Photo by Javier Garcia/ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
The potential entrants the 2014 World Cup became clearer after a number of winning results on Tuesday in World Cup qualifying action.
Spain defeated France 1-0 in a match that both sides needed to win, after Olivier Giroud saved a draw for France during the last meeting between these two sides.
The ball seemed to be attached to an escalator much of the night, with many shots rising high above the goal, but the Spaniards finally found the breakthrough in the 58th minute, when Pedro tapped in from a few yards away, getting to the ball ahead of a lunging Hugo Lloris.
It was the French keeper’s counterpart, Victor Valdes, who saved Spain on a number of occasions, stopping a Franck Ribery breakaway in the first half, and a Blaise Matuidi strike in the second. The Barcelona keeper’s best save came in the 86th minute, with a reflex-save on a Patrice Evra flick header, palming the ball to safety.
Ultimately France’s hopes were laid to rest when defensive midfielder Paul Pogba earned two yellow cards in two minutes, the second for a flying kick on a 50/50 challenge that put France down to ten men for the final 12 minutes of the match.
While the French will be disappointed with their result, the English don’t have much to be happy about either, finishing their match against Montenegro in a 1-1 draw. Wayne Rooney opened the scoring for the Three Lions in the 6th minute with a header goal, but England’s second-half energy levels never matched the host’s, and they were punished when Dejan Damjanovic launched a goalmouth scramble into the net in the 76th.
Both Group E and Group G had the match day off.
Here is a closer look at the rest of European qualifying from Tuesday:
Belgium and Croatia continued their vice-like hold on Group A, with the two sides winning on Tuesday, staying undefeated and tied at the top of the group with 16 points from six matches.
Scotland became the first nation in UEFA to be eliminated from contention for the 2014 World Cup, losing to Serbia 2-0 on the road, condemning a side that has yet to win in this qualifying cycle.
By the next match day, Gareth Bale and Wales could be eliminated as well, if Belgium and Croatia both win their upcoming matches.
Here is the full list of results from Group A’s Tuesday qualification matches:
Serbia 2, Scotland 0
Belgium 1, Macedonia FYR 0
Wales 1, Croatia 2
Mario Balotelli continued his good run of form, scoring a brace in Italy’s fourth victory of their qualification campaign. Thirteen points from five matches has them holding a three point advantage over second-place Bulgaria.
It’s hard to remember that Denmark was one of 16 teams in last year’s European Championship, but the way they’re playing now their World Cup chances are fading away very quickly. Bulgaria has earned two 1-1 draws against the Danes, and they’re the current favorites, over the Czech even, to finish second in the group.
Here is the full list of results from Group B’s Tuesday qualification matches:
Armenia 0, Czech Republic 3
Denmark 1, Bulgaria 1
Malta 0, Italy 2
Germany easily dispatched Kazakhstan on Tuesday evening, hardly breaking a sweat in the process. Despite not having a recognizable striker for both matches, midfielder Mario Götze took up the role and succeeded by scoring twice in both matches against the Kazakhs. Marco Reus also impressed for Die Mannschaft, scoring two goals in Tuesday’s match.
The Republic of Ireland were on their way to an important victory, but a last gasp goal in 90th minute injury time by Bayern Munich midfielder David Alaba helped save a point for his Austrian side. Both Sweden and Faroe Islands did not play on Tuesday. Their match will take place on June 11.
Here is the full list of results from Group C’s Tuesday qualification matches:
Germany 4, Kazakhstan 1
Republic of Ireland 2, Austria 2
Holland have historically been a dominant team in qualifying for major tournaments, and Tuesday was no different as the Netherlands routed Romania in Amsterdam for their sixth win in the group. Holland can secure a place in the top two of the group if they defeat Estonia in the next match day.
Speaking of Estonia, Chicago Fire midfielder Joel Lindpere scored in the second half to help his side over Andorra, though the Estonian’s only wins so far in qualifying have come against the Andorran side.
Turkey’s struggles continued, tying 1-1 at home with Hungary, which has been a surprise team this qualifying cycle and currently sit in second place.
Here is the full list of results from Group D’s Tuesday qualification matches:
Estonia 2, Andorra 0
Turkey 1, Hungary 1
Netherlands 4, Romania 0
Israel and Portugal continued to battle one another, with both sides following their 3-3 draw in Tel Aviv with 2-0 wins over their respective opponents on Tuesday night. Russia, having the match day off, still sits on 12 points from four wins, but a Portugal win over the Russians in June would put the Iberian nation on top of the group.
Both Israel and Portugal needed second-half goals to defeat Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan on the road, respectively, but now Israel sits in second place, ahead of Portugal on goal difference. The Israelis haven’t qualified for the World Cup since 1970, but still control their destiny for the first time since the 2006 qualification campaign.
Here is the full list of results from Group F’s Tuesday qualification matches:
Azerbaijan 0, Portugal 2
Northern Ireland 0, Israel 2
England missed a perfect opportunity to take control of Group H, drawing with Montenegro, all of 625,000 people, 1-1 in Podgorica on Tuesday. Rooney rebounded from his last appearance in Montenegro, but still couldn’t pull out a win for his side.
The draw by the top two teams gave both Poland and Ukraine a chance to catch up, with both recording wins and now sitting equal on eight points. Ukraine faces a tough test, traveling to Montenegro for their next match day.
Here is the full list of results from Group H’s Tuesday qualification matches:
Ukraine 2, Moldova 1
Poland 5, San Marino 0
Montenegro 1, England 1
A Spanish paper put the Eiffel Tower bathed in the colors of the Spanish flag on the front page on Tuesday morning, and the national team backed the paper’s confidence, defeating France in front of a capacity crowd in Paris.
Spain was able to jump over France into the top place in the group with 11 points, while France sits just underneath at 10 points. Finland, Belarus, and Georgia were off.
Here is the full list of results from Group I’s Tuesday qualification matches:
France 0, Spain 1
What did you think of the results? Which matches stood out to you?
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