The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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France in shaky start; Turks soar

London: Turkey continued their new-found love affair with international soccer when they opened their European Championship qualifying campaign with a slick 3-0 win over Slovakia on Saturday.

World Cup finalists Germany started their Group V campaign with a straight-forward 2-0 win in Lithuania. But defending champions France failed to shake off their World Cup nightmare. They were made to fight hard and had to come back from a goal down to beat Cyprus 2-1 in a Group I match in Nicosia.

Italy bounced back from their World Cup disappointment with a 2-0 Group IX win in Azerbaijan, thanks to an own goal from Tarlan Akhmedov (33) and a second half winner from Alessandro Del Piero (65).

Spain also returned to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Greece in their Group VI match in Athens with Raul (8) and Juan Carlos Valeron (76) scoring.

Incidentally, it was Raulís 29th goal in 56 games and he now joins Fernando Hierro at the head of the all-time list of leading goalscorers for Spain.

The Netherlands began their international rehabilitation with a 3-0 win over Belarus in a Group III match in Eindhoven with Edgar Davids (35), Patrick Kluivert (37) and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (73) scoring.

The Faroe Islands almost scored a rare victory over Scotland in Toftir. But after the islanders raced into an early 2-0 lead, Scotland fought back with two second half goals to draw 2-2.

San Marino also put up a determined showing and restricted Poland to a 2-0 winning scoreline in their Group IV match in Serravalle. Turkey were far too strong for Slovakia. Once Serhat Akin drew first blood after 14 minutes, there was only going to be one winner. Two more goals from Arif Erdem after 45 and 65 minutes wrapped up the points.

Germany began their campaign with a 2-0 win in Lithuania, thanks to goals from Michael Ballack (27) and Marius Stankevicius (58 own goal).

France fell behind to an 15th minute goal by Ioannis Okkas. But they hit back to take three points with goals from strikers Djibril Cisse (38) and Sylvain Wiltord (52). Russia beat Ireland 4-2 in a Group X encounter in Moscow which was overshadowed by crowd trouble in the city centre.

Before the game there were at least two clashes involving more than 100 Russian and Irish fans with some casualties reported.

Portugal, host nation for the 2004, drew 1-1 with England in a friendly at Villa Park, Birmingham. Alan Smith headed England ahead in the 40th minute and Costinha headed in a 79th minute equaliser for the visitors.

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