England’s prospects of returning to the finals of the Nations League suffered a big hit as Gareth Southgate’s side lost 1-0 at home to Denmark on Wednesday, while Kylian Mbappe gave World Cup holders France a 2-1 victory in Croatia and Portugal won without Cristiano Ronaldo.
Harry Maguire was sent off for England in the first half at Wembley for two clumsy yellow cards, and Christian Eriksen then converted a 35th-minute penalty on the occasion of his 100th cap to put the Danes ahead.
They held on to inflict a first home defeat on England in two years, with the hosts also having young Chelsea full-back Reece James sent off for dissent after the final whistle.
“He is a top player, he is a massive part of what we do,” Southgate said in defence of Maguire, who has struggled for Manchester United since his involvement in a brawl on the Greek island of Mykonos in August.
“He is having a period where is having a lot of stick thrown his way and he is big enough to deal with that.”
England got to the four-team finals of the inaugural Nations League last year but their chances of getting there again this time are very much in the balance with Belgium two points ahead of Southgate’s team and the Danes atop League A, Group 2.
Belgium won 2-1 in Iceland on Wednesday with Romelu Lukaku scoring twice. They host England in Brussels on November 15.
In Zagreb, Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe missed an open goal early on but got the winner in the 79th minute as France beat Croatia 2-1 in their latest re-run of the 2018 World Cup final.
Antoine Griezmann had put France ahead with Nikola Vlasic equalising in the second half for Croatia before around 7,000 fans.
Les Bleus have still never lost to Croatia and are level with Portugal on 10 points at the top of League A, Group 3.
Doubles for Jota, Lewandowski
Portugal, winners of the inaugural Nations League, shrugged off the absence of Ronaldo because of a positive Covid-19 test as they beat Sweden 3-0 in Lisbon.
Liverpool’s Diogo Jota set up Bernardo Silva for the opener then scored two of his own, one either side of half-time.
“This team will always be better with Cristiano, but they showed they can still compete,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos.
Meanwhile, the prolific Robert Lewandowski scored a brace as Poland beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 in Warsaw. Karol Linetty got the other goal and Poland are top of Group A, a point above Italy and two ahead of the Netherlands.
The Dutch came from behind to draw 1-1 with Italy in Bergamo, with Donny van de Beek netting for Frank de Boer’s side after Lorenzo Pellegrini put Italy ahead.
Scotland continue revival
Below the top tier, Scotland continued their tentative revival by beating the Czech Republic 1-0 at an empty Hampden thanks to an early goal by Newcastle United’s Ryan Fraser.
After edging Israel on penalties to reach the Euro qualifying play-off final, Scotland beat Slovakia 1-0 at the weekend.
They are now unbeaten in eight matches and are four points clear of the Czechs at the top of League B, Group 2, and five ahead of Israel who came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in Slovakia with a hat-trick from PSV Eindhoven’s Eran Zahavi.
In Group 4, Wales won 1-0 in Bulgaria with a late Jonny Williams goal.
They are unbeaten in eight competitive games, and Ryan Giggs’ side are top with 10 points, a point ahead of Finland.
Stephen Kenny is still waiting for his first win as Republic of Ireland manager after a 1-0 defeat in Finland left his side out of contention for top spot in that group.
Before 8,000 fans in Helsinki, Fredrik Jensen scored the only goal, as he did when the sides met last month in Dublin.
Also in League B, Northern Ireland kept Erling Braut Haaland quiet enough but a second-half Stuart Dallas own goal gave Norway a 1-0 win in Oslo in Group 1.
Turkey came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Serbia in Group 3, which is topped by Russia who were held 0-0 by Hungary in Moscow.