| Michael Owen, after scoring England’s first goal versus Liechtenstein Saturday
London: European champions France crushed Malta 6-0, while many of Europe’s bigger countries struggled against far weaker opposition they should have pulverised on Saturday.
Unimpressive England struggled to beat Liechtenstein 2-0, Germany could only draw 1-1 with Lithuania and Russia crashed 1-3 in Albania on a day of 18 qualifiers.
But France never looked back against Malta after Sylvain Wiltord almost burst the net with their opening goal after 37 minutes. Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane each scored twice — Zidane scoring once from the spot — while David Trezeguet grabbed another.
They lead group I with a maximum haul of 12 points from their opening four games — eight clear of Israel and Cyprus who drew 1-1 in Limassol.
In contrast with the French, England could only beat Liechtenstein 2-0 with a goal in each half from Michael Owen and David Beckham at the tiny Rheinpark Stadion in Vaduz while the part-timers emerged as the moral victors at least.
Germany were another top nation to struggle as they were held to a 1-1 draw in Nuremberg by Lithuania, ranked 106th in the world — 101 places below the Germans in the latest Fifa world list.
Carsten Ramelow put Germany ahead after only eight minutes and that seemed to be enough until Tomas Razanauskas equalised with 17 minutes to play.
That result cost Germany top place in group V with Scotland moving ahead of the Germans on goals scored after a 2-1 win over Iceland in Glasgow.
The teams have the same goal difference but Scotland are top because they have scored one more goal than the Germans.
Russia crashed to a shock 1-3 defeat to Albania in Tirana. Croatia had no such problems against Belgium and swept to a 4-0 win over their visitors in Zagreb, while Italy beat Finland 2-0 in Palermo with Christian Vieiri scoring both goals.
The best away win of the day was in Bucharest where Denmark crushed Romania 5-2 with Thomas Gravesen scoring an incredible 45-metre goal for the visitors. That proved too much for Romania coach Anghel Iordanescu who quit after the game.
In group VI, Spain lost their 100 per cent record but still top the standings after a 2-2 draw with Ukraine in Kiev with three goals coming in the last eight minutes of playing time.
Raul and Joseba Etxeberria scored with time running out to put Spain 2-1 up after Andriy Voronin had netted for Ukraine after 11 minutes. Olexander Gorshkov saved a point for the home side with a goal two minutes into stoppage time. (Reuters)