International round-up: Haller scores winner, Balbuena holds Messi to draw

Sebastien Haller celebrates scoring against Charlton


Sebastien Haller made a dream start to his Ivory Coast career by scoring the winner in the Elephants’ 2-1 win over Madagascar on Thursday.

The West Ham United striker headed in his country’s second goal ten minutes after half-time on debut to help them to a vital Africa Cup of Nations qualifying victory in Abidjan.

Haller, who was born in France to an Ivorian mother, dived to nod in a Max Gradel cross to double the home side’s lead seven minute after former Arsenal forward Gervinho had opened the scoring.

Paulin Voavy pulled a goal back for Madagascar four minutes after Haller’s, but the Ivory Coast held on to collect all three points and go top of Group K.

The two nations now head to the island of Madagascar for the return fixture in Toamasina on Tuesday 17 November, when the winners will take a big step towards the final tournament in Cameroon in early 2022.

Said Benrahma’s Algeria defeated Zimbabwe 3-1 in Algiers to make it three wins out of three in Group H. The two countries will meet again in Harare on Monday 16 November, where a win would secure qualification for the Dessert Warriors.

Elsewhere, Darren Randolph earned his 48th cap for Republic of Ireland, but had a night to forget as England out 3-0 friendly winners at Wembley Stadium.

Randolph had no chance with any of England’s goals, which came from Harry Maguire’s header, Jadon Sancho’s shot and Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s penalty.

Randolph and Ireland will now be hoping to avoid relegation from UEFA Nations League B4, where they have two points from four matches ahead of a trip to Cardiff to face Wales on Sunday 15 November and home game with Bulgaria in Dublin on Wednesday 18 November.

Declan Rice was an unused substitute for England, who now travel to Belgium and host Iceland in their closing two Nations League A2 ties on Sunday 15 and Wednesday 18 November respectively.

Overnight, Fabian Balbuena helped Paraguay secure a superb 1-1 draw in Argentina in CONMEBOL qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The Paraguayans took the lead in Buenos Aires through Angel Romero's penalty before Nicolas Gonzalez equalised just before half-time.

But with Balbuena at the heart of the defence, La Rioja held off an Argentina team containing Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Lucas Ocampos to secure a point.

Paraguay are now unbeaten in their opening three qualifiers and sit fourth in the standings ahead of a home tie with bottom-of-the-table Bolivia next Tuesday 17 November.