UEFA World Cup 2014 Qualifiers: Spain stutter while England thump San Marino
Croatia 2-0 Serbia
Macedonia 0-2 Belgium
Scotland 1-2 Wales
Wales kept their hopes of qualification alive with a hard fought come from behind win over Scotland at Hampden Park. Both sides saw key players withdraw due to injury. Steven Fletcher was taken off for Scotland when he landed awkwardly on his head from a corner and Gareth Bale went off at half-time for Wales with an ankle injury. Wales were the dominant side, creating plenty of chances in the first half, but the Scots took the lead through Grant Hanley in injury time of the 1st period. Robert Snodgrass then almost doubled the lead with a curling free-kick. However, Snodgrass conceded a penalty and was sent off for his second yellow in the 72nd minute. Aaron Ramsey converted from the spot to pull Wales level and taking advantage of the numerical superiority, the Welsh added a second through Hal Robson Kanu, securing a vital 3 points in their quest for qualification.
Veteran striker Ivica Olic scored one and set up one as Croatia beat Serbia 2-0 at home in Zagreb. Mario Mandzukic scored the opener for Croatia when Olic capitalized on Serbia left back Aleksandar Kolarov’s erroneous back pass and found Mandzukic who made no mistake. On 37 minutes, Olic added one of his own to double the advantage. Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic both went close to adding to the scoreline in the second half, but the first half lead proved enough in the end for the Croats who are second in the group only on goal difference, being level on points with leaders Belgium.
Belgium fought their way to a 2-0 victory at Skopje in a nervy encounter against Macedonia. After surviving early pressure from the hosts, Kevin de Bruyne put the Belgians ahead in the 26th minute. Belgium went into the break with the advantage and came out playing much better in the 2nd half. Eden Hazard was then brought down inside the box on 62 minutes after playing a neat one-two with Marouane Fellaini. He himself stepped up to take the spot kick and scored the insurance goal to put the result beyond any doubt.
Bulgaria 6-0 Malta
Czech Republic 0-3 Denmark
Alexander Tonev’s hat-trick helped Bulgaria rout Malta 6-0 in their World Cup qualifier in Sofia. The game was played inside an empty stadium without spectators as Bulgaria were punished by FIFA for incidents of racist abuse hurled at certain Danish players during their game in October.
Denmark earned their first win of the campaign with a surprisingly easy win away in Olomouc. Andreas Cornelius, Simon Kjaer and Niki Zimling got the goals for the Danes. Italy lead the group with 10 points, one ahead of Bulgaria, having played a game less as they were involved in a friendly against Brazil on Thursday night.
Kazakhstan 0-3 Germany
Austria 6-0 Faroe Islands
Sweden 0-0 Republic of Ireland
Germany for the first time employed a team without any strikers in their game against Kazakhstan. The change didn’t seem to hurt them too much as they emerged with a comprehensive 3-0 win away from home. Two goals in the space of 2 minutes midway into the first half from Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gotze set the Germans on their way before Thomas Mueller got a deflection in to add a third in the 74th minute.
Ireland held the Swedes to a goalless draw. The Irish put up an excellent defensive display that managed to nullify the threat of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co. and their efforts were rewarded with a point. Ireland have now gone 14 away qualifiers unbeaten under manager Giovanni Trapattoni.
Austria hammered the Faroe Islands 6-0 in the other game.
Andorra 0-2 Turkey
Hungary 2-2 Romania
Netherlands 3-0 Estonia
Netherlands continued their perfect run in the qualifying campaign as they won their 5th straight game. Three second half goals got the job done for the Dutch who struggled in the first half and lost play-maker Wesley Sneijder to injury. Sneijder, making his first appearance after missing the last 4 internationals, limped off with a suspected groin injury and was replaced by Rafael Van der Vaart who scored the opening goal early in the second half. Robin van Persie and Ruben Schaken added to the goals tally to round off the night for the Dutch.
Romania snatched a 2-2 draw at Hungary. The game at the Ferenc Puskas stadium was played behind closed doors after some sections of Hungarian fans chanted anti-Semitic slogans and displayed offensive slogans in a friendly against Israel last August. The result sees the two teams still tied on points, but Romania are second, ahead on goal difference.
