World Cup

Three nations qualify for finals

October 11, 2013
By ESPN staff

Belgium, Germany and Switzerland joined Italy and Netherlands as Europe's representatives at the World Cup, securing places in Brazil on Friday night.

Belgium Marc Wilmots hoisted aloft post World Cup qualification
GettyImagesBelgium coach Marc Wilmots is hoisted aloft by his players after they secure World Cup qualification.

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Belgium clinched their place thanks to a 2-1 win against Croatia in Zagreb, sealed by two goals from Everton's on-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku.

Lukaku fired the Belgians in front after 15 minutes and doubled their lead after 38, skipping round Stipe Pletikosa before slotting home. Although Niko Kranjcar pulled one back with seven minutes remaining, Belgium held on for the victory that secures their place.

In the other group game, Wales moved off the bottom of the table with a 1-0 victory over Macedonia thanks to Simon Church's goal after 67 minutes.

Germany eased through to Brazil with a 3-0 win at home to Republic of Ireland. Sami Khedira and Andre Schurrle scored either side of the break against a stubborn Irish side before Mesut Ozil ensured the party could start early with the third goal in injury time.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a late winner as Sweden recovered from a half-time deficit to defeat Austria 2-1 and guarantee themselves runners-up spot.

Austria had been on course to join second-placed Sweden on 17 points after Martin Harnik's 29th-minute strike gave them the lead. However, Sweden drew level soon after the interval through Martin Olsson, and star striker Ibrahimovic struck the winning goal with four minutes left.

Faroe Islands secured their first point of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against Kazakhstan. Hallur Hansson put the Faroes in front, only for Andrey Finochenko to earn a point.

Switzerland booked their ticket to Brazil with a comfortable 2-1 away win in Albania.

Xherdan Shaqiri's scuffed shot found its way into the back of the net two minutes after half-time, and Michael Lang doubled the advantage 30 minutes later.  Hamdi Salihi's late penalty proved to be no more than a consolation for the home side.

Russia have all but qualified for the finals after Portugal failed to win at home to Israel in Group F. Fabio Capello's team recorded an expected 4-0 victory over Luxembourg with goals from Alexander Samedov, Viktor Faitzulin and Dennis Glushakov giving them a 3-0 lead before half-time. Alexander Kerzhakov wrapped up the scoring with a fourth goal midway through the second half.

Portugal looked to be on their way to three points against Israel when Ricardo Costa put them in front in the first half, but an 85th minute goal by Eden Ben Basat forced a 1-1 draw and likely sent Paulo Bento's team into the playoffs.

Northern Ireland's campaign stumbled to another low as they followed up defeat in Luxembourg with a 2-0 loss in Azerbaijan. Goals from Rufat Dadasov and Mahir Shukurov secured the points, with Jonny Evans sent off for the visitors.

Iceland remain in pole position to clinch the runners-up spot after 2-0 victory over Cyprus in Reykjavik. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson opened the scoring on the hour mark, with Gylfi Sigurdsson making the points safe 13 minutes from time.

The result kept Lars Lagerback's side in second place in the pool -- a point better off than Slovenia, who were 3-0 winners against Norway.

Milivoje Novakovic hit a hat trick as Slovenia emphatically ended Norway's hopes. Novakovic struck twice inside two minutes in the opening quarter of an hour before completing his treble with a close-range finish early in the second half. Slovenia finish their campaign with an away game in Switzerland, while Iceland will bid to seal second place and a berth in the playoffs when they travel to Norway, who can now finish no higher than fourth.

England will go into Tuesday's game with Poland knowing a win will take them to the finals after they beat Montenegro 4-1 at Wembley. After a dour first half, Wayne Rooney scored the opener just after the break and then, after Dejan Damjanovic had cancelled out a bizarre Branko Boskovic own goal, debutant Andros Townsend scored a stunning third, driving at the Montenegro defence before producing a brilliant finish from the edge of the area. Daniel Sturridge's injury-time penalty rounded off a handsome victory – a result that also means Montenegro cannot now qualify.

