Portugal and France struggled to win their opening 2014 World Cup qualifiers on Friday.

Portugal had to come from behind to win its group F match in Luxembourg 2-1, while Abou Diaby’s goal gave France a 1-0 victory in Finland in a group I game.

Two former world champions who also struggled were Italy and Germany, with the latter recording a 3-0 victory at home against footballing minnows Faroe Islands, while the Azzurri were held 2-2 in Bulgaria in group B.

Goals from Robin van Persie and Luciano Narsingh got the Netherlands back on track after a disappointing Euro 2012 campaign as it beat Turkey 2-0.

van Persie put the Dutch in front after 17 minutes while Narsingh broke through on the counter attack in added time to seal an 11th straight World Cup qualifying win for the host.

Argentina-born Pablo Osvaldo scored both goals for Italy and coach Cesare Prandelli said that he could live with the result.

“One point is fine, since the start of the season is often a bad time for us.” The other group B game saw Armenia win 1-0 in Malta.

Real Madrid midfielder Mesut Oezil scored twice for Germany which laboured to victory in group C.

Midfielder Thomas Mueller complimented the Faroe Islands after Germany’s victory. “It is amazing how a country with so few people can put together such a strong side.

“We wanted to do well and I do not think we wasted many chances easily. Their keeper played well, but we will have to do better in our next match.”

Ireland scored twice in the two final minutes for a 2-1 win in Kazakhstan in the other group game.

In group E Albania secured one of its rare competitive victories as it beat Cyprus 3-1, with the other two matches in the group ending 2-0, with Switzerland winning in Slovenia and Iceland beating Norway.

Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic scored hat-tricks as Bosnia and Herzegovina thrashed Liechtenstein 8-1 in group G. The two other goals for the visitor were scored by Zvjezdan Misimovic.

Also in the group Lithuania and Slovakia drew 1-1, while Greece won 2-1 in Latvia.

Former England coach Fabio Capello, meanwhile, took Russia to a 2-0 victory against Northern Ireland in group F.

In his first game in charge of the 2018 World Cup host, Zenit St. Petersburg players Viktor Fayzulin and Roman Shirokov scored either side of the break, to give Capello a winning start.

Capello took over from Dutchman Dick Advocaat, who left after Russia failed to progress beyond the group stages at the 2012 Euros in Poland and Ukraine earlier this year.

In another group game played on the night Israel secured a 1-1 draw in Azerbaijan. Bebras Natcho gave the visitor the lead, but Ruslan Abusov equalized within 15 minutes.

In Chisinau, Frank Lampard scored twice as England got its group H qualifying campaign off to a winning start with a 5-0 victory in Moldova.

The other goals were scored by Jermain Defoe, James Milner and Leighton Baines.

Also in the group Montenegro and Poland drew 2-2.

In group A, Croatia secured a 1-0 win against Macedonia and Belgium won 2-0 at Wales.

More In: Football | Sport