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Ozil brace breaks down stubborn Faroe Islands

Mesut Ozil scored twice as Germany began their World Cup qualifying campaign with a predictable 3-0 win over a disciplined, but extremely limited Faroe Islands last night.

There was early drama as Faroes goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen kept the hosts at bay for almost half an hour and a hint of desperation was creeping into the Germans' play before Mario Goetze broke through.

After that Germany relaxed, stroked the ball around, often at walking pace, and completed the European Group C win with two Ozil goals in the second half.

Elsewhere, a controversial penalty decision ended Northern Ireland's hopes of salvaging a point from their World Cup qualifier in Moscow. The visitors were heavy underdogs for the Group F opener at Lokomotiv Stadium, but Viktor Fayzulin's 30th-minute effort was the only difference between the teams with 12 minutes remaining.

But then the referee awarded a spot-kick, which was converted by Roman Shirokov to ease the Russians home.

Ten-man Wales began their qualifying campaign with a 2-0 defeat as goals from Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen gave Belgium victory in Cardiff. All the early Welsh good work was undone when James Collins was shown a straight red after 25 minutes.

A first-half goal by Abou Diaby gave France a winning start with a 1-0 win away to Finland in their Group I opener, while Robin van Persie grabbed his 30th international goal and Luciano Narsingh scored his second to give an inexperienced Netherlands team a 2-0 win over Turkey in Group D.

Bulgaria's lively midfielder Georgi Milanov struck midway through the second half to earn Bulgaria a 2-2 draw at home to new-look Italy in their Group B qualifier.

Cristiano Ronaldo was on the mark as Portugal recovered from an early scare in Luxembourg to start their Group F campaign with a 2-1 win.

Irish Independent