Ukraine went top of Group H, at least temporarily, after beating Poland 1-0. Andriy Yarmolenko's second-half goal was enough for the home side to take the points and eliminate Poland from the reckoning in the process.

Also in that group, a goal from Viorel Frunza and Eugeniu Sidorenco's brace helped Moldova to a 3-0 victory against San Marino

Edin Dzeko bagged a brace as Bosnia-Herzegovina moved a step closer to their first major finals appearance with a 4-1 win over Liechenstein.

Dzeko scored either side of goals from Zvjezdan Misimovic and Vedad Ibisevic as Bosnia struck four times in 13 first-half minutes to seal the win. The result means Safet Susic's men, who top Group G, can book their World Cup place with victory over Lithuania on Tuesday.

Greece kept up the pressure as Martin Skrtel's own goal condemned Slovakia to a 1-0 defeat in Athens. Greece host bottom side Liechtenstein next week.

In the group's dead rubber, goals from Fedor Cernych and Saulius Mikoliunas secured Lithuania a 2-0 win against Latvia.

Armenia boosted their hopes of clinching second place in Group B with a dramatic 2-1 victory over nine-man Bulgaria in Yerevan -- denting their opponents' ambitions in the process.

The hosts took the lead just before half-time when Aras Ozbiliz fired a free-kick into the top corner after Bulgaria defender Nikolay Bodurov had been sent off for a foul on Ozbiliz.

Ivelin Popov got Bulgaria back on level terms with another free-kick just after the hour mark, but the visitors were reduced to nine men when midfielder Svetoslav Dyakov was sent off moments later -- and Yura Movsisyan made them pay, netting an 87th-minute winner.

Substitute Alberto Aquilani struck a last-gasp equaliser to deny Denmark a crucial victory in Copenhagen as the game finished in a 2-2 draw.

Dani Osvaldo put Italy ahead in the 28th minute before Nicklas Bendtner pulled the hosts level on the stroke of half-time. The Danes were then twice denied by the woodwork early in the second half before Bendtner put them ahead with 12 minutes remaining, but Aquilani's close-range effort in the 90th minute earned the group winners a draw and left Denmark trailing second-placed Bulgaria on goal difference.

Czech Republic will battle it out for second after beating basement boys Malta 4-1, but are unlikely to claim enough points to secure a playoff place even if they finish second.

Goals from Tomas Hubschman, David Lafata, Vaclev Kadlec and substitute Tomas Pekhart in Ta' Qali saw the Czechs reach 12 points, despite Michael Mifsud denying them a clean sheet, ahead of Tuesday's crucial showdown with rivals Bulgaria.

Netherlands may have qualified last month but that did not stop them having an impact on the fight for the play-off spot in Group D as they drubbed Hungary 8-1 in Amsterdam.

Hungary started the night in second but ended it wounded and behind Turkey and Romania as the Oranje turned on the style on a night of celebration in the Dutch capital.

Robin van Persie -- unusually short on goals for Manchester United this season -- led the way with a hat-trick, with Kevin Strootman, Jermain Lens, Rafael Van der Vaart, Arjen Robben and a Szilard Devecseri own goal all contributing. In the process, van Persie overtook Patrick Kluivert as the Dutch team's all-time leading scorer.

Hungary's response was a penalty from Balazs Dzsudzsak, but they look to have squandered their chances.

Romania boosted their hopes of reaching the playoffs after a one-sided 4-0 victory over Andorra. Claudiu Keseru, Bogdan Stancu, Gabriel Torje and Costin Lazar were on target as Romania did enough to stay level on 16 points with Turkey.

Turkey won 2-0 in Estonia to move into second place on goal difference. Goals in either half from Umut Bulut and Burak Yilmaz helped Turkey to give themselves a real chance of being in the playoffs.

In Group I, Spain won 2-1 at home to Belarus thanks to goals by Xavi and Alvaro Negredo. Dmitry Verkhovtsov pulled one back in injury-time, but Spain lead France by three points and will qualify if they avoid defeat at home to Georgia.

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