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    World Cup Qualifiers | Greece fights back to hold powerhouse Spain

    European giants Germany, Italy and England all got off to a winning start in World Cup qualifying, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic marked his return to international soccer with an assist to help Sweden to victory on Thursday.

    There was disappointment for Spain, however, as it was held to a 1-1 draw at home by Greece.

    In Granada, Alvaro Morata put Spain ahead in the first half but the visitors equalised with a penalty converted by Anastasios Bakasetas early in the second period in one of the team’s few scoring chances.

    Spain coach Luis Enrique brought Youngsters Pedri and Bryan Gil on to improve the team’s attack but they couldn’t do much to change the game’s outcome.

    The 39-year-old Ibrahimovic, who last played for Sweden at the 2016 European Championship, set up Viktor Johan Anton Claesson’s first-half goal in a 1-0 win over Georgia.

    He set up the goal after receiving a pass on his chest and scooping the ball into the middle of the area for Claesson’s close-range shot in the 35th minute.

    Human rights

    Germany coach Joachim Low began his farewell tour with a 3-0 win against Iceland in Duisberg. Germany lined up before kickoff wearing T-shirts over its national-team jerseys bearing the message “HUMAN RIGHTS.”

    It was an apparent statement about human rights abuses in Qatar, which is under scrutiny because of its discriminatory laws and conditions for the migrant workers who are helping to build infrastructure for the World Cup.

    Later on Friday, world football’s governing body FIFA said it will not sanction the German national team.


    There was also a comfortable opening win for England, which beat San Marino 5-0 at Wembley.

    After failing to qualify for the last World Cup for the first time in six decades, Italy got its campaign off to a positive start with a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland.

    The results: Group B: Sweden 1 (Claesson 35) bt Georgia 0; Spain 1 (Morata 33) drew with Greece 1 (Bakasetas 57-pen).

    Group C: Bulgaria 1 (Despodov 46) lost to Switzerland 3 (Embolo 7, Seferovic 10, Zuber 12); Italy 2 (Berardi 14, Immobile 39) bt Northern Ireland 0.

    Group F: Israel 0 lost to Denmark 2 (Braithwaite 13, Wind 67); Moldova 1 (Nicolaescu 9) drew with Faroe Islands 1 (M. Olsen 83); Scotland 2 (Hanley 71, McGinn 85) drew with Austria 2 (Kalajdzic 55, 80).

    Group I: Andorra 0 lost to Albania 1 (Lenjani 41); Hungary 3 (Sallai 6, Szalai 53, Orban 78) drew with Poland 3 (Piatek 60, Jozwiak 61, Lewandowski 83); England 5 (Ward-Prowse 14, Calvert-Lewin 21, 53, Sterling 31, Watkins 83) bt San Marino 0.

    Group J: Germany 3 (Goretzka 3, Havertz 7, Gundogan 56) bt Iceland 0; Romania 3 (Tanase 28, Mihaila 50, Hagi 86) bt North Macedonia 2 (Ademi 82, Trajkovski 83); Liechtenstein 0 lost to Armenia 1 (Frommelt 83-og).

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