Scotland earned promotion from UEFA Nations League Group C1 with a hard-fought victory over Israel on another thrilling night of international football.
The Scots ran out 3-2 winners at Hampden Park as three cracking finishes from hat-trick hero James Forrest turned the game on its head after Israel had taken an early lead.
The Celtic star’s deftly taken third turned out to be the crucial goal and came after former teammate and current Brighton midfielder Beram Kayal had opened the scoring with a looped effort over Allan McGregor in the ninth minute.
Alex McLeish’s side were made to sweat though as Eran Zahavi’s long-range effort deflected into the net late on, prompting the kind of unease around the ground that has come to typify Scottish international football in recent times. But they bravely held on to earn promotion, as well as a play-off place for Euro 2020, should they need it.
Their United Kingdom counterparts Wales, who the Scots will now be alongside in League B, were not so celebratory, as they came unstuck in a friendly away at Albania. The Dragons were downed 1-0, with Bekim Balaj scoring the winner from the penalty spot in a game where Chris Gunter became his country’s most capped player with 93 appearances.
The later friendlies were dominated by injuries to high-profile players. While Brazil took care of business against Cameroon thanks to a goal from Richarlison in Milton Keynes, it came at a cost, as Neymar sustained a suspected thigh strain inside six minutes at Stadium MK.
Paris Saint-Germain’s fears were later doubled, when the Brazilian’s teammate Kylian Mbappe was also carted off, after landing awkwardly on his shoulder following a collision with Martin Campana in France’s clash with Uruguay. Les Bleus went on to win the game through Olivier Giroud’s spot-kick conversion, but all eyes were on the fate of their young prodigy.
Kylian Mbappé now forced off with a shoulder injury during tonight’s friendly between France & Uruguay. Liverpool’s lucky evening so far. (Image | YS) pic.twitter.com/L4iXobwKgH
— Get French Football News (@GFFN) November 20, 2018
Thankfully, if not for exultant Liverpool fans ahead of their Champions League clash with the Parisians next week, the 19-year-old’s issue seems to be less serious than initially feared. In the accompanying friendly, Italy narrowly beat the USA in Genk (for some reason), with a 94th minute winner from Inter‘s Matteo Politano enough to sneak the win for Roberto Mancini’s side.
Back to the high-pressure cooker that is the Nations League, meanwhile, and the quasi dead rubber that was Portugal against Poland. But fear not, because thanks to the Nations League’s unrivalled machinery, there’s always something on the line – and this time, it was Germany’s seeding for Euro 2020 qualifying.
And, piling more misery on Joachim Low’s team, the Poles’ 1-1 draw meant that Die Mannschaft were indeed shafted to the second set of seeds for the draw on December 2.
In the remaining action, Sweden confirmed their promotion to the top tier with a 2-0 triumph over Russia, in their (classic Nations League) winner-takes-all clash in Stockholm. Meanwhile, Montenegro lost to Romania in League C and Malta drew with the Faroe Islands in League D – a result which leaves the Maltans rock bottom of Group 3.
That Group also saw Kosovo seal their own promotion to League C in style, with a 4-0 demolition job on Azerbaijan, thanks in most part to a hat-trick from Arber Zeneli.