Germany, Italy, England start WC qualifying with wins

·1 min read

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.

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.

Germany coach Joachim Löw began his farewell tour with a 3-0 win against Iceland in Duisberg. Germany lined up before kickoff wearing T-shirts over their 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.

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.

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

___

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Daniella Matar, The Associated Press