World Cup qualifiers round up: Thomas Muller saves Germany, Netherlands edge past Latvia

Ianis Hagi puts Romania on course for a major shock but Thomas Muller saves Germany; the Netherlands beat Latvia to keep themselves ahead in a tightly contest World Cup qualification group

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Highlights from the FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group J match between Germany and Romania.

Substitute Thomas Muller scored an 81st-minute winner to complete Germany's 2-1 comeback win over visitors Romania in their 2022 World Cup qualifier on Friday night.

The Germans, who have now won all four matches under new coach Hansi Flick, lead the standings in Group J with 18 points from seven matches, six ahead of North Macedonia and Armenia.

They have conceded just one goal in their last four matches could now seal their spot with a win over North Macedonia next week.

The hosts had the upper hand but it was the visitors who struck first with Ianis Hagi taking on two defenders, slipping the ball through the legs of Antonio Ruediger and then drilling in for the lead in the ninth minute.

Ianis Hagi celebrates during the World Cup 2022 group J qualifying soccer match between Germany and Romania in Hamburg, Germany, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Image: Ianis Hagi celebrates his stunning solo goal

Germany had possession and full control, spending most of the first 45 minutes in the Romanian half but lacked a clinical finish, with Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka going close.

Gnabry did find the deserved equaliser in the 52nd minute, firing in a low shot from the edge of the box for his 20th goal in his 30th international appearance.

Flick had pledged a high-intensity performance from his team and they kept combining well and attacking as Romania, defending with five players, gradually grew tired and dropped back deeper into their own half.

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After Gnabry and Kai Havertz came close, Germany, with more than 70 per cent possession throughout the game, got the winner when Muller, who had come on midway through the second half, tapped in at the far post after Goretzka headed on a corner.

Davy Klaassen scored the only goal as the Netherlands beat Latvia 1-0 away in Riga to keep themselves ahead in a tightly contest World Cup qualifying group.

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Highlights from the FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group G match between Latvia and Netherlands.

Klaassen was unmarked at the back post to tuck away Memphis Depay's corner after 19 minutes for the only goal of the game, although the Dutch did dominate with almost relentless attacks in the closing 20 minutes and might have won by a larger margin.

Stefan de Vrij and Depay both sent good chances wide in the second half while at the other end of the field, Dutch goalkeeper Justin Bijlow made an important save from a corner in stoppage time to keep his side's full haul of points intact.

The Netherlands advanced to 16 points in Group G, two ahead of Norway and four in front of third placed Turkey after those two countries drew 1-1 in Istanbul at the same time.

It was a third win in four games for the Dutch since Louis van Gaal returned as coach and they are expected to move closer to World Cup qualification when they host Gibraltar in Rotterdam on Tuesday.

Croatia stayed on course to qualify automatically for the 2022 World Cup after goals from Ivan Perisic, Josko Gvardiol and Marko Livaja helped the 2018 runners-up to a 3-0 win at Cyprus in their Group H qualifier.

The result kept Croatia top on 16 points from seven games, ahead of Russia on goal difference after the Russians ground out a 1-0 home win over Slovakia. Third-placed Slovenia are six points behind the front-runners after they beat Malta 4-0 away.

Meanwhile, a Daniel James strike helped Wales fight back to draw 2-2 with the Czech Republic in an entertaining World Cup qualifier after the visitor's goalkeeper had gifted the hosts a second half lead.

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Highlights of the World Cup European Qualifying Group E match between Czech Republic and Wales.
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