Turkey continued their push for qualification with a 2-0 win at Andorra. Selcuk Inan gave them the lead from a free-kick before in-form striker Burak Yilmaz added another just before the break.
Slovenia 1-2 Iceland
Norway 0-1 Albania
Unfancied Albania shocked Norway with a 1-0 win in Oslo to dent the Norwegians’ chances of qualification. Hamdi Salihi netted the all important goal for the Albanians who held on for victory despite a late sending off.
Tottenham midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson scored a brace to help Iceland overturn a 1-0 deficit and emerge 2-1 winners from their game against Slovenia in Ljubljana. Switzerland who the lead the group were not in action.
Israel 3-3 Portugal
Luxembourg 0-0 Azerbaijan
Fabio Coentrao grabbed a late equalizer deep into stoppage time as Portugal fought their way back to salvage a point from their qualifier away in Israel. It looked to be a comfortable afternoon for Cristiano Ronaldo and co. when Bruno Alves headed the Portuguese in front within 2 minutes. Israel though managed to turn the game in their favour with goals from their strikers Tomer Hemed and Eden Ben Basat that saw them go into the break 2-1 ahead. Rami Gershon scored 20 minutes from time to make it 3-1 to the hosts. Portugal then managed a late rally inspired by their star player and captain Ronaldo. He provided the assist for Helder Postiga to score Portugal’s second before Coentrao popped up with the equalizer late in the game. The draw means they stay level on points with Israel but the Israelis stay second ahead on goal difference. Leaders Russia did not play on the night.
Luxembourg and Azerbaijan played out a goalless draw in the other group game of the night.
Liechtenstein 1-1 Latvia
Slovakia 1-1 Lithuania
Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-1 Greece
An Edin Dzeko double helped Bosnia to a convincing home win over Greece. Vedad Ibisevic added the other for the hosts. The win took Bosnia top of the group on 13 points, with Greece 3 points behind them. Slovakia are 3rd, a further 2 points adrift, after they were held to a draw in Zilina by the Lithuanians. Minnows Liechtenstein earned their first point of the campaign when they drew 1-1 against Latvia at home.
Moldova 0-1 Montenegro
Poland 1-3 Ukraine
San Marino 0-8 England
England thrashed San Marino, putting eight goals past them. The result was never in doubt as San Marino have traditionally been the whipping boys of Europe by virtue of being the worst team in the continent. Six different scorers found the back of the net for Roy Hodgson’s team; Jermaine Defoe grabbed a brace with Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Frank Lampard, Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge grabbing a goal each. With the win, England kept pace with leaders Montenegro who they play next on Wednesday.
Montenegro were reduced to 10 men in their qualifier away at Moldova when Milorad Pekovic was sent off on the hour mark for a second bookable offence. But the Montenegrins held fort and in the 78th minute, striker Mirko Vucinic pounced onto Marko Basa’s knockdown from a corner to score the game winner and maintain their 2 point advantage at the top of the group.
Ukraine claimed an impressive away win at Poland. Two quick goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Oleh Gusev meant the visitors were up 2-0 inside 7 minutes. Lukasz Piszczek reduced the deficit for the Poles in the 18th minute, but they never really recovered from the early setback. Roman Zozulia then added the 3rd in the last minute of the first half. Poland keeper Artur Boruc made numerous saves to keep the scoreline from getting worse.
Spain 1-1 Finland
France 3-1 Georgia
France took over the top spot in Group I as Spain were held to a surprising draw at home by Finland. Mathieu Valbuena was the star on the night with 2 assists and a goal. Olivier Giroud broke the deadlock on the stroke of halftime, heading in a Valbuena free-kick. The diminutive midfielder then scored France’s second with a powerful half volley just minutes after the restart and then provided a cross for Franck Ribery for Les Bleus’ third of the night. The win takes France to 10 points, 2 ahead of Spain who they face in a table-topping clash at the Stade de France on Wednesday night.
Teemu Pukki scored a 79th minute equalizer for Finland as they exploited the Spanish defence on the counter which was incidentally their first attempt on target of the match. Sergio Ramos captaining the side in his 100th appearance for Spain had earlier headed the hosts in front from a corner just after half-time. The late equalizer meant dropped points for Spain as Finland withstood wave after wave of Spanish attack to hold on for a draw.