The Netherlands slumped to a dramatic 4-2 defeat against Turkey in its opening 2022 World Cup qualifier on Wednesday, while reigning champion France was held by Ukraine despite a brilliant Antoine Griezmann goal and Belgium came from behind to beat Wales.
European champion Portugal battled to a 1-0 victory over Azerbaijan, but 2018 World Cup runner-up Croatia lost 1-0 in Slovenia.
At Istanbul, Turkey led 3-0 shortly after half-time through two Burak Yilmaz goals and a Hakan Calhanoglu strike, but substitutes Davy Klaassen and Luuk de Jong gave Frank de Boer’s Dutchmen hope.
Yilmaz’s wonderful free-kick sealed him a hat-trick and Turkey a crucial win, though, in a match between the two favourites to qualify from Group G.
The defeat was a dreadful start to the campaign for the Netherlands, which failed to qualify for either Euro 2016 or the 2018 World Cup, but is one of the fancied sides ahead of the delayed Euro 2020 finals this year.
France kicked off its title defence with a 1-1 draw against Ukraine. Griezmann curled a fine finish from outside the box into the top corner in the 19th minute to draw level with David Trezeguet in fourth place on France’s all-time goal-scoring list, with 34.
But Presnel Kimpembe put through his own net before the hour mark to draw Ukraine level.
Belgium, the world’s No. 1 side, fell behind early against Wales but fought back to outclass its opponent 3-1.
Harry Wilson scored an excellent 10th-minute opener for Wales in Leuven, but Kevin De Bruyne and Thorgan Hazard netted in the space of six minutes to put the hosts ahead before the half-hour mark.
Belgium’s record goal-scorer Romelu Lukaku wrapped up the points with a penalty 17 minutes from time, gaining the Red Devils a measure of revenge for their Euro 2016 quarterfinal loss to Wales.
Roberto Martinez’s men sit second in the early Group E table behind Czech Republic, which thrashed Estonia 6-2 on neutral ground in Poland, with West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek scoring a hat-trick.
Portugal, which defends the title at Euro 2020 later this year, struggled in its Group A opener against Azerbaijan in Turin.
But Maksim Medvedev’s own goal nine minutes before half-time was enough, despite Cristiano Ronaldo, on 102 international goals, failing to close the gap to Iranian Ali Daei’s all-time record of 109.
Portugal’s group rival Serbia battled back to beat the Republic of Ireland 3-2 as Aleksandar Mitrovic came off the bench to grab a second-half double.
Elsewhere, Russia stuttered to a 3-1 win in Malta while Croatia was beaten by Sandi Lovric’s early goal for Slovenia.
Portugal 1 (Medvedev 36-og) bt Azerbaijan 0.
Serbia 3 (Vlahovic 40, Mitrovic 69, 75) bt Republic of Ireland 2 (Browne 18, Collins 86).
Finland 2 (Pukki 58, 77) drew with Bosnia and Herzegovina 2 (Pjanic 55, Stevanovic 85).
France 1 (Griezmann 19) drew with Ukraine 1 (Kimpembe 57-og).
Belgium 3 (de Bruyne 22, T. Hazard 28, Lukaku 73-pen) bt Wales 1 (Wilson 10).
Estonia 2 (Sappinen 12, Anier 86) lost to Czech Republic 6 (Schick 18, Barak 27, Soucek 32, 43, 48, Jankto 56).
Turkey 4 (Yilmaz 15, 34-pen, 81, Calhanoglu 46) bt The Netherlands 2 (Klaassen 75, L. de Jong 76).
Latvia 1 (Ikaunieks 40) lost to Montenegro 2 (Jovetic 41, 83); Gibraltar 0 lost to Norway 3 (Sorloth 43, Thorsvedt 45, Svensson 57).
Malta 1 (Mbong 56) lost to Russia 3 (Dzyuba 23, Fernandes 35, Sobolev 90).
Cyprus 0 drew with Slovakia 0.
Slovenia 1 (Lovric 15) bt Croatia 0.