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Belgium end England Nations League hopes as Italy eye finals

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Belgium where just five minutes from joining world champions France at next October’s finals when Iceland pulled level at 1-1 with group rivals Denmark in Copenhagen.

However, a stoppage time penalty by Christian Eriksen gave the Danes a 2-1 win and kept alive their chances of pipping Belgium to top spot in Group A2.

Youri Tielemans and Dries Mertens scored the goals which gave world number one Belgium victory over Gareth Southgate’s England.

Leicester midfielder Tielemans’s deflected effort went in off the post after 10 minutes.

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Twelve minutes later, Declan Rice was harshly punished for a challenge on Kevin De Bruyne just outside the area and Mertens curled the resulting free-kick perfectly over the wall to give Jordan Pickford no chance.

A second consecutive defeat leaves England down in third place, five points adrift of Belgium, with just one game remaining.

For the first time since Belgium’s victory in the third-place playoff between the sides at the 2018 World Cup was followed by a Nations League defeat to Spain over two years ago, England have suffered back-to-back competitive defeats.

Denmark’s late winner over Iceland means Belgium still need a point when they host the Danes on Wednesday to secure their place in the final four.

In Copenhagen, Iceland, whose Euro 2020 hopes were dashed by Hungary in a 2-1 play-off defeat in midweek, suffered more agony against Denmark.

Eriksen gave the Danes the lead from the penalty spot after just 12 minutes following a foul by Ari Freyr Skulason on Daniel Wass.

Vidar Orn Kjartansson levelled for Iceland in the 85th minute but another penalty by Eriksen in the second minute of injury time after a handball by Hordur Magnusson gave the Danes the three points.

Italy brushed off the absences of several players and coronavirus-hit coach Roberto Mancini with an impressive 2-0 victory over Poland.

The Azzurri took top spot in Group A1 from the Netherlands, who beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-1 earlier in the day.

Italy will be sure of a place in next October’s finals with victory over the Bosnians in Sarajevo on Wednesday.

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho opened the scoring in the 27th minute with a penalty awarded after Grzegorz Krychowiak had brought down Andrea Belotti.

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In the 77th minute, Poland had Jacek Goralski sent off before the Italians added a second goal from Domenico Berardi.

Frank de Boer won his first match as Netherlands coach after Georginio Wijnaldum scored twice in the win over Bosnia.

‘Good feeling’

Liverpool midfielder Wijnaldum struck his goals early in the first half to help new coach De Boer break his duck at the fifth attempt following three draws and a defeat, with Memphis Depay scoring the other for the dominant Dutch.

“It had been five games since we’d won, so it was a good feeling to win again,” said Wijnaldum.

“If I’m playing more in a sitting role, I don’t get in the box that often, but tonight I was playing as a No10 so I’m expected to. I basically just did my job.”

The Dutch go to Poland in their final group game on Wednesday but even a win won’t be good enough should Italy prevail in Bosnia.

In promotion ties, Scotland failed to follow up their heroics of reaching a first major tournament for 22 years as Steve Clarke’s men were beaten 1-0 by Slovakia, their first defeat in 10 games.

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Jan Gregus’s deflected strike on 32 minutes decided the meeting of two teams who qualified for Euro 2020 this week.

Wales winger David Brooks sealed a 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland.

After a seventh successive clean sheet in all competitions, Wales — unbeaten in their last 10 games — need a point on Wednesday against Finland to earn promotion to League A.

dj/jc