Blog by: Gautam
With qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup now underway during this international break, here are how the teams from Groups A, B, C and D in the UEFA Zone performed in the first of their two qualifiers.
Group A: Belgium nearly there, Croatia a dead cert
Despite qualification still up for grabs in the other groups, Group A seems nearly done and dusted. The Belgians beat Scotland 2-0 away with goals from Steven Defour and Kevin Mirallas to ensure top place in Group A is nearly theirs. With 22 points from eight games, the Belgians lead Group A and only Croatia can mathematically challenge them.
The Croats picked up their 17th point in qualification with a 1-1 draw away at Serbia. Mario Mandzukic opened the scoring for the visitors before Aleksandar Mitrovic equalised for the hosts in Belgrade.
Elsewhere, Macedonia beat Wales 2-1, but it was a win of little consequence as both teams are eliminated.
All results: Serbia 1-1 Croatia, Scotland 0-2 Belgium, Macedonia 2-1 Wales
Upcoming fixtures: Wales vs. Serbia, Macedonia vs. Scotland, Croatia vs. Belgium
Group B: Italy ahead of the rest of an open group
Italy lead Group B after seven games with 17 points in the bag but Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Armenia are all only a point apart, with the Bulgarians on ten points and the rest of the team on nine.
The Maltese are at the bottom of the Group with three points.
Italy beat Bulgaria 1-0 on Friday night with Alberto Gilardino scoring the only goal and Denmark overcame a stubborn Malta 2-1. Leon Andreasen opened the scoring in Ta’qali but Clayton Falla equalised for the minnows. A Ryan Camilleri own goal handed the visitors all three points.
But the surprise result of the group came in Prague, where Armenia beat their hosts, the Czechs. Karlen Mkrtchyan scored for the visitors before Tomas Rosicky equalised for the hosts. Gevorg Ghazaryan kept the Armenians alive in the group with a late winner.
All results: Italy 1-0 Bulgaria, Czech Rep. 1-2 Armenia, Malta 1-2 Denmark
Upcoming fixtures: Armenia vs. Denmark, Malta vs. Bulgaria, Italy vs. Czech Republic
Group C: Germany nearly assured qualification
The Germans have missed nary a World Cup to date and they seem on course for a place in Brazil with a 3-0 win over neighbours Austria. Miroslav Klose tied Gerd Muller’s record for goals scored for his national team when he opened the scoring with the 68th goal of his Germany career, with Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos scoring the others.
Sweden beat the Republic of Ireland 2-1 Dublin, with Anders Svensson and Johan Elmander cancelling out Robbie Keane’s effort for the Irish. The Swedes sit second in Group C on 14 points, but the Irish and the Austrians are both on 11 and will push the Scandinavians all the way.
Kazakhstan and the Faroe Islands are both out of contention. The brave Faroese were on course for a memorable result in Central Asia having taken a first-half lead through Frodi Benjaminsen but Kairat Nurdauletov and Andrey Finonchenko scored in the second half to spare the hosts the embarrassment of losing to one of the world’s weakest teams.
Results: Germany 3-0 Austria, Rep. of Ireland 1-2 Sweden, Kazakhstan 2-1 Faroe Islands.
Upcoming fixtures: Faroe Islands vs. Germany, Austria vs. Republic of Ireland, Kazakhstan vs. Sweden
Group D: Dutch a win away in another open group
The Netherlands look to be on course for another World Cup appearance but the team that will make the playoff berth in Group D is not yet known, with as many as five teams competing for that spot.
The Oranje are atop the group with 19 points from 17 games and following them are Romania (13), Hungary (11), Turkey (10) and Estonia (seven). The Andorrans have no points.
The Dutch were held to their first draw of their qualification campaign by the Estonians (2-2) in Tallinn. Konstantin Vassilijev scored twice to give the Estonians what would have been a famous win after Arjen Robben’s opener but Robin van Persie saved the visitors’ blushed with a stoppage time penalty.
Elsewhere, Romania completed a 3-0 whitewash of Hungary with goals from Ciprian Marica, Doru Pintilii and Cristian Tanase while the Turks mauled Malta 5-0. Burak Yilmaz and Arda Turan scored to add to Umut Bulut’s hat trick in Kayseri.
Results: Estonia 2-2 Netherlands, Turkey 5-0 Malta, Romania 3-0 Hungary
Upcoming fixtures: Hungary vs. Estonia, Andorra vs. the Netherlands, Romania vs. Turkey