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Off-target Italy struggles to Malta win

France made it two wins from two at the start of their World Cup qualifying campaign as Didier Deschamps' men compiled a solid victory over Belarus in Group I.

European Championship runner-up Italy limped to an unimpressive 2-0 win over Malta in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night, getting goals from Mattia Destro in the fifth minute and Federico Peluso in second-half injury time.

Coming off a 2-2 tie at Bulgaria in Friday's opening qualifier, the Azzurri went ahead when Destro scored his first international goal.

Malta posed little threat and Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was reduced to a spectator's role for much of the match.

Italy (1-0-1) leads Group B on goal difference over Bulgaria, while Malta dropped to 0-2.

"Yes, we suffered in this game, and didn't play a very nice game, but these games are useful to look at these players and see what they are like and have an idea of what stage they will be at in two years' time," Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli said. "Overall, I'm satisfied."

France topped Group I following a 3-1 win at home against Belarus, with Etienne Capoue, Christophe Jallet and Franck Ribery scoring for Les Bleus.

"It was important for us to win tonight," Ribery said, thinking ahead to France's next qualifier, at Spain on Oct. 16.

Germany (2-0), which leads Group C, won 2-1 at Austria on Marco Reus' goal in the 44th minute and Mesut Oezil's penalty kick in the 52nd, beating its neighbor for the eighth straight time. Zlatko Junuzovic reduced Austria's deficit in the 57th minute, converting a cross by Marko Arnautovic.

"They had some great chances," Germany coach Joachim Loew said, "but they all resulted from our mistakes."

Dutch winger Jeremain Lens scored twice to lead the Netherlands to a 4-1 win over Hungary in a Group Four qualifier.

Lens scored his first in the third minute, heading in a pass from the right side by Luciano Narsingh, only for Hungary to equalize four minutes later through a penalty by Balazs Dzsudzsak after Jordy Clasie fouled Zoltan Gera.

"We truly committed some gross individual mistakes but we have to recognize that we were up against a better team," Hungary coach Sandor Egervari said.

The Dutch regained the lead for good in the 19th when Bruno Martens headed in a free kick by Wesley Sneijder. After two matches, the Netherlands had six points and was second on goal difference in Group D, behind Romania. Hungary was third ahead of Turkey.

Russia (2-0) defeated Israel 4-0 and leads Portugal on goal difference in Group F. Portugal needed goals in the final 27 minutes by Silvestre Varela, Helder Postiga and Bruno Alves to beat Azerbaijan 3-0.

Cristiano Ronaldo set up Portugal's first two goals.

In Asia, Japan (2-0-1) took a significant stride toward a berth by beating Iraq 1-0, but Australia stumbled with a 2-1 loss at Jordan. Lebanon defeated Iran 1-0 and South Korea (2-0) managed a 2-2 draw at Uzbekistan to extend its lead in Group A.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.


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