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Sweden hold Germany in thriller Last-gasp France draw with Spain, Dutch too strong for Romania

BERLIN, Oct 16, (RTRS): Germany surrendered their 100 percent World Cup Group C qualifying record in stunning fashion after Sweden roared back from four goals down to draw 4-4 in a thriller at the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday. Miroslav Klose struck twice in the opening 15 minutes before defender Per Mertesacker made it 3-0 in a game watched by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. Klose’s goals were his 66th and 67th in international football, taking him within one strike of the country’s all-time leading scorer Gerd Mueller. Midfielder Mesut Ozil added a fourth goal 11 minutes after the break, chesting down a Thomas Mueller cross before firing a wicked shot past goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson.

Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic launched the fightback with a brilliant header from a long pass by Kim Kallstrom in the 62nd minute. Mikael Lustig pulled another goal back before Johan Elmander cut Germany’s lead to 4-3 in the 76th minute, hitting in a shot between defender Holger Badstuber’s legs.
Rasmus Elm then grabbed the equaliser just before the final whistle. Group leaders Germany have 10 points from four games while Sweden are second with seven points from three. “I feel a lot of pride for what the players have done here,” Sweden coach Erik Hamren told the Kanal 5 television channel. “Did we believe we could get a result at 3-0 down at halftime? No, no, there was no one who thought that.”
Ibrahimovic said Germany started retreating after his 62nd minute goal. “We played a different way in the second half,” said the striker.

“We were too scared and had too much respect in the first half. After my first goal I felt they were backing off more and more.” Germany were dejected at the end of a game watched by a sellout crowd of 72,369 on a damp and chilly evening. “If you lead 4-0 and it ends 4-4 then something has definitely gone wrong,” said captain Phillip Lahm. “After Sweden’s first two goals everything collapsed. That should not happen to a top team. “We seemed to think we were done after leading 4-0. But we made too many mistakes and did not concentrate,” added defender Lahm.

Spain 1, France 1
In Madrid, France substitute Olivier Giroud headed past Iker Casillas with almost the last touch of the game to snatch a 1-1 draw against holders Spain in their World Cup Group I qualifier. The draw denied Spain a 25th straight win in major championship qualifiers although they remain top of the group tied with France on seven points from three matches. Sergio Ramos had put Spain deservedly ahead in the 25th minute before France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris saved a Cesc Fabregas penalty shortly before the break. The French came out fighting in the second half and almost equalised several times before Franck Ribery crossed for Giroud to nod the ball into the corner of the net in the fourth minute of added time.

Italy 3, Denmark 1

In Rome, Mario Balotelli scored and produced in a powerful display on his international return to help 10-man Italy win beat Denmark 3-1 in a World Cup Group B qualifier in Milan. The Manchester City striker’s first Italy goal since his Euro 2012 semi-final brace against Germany and strikes from midfielders Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele De Rossi enabled Cesare Prandelli’s side to overcome the sending-off of Pablo Osvaldo early in the second half. Italy took the lead after 33 minutes, Riccardo Montolivo finishing off a slick passing move by collecting Balotelli’s flick before drilling a long-range effort past stationary Denmark keeper Stephan Andersen.

Belgium 2, Scotland 0
In Brussels, Belgium demonstrated a gulf in class over Scotland with a 2-0 victory that maintained their lead at the top of World Cup qualifying group A. Christian Benteke headed the opener from a Kevin De Bruyne cross after 69 minutes and defender Vincent Kompany secured the points with a wonderful individual goal two minutes later. Only several fine saves from Scottish keeper Allan McGregor, Belgian imprecision and some luck had kept Scotland in the game for more than an hour. The visitors’ two best chances came from free kicks on the edge of the Belgian penalty area. Shaun Maloney forced keeper Thibaut Courtois to leap high to his right in the 24th minute, while Kris Commons stretched Courtois shortly before halftime.

