

Croatia 1-0 FYR Macedonia

Wales 0-2 Belgium

GROUP B

Bulgaria 2-2 Italy

Malta 0-1 Armenia

GROUP C

Germany 3-0 Faroe Islands

Kazakhstan 1-2 Republic of Ireland

GROUP D

Andorra 0-5 Hungary

Estonia 0-2 Romania

Holland 2-0 Turkey

GROUP E

Albania 3-1 Cyprus

Iceland 2-0 Norway

Slovenia 0-2 Switzerland

GROUP F

Azerbaijan 1-1 Israel

Luxembourg 1-2 Portugal

Russia 2-0 Northern Ireland

GROUP G

Latvia 1-2 Greece

Liechtenstein 1-8 Bosnia & Herzegovina

Lithuania 1-1 Slovakia

GROUP H

Moldova 0-5 England

Montenegro 2-2 Poland

GROUP I

Finland 0-1 France

Georgia 1-0 Belarus

By Simon Wright – Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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