Austria 4, Kazakhstan 0
In Vienna, David Alaba set up two goals for Marc Janko and scored one himself to help Austria to a convincing 4-0 win over Kazakhstan in a World Cup Group C qualifier. Martin Harnik completed the scoring to give Austria their first win of the campaign and leave them with four points from three games.
Austria were held 0-0 away by the same opponents on Friday but quickly took control and went ahead when Janko headed home 20-year-old Alaba’s cross after 24 minutes. The second goal was a near replica as Alaba, who plays left back for Bayern Munich and in midfield for his country, again crossed for Janko to head in after 63rd minutes.

Macedonia 1, Serbia 0

In Skopje, Serbia’s hopes of reaching their second successive World Cup as an independent nation took a serious blow after they slipped to a 1-0 defeat at southern neighbours Macedonia after a lacklustre performance. The loss left the Serbians with four points from as many games, six behind Belgium and bitter regional rivals Croatia, whom they visit in a potentially explosive clash in March. Serbia coach Sinisa Mihajlovic surprisingly left captain Branislav Ivanovic on the bench and the decision backfired spectacularly as his replacement Nenad Tomovic was sent off in the 58th minute.

Hungary 3, Turkey 1
In Budapest, Hungary stayed on the coat tails of Netherlands at the top of the World Cup Group D qualifying table after recovering from losing an early goal to sink Turkey 3-1. Turkey grabbed a deserved lead at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium when Caner Erkin marched down the left wing and his cross was tapped in by Mevlut Erdinc in the 22nd minute. Hungary hit back nine minutes later as an effort from Vladimir Koman, which seemed to be intended as a cross, went in off goalkeeper Volkan Demirel.
The home team went 2-1 up in the 50th minute when Adam Szalai rounded off a sweeping counter attack.

Bosnia 3, Lithuania 0
In Zenica, Bosnia, Bosnia claimed their third World Cup Group G victory when they comfortably beat Lithuania 3-0 with a late first-half blast, further boosting their bid to qualify for a first major tournament as an independent nation. Miralem Pjanic set up Vedad Ibisevic for the opening goal after 29 minutes, though Ibisevic missed a great chance for a second soon after following a near-identical pass from Pjanic. Pjanic was again the provider for Edin Dzeko to score the second after 35 minutes and six minutes later they changed roles, with Pjanic hitting net after a pass from Dzeko. Bosnia coach Safet Susic will be delighted that he opted to rest the injured Pjanic for from Friday’s goalless draw in Greece, saving him for Tuesday’s match.

Netherlands 4, Romania 1
In Bucharest, Netherlands scored three first-half goals to crush Romania 4-1 and move three points clear in Group D after an incident-packed World Cup qualifier. More than 50,000 fans, who had helped create a fantastic atmosphere at the National Arena, went delirious when Gabriel Torje hit the crossbar from a curling free kick. The Dutch, who inflicted a first defeat on Romania, went ahead after eight minutes when home keeper Ciprian Tatarusanu punched the ball after an inswinging corner, only for Jeremain Lens to send a looping header beyond the defenders from outside the penalty area.

Ireland 4, Faroes 1
In Torshavn, Ireland, battered 6-1 by Germany last week, got their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track with a 4-1 victory at Faroe Islands. The first half was a cagey affair with the home side comfortably dealing with the long-ball tactics of Giovanni Trapattoni’s Irish side.  Left back Marc Wilson put the visitors in front in the 47th minute after cutting in and unleashing a fierce right-foot shot that flew in after taking a touch off a defender. Jon Walters made it 2-0 a few minutes later with a looping header before Arnbiorn Hansen rose highest to nod a goal back for the Faroes.

Switzerland 2, Iceland 0
In Reykjavik, Switzerland survived several near misses and some ferocious Icelandic tackling before scoring twice in the last half hour to win 2-0 in their World Cup qualifier. Tranquillo Barnetta’s delightful finish and Mario Gavranovic’s second goal in as many games took Switzerland three points clear at the top of Group E with 10 points from four games. Iceland had already pulled off shock wins against Norway and Albania and looked capable of an even bigger upset for the first hour in Reykjavik. Gylfi Sigurdsson had a free kick tipped over by Diego Benaglio early on, and the Swiss goalkeeper also did well to stop Alfred Finnbogason’s close-range effort just before the break.

Russia 1, Azerbaijan 0

In Moscow, Roman Shirokov struck a late penalty as Russia laboured to a 1-0 win over Group F outsiders Azerbaijan to maintain their 100 percent World Cup qualifying record under coach Fabio Capello. The Russians thoroughly dominated the visitors but failed to hit the target until Shirokov calmly converted the 84th-minute spot-kick following a foul on substitute Vladimir Bystrov. Video replays showed the foul was committed outside the box but Azerbaijan coach Berti Vogts said the home team deserved to win. “I can only congratulate Russia on their victory,” former Germany boss Vogts, who has been coaching the oil-rich country on the Caspian Sea since 2008, told reporters.

Croatia 2, Wales 0
In Zagreb, Mario Mandzukic and Eduardo scored to lift Croatia to a comfortable 2-0 home victory over Wales in a World Cup Group A qualifier in Osijek. Inspired Croatia dominated possession throughout the match and created a host of goalscoring opportunities against Wales who rarely got into their opponents’ half. Bayern Munich’s Mandzukic broke the deadlock in the 27th minute when he intercepted a poor clearance by Wales goalkeeper Lewis Price and knocked the ball into the empty goal. Croatia continued to look lively in the second half and the pressure paid off in the 58th minute when former Arsenal striker Eduardo slotted in from close range following a nice header by his team mate Schildenfeld from a corner.

Czechs 0, Bulgaria 0
In Prague, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria drew 0-0 in a World Cup Group B qualifier, a match in which the home side appeared to lack any attacking urgency until the final minutes. The hosts, who beat Malta 3-1 on Friday, controlled much of the early possession and went close to taking the lead in the 40th minute when Petr Jiracek directed a header wide with only the keeper to beat. Bulgaria started the second half brightly but the Czechs regrouped and had a glorious chance when Bulgarian keeper Nikolay Mihaylov bungled Jaroslav Plasil’s long cross, only for a defender to clear away Tomas Sivok’s header on goal.

Latvia 2, Liechtenstein 0
In Riga, Latvia collected their first points of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign at the fourth attempt with a 2-0 win over 10-man Liechtenstein in Group G. Latvia went ahead when Vladimir Kamess scored his first international goal from a cross by Olegs Laizans in the 29th minute. Liechtenstein, who also lost their first three matches, had Daniel Kaufmann sent off for a second booking on the hour as Latvia took complete control in front of just over 4,000 fans. Edgars Gauracs made the game safe in the 77th minute with a clinical finish after latching onto Aleksandrs Cauna’s incisive pass.

Montenegro 1, Ukraine 0
In Kiev, Montenegro joined England on top of the World Cup Group H qualifying table with a surprise 1-0 victory in Ukraine as the home team’s hopes received a serious jolt. Dejan Damjanovic scored the only goal in the 45th minute after good work down the right by Stevan Jovetic. Jovetic then missed a golden chance to make it 2-0 when his scuffed penalty was saved by keeper Andriy Pyatov after Evhen Selin brought down Miodrag Dzudovic 10 minutes from time. Ukraine defender Oleksander Kucher and Montenegro keeper Mladen Bozovic were booked for brawling during a break in play. The hosts were without coach Oleg Blokhin after he had an operation last week to treat thrombosis. It was due to be Blokhin’s last game in charge before he takes over as coach of Dynamo Kiev on a full-time basis.

Match postponed

In Warsaw, Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier between Poland and England was postponed until Wednesday due to a waterlogged pitch after the roof of Warsaw’s national stadium was left open, a Polish FA spokeswoman said. The decision was taken to rearrange the game for 1500GMT on Wednesday following a pitch inspection at 1945GMT on Tuesday after an evening of torrential rain.
The Warsaw stadium has a retractable roof, but a Polish FA spokeswoman said neither of the team representatives nor the FIFA delegate wanted to make the decision to close it. “None of the sides wanted such a solution,” said Agnieszka Olejkowska. “We knew there would be heavy rain but we could not 100 percent predict the downpour.” “We have a heating system which, if we close the roof, can dry the pitch in 30 minutes,” she said.

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