/ Soccer

World Cup qualifying review

Updated: Wednesday, 27 Mar 2013 15:39 | Comments

Pedro grabbed the only goal of the game as Spain saw off France in Paris
Pedro grabbed the only goal of the game as Spain saw off France in Paris

Europe

Pedro's second-half strike ensured Spain moved to the top of Group I after claiming a 1-0 victory at World Cup qualification rivals France, whose misery was compounded by Paul Pogba's red card.

The clash at the Stade de France offered the chance for both sides to stamp their authority on the group and it was world and European champions Spain who duly took advantage just before the hour.

Barcelona forward Pedro slotted home from close range following Nacho Monreal's cross from the left and France's hopes of a share of the spoils took a blow when Pogba collected two quick bookings to see red in the 78th minute in just his second appearance for Les Bleus.

Germany moved five points clear of Sweden at the top of Group C after their Borussia Dortmund connection inspired them to a 4-1 win over Kazakhstan.

Marco Reus was on target twice with Mario Gotze and Ilkay Gundogan also scoring for Joachim Low's men.

Greuther Furth's Heinrich Schmidtgal scored a consolation for the visitors, who caused Germany an unexpectedly high number of problems in the second half.

David Alaba's late equaliser left Republic of Ireland's hopes of second spot in the pool in tatters as Austria came away from the Aviva Stadium with a 2-2 draw.

England remain two points behind Group H leaders Montenegro after they were held to a 1-1 draw in Podgorica.

Goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Khacheridi helped 10-man Ukraine edge to a 2-1 win over Moldova, who grabbed a late consolation through Alexandr Suvorov, with their hopes of a point briefly raised when Taras Stepanenko was dismissed for violent conduct in injury time.

Robert Lewandowski scored two penalties either side of Lukasz Piszczek's strike, while Lukasz Teodorczyk and Jakub Kosecki were also on the scoresheet as Poland hammered San Marino 5-0.

The Netherlands maintained their perfect record in Group D as two goals from Robin van Persie helped them earn a convincing 4-0 win over Romania at the Amsterdam ArenA.

Rafael van der Vaart opened the scoring in the 11th minute, while after the break Van Persie struck twice, the second a penalty, and Jeremain Lens added a fourth in the last minute.

Substitute Daniel Bode earned a 1-1 draw for Hungary at Turkey, who had taken the lead through Burak Yilmaz, while goals either side of half-time from Henri Anier and Joel Lindpere gave Estonia a 2-0 win over fellow group minnows Andorra.

Mario Balotelli continued his hot streak in front of goal with a brace to fire Italy to a 2-0 victory over Malta in Group B.

Gianluigi Buffon did have to deny Malta's Michael Mifsud from the spot, though, before Balotelli netted his second as Italy did enough to pull three points clear of Bulgaria.

Lyuboslav Penev's side reached 10 points with a 1-1 draw in Denmark, who secured a point from a Daniel Agger penalty after Stanislav Manolev had put the visitors in front.

Elsewhere in the group, Matej Vydra bagged a brace before substitute Daniel Kolar rubber-stamped a 3-0 victory for the Czech Republic at Armenia.

Eden Hazard was on the scoresheet as Belgium maintained their position as leaders of Group A with a 1-0 victory over Macedonia.

Dejan Lovren and Eduardo came to Croatia's rescue as they came from behind to claim a 2-1 triumph at Wales, who had opened the scoring through Gareth Bale's penalty, while Filip Duricic's second-half brace ensured Serbia eased past Scotland 2-0.

Second-half goals from Bruno Alves and Hugo Almeida helped stuttering Portugal to a 2-0 Group F victory at 10-man Azerbaijan, who had Rauf Aliyev sent off for two bookings in Baku, while Israel beat Northern Ireland by the same scoreline thanks to late strikes from Lior Refaelov and Eden Ben Basat.

South America

Luis Suarez once again hit the headlines for the wrong reasons as Chile put themselves back on track for a World Cup berth with a 2-0 home win over Uruguay.

Esteban Paredes and Eduardo Vargas gave Jorge Sampaoli's Chile the win to recover from a 1-0 defeat against Peru last week and climb up to fourth in the standings - the last automatic qualifying spot for next year's tournament.

Suarez, meanwhile, was lucky to stay on the pitch as he appeared to hit out at the face of Chile defender Gonzalo Jara in the first half.

The referee took no action over that incident, but did book the Liverpool striker for protesting later in the game and he will miss the next qualifying duel against Venezuela as a result.

Paredes, playing in place of the suspended Alexis Sanchez, opened the scoring in the 10th minute and, when as Uruguay looked for an equaliser, Vargas took a loose ball to double the lead in the 77th minute.

Ecuador consolidated second position in the Conmebol Zone of the Brazil 2014 qualifiers thanks to a convincing 4-1 win over Paraguay at home.

The win helped the Ecuadorians remain second in the standings on 20 points, four below leaders Argentina, who drew 1-1 with Bolivia earlier in the day.

Paraguay, who finished the 2010 World Cup qualifiers on top, surprisingly lie at the bottom of the table on eight points.

Paraguay took the lead in the 14th minute with Luis Caballero opening the scoring from a shot that was deflected by Edgar Benitez on its way to the net, but Felipe Caicedo equalise seven minutes before the break, following a Walter Ayovi free-kick.

The Ecuadorian side started the second half like a hurricane as Jefferson Montero widened the gap in the 50th minute and Cristian Benitez made it 3-1 three minutes later with a header.

With only 15 minutes remaining Benitez consolidated the win with a right-foot strike.

In Puerto Ordaz, a 13th-minute left-foot strike by Salomon Rondon gave Venezuela a 1-0 triumph over visitors Colombia.

Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao had the chance to level the duel for Colombia at the Estadio CTE Cachamay in the second half but his right-foot shot hit the crossbar.

North, Central America and Caribbean

Panama took sole lead in the CONCACAF qualifying group for the 2014 World Cup thanks to a 2-0 home win over former leaders Honduras.

Strikers Luis Tejada and Blas Perez gave Julio Dely Valdes' side their first win in the six-team round robin that offers three direct berths to the World Cup finals and one play-off spot.

After three rounds of matches, no team has won more than one game and only three points separate the six sides.

Panama took a very early lead at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez as Tejada put his team ahead in the second minute of the game, while Perez netted a long-distance shot to widen the gap at the 75th minute.

The United States took a valuable point against Mexico with a goalless draw at the Estadio Azteca.

Mexico had the best opportunities to celebrate their first victory in the six-team group but their forwards were not accurate and US keeper Brad Guzan was in inspired form.

America are third in the standings on four points, while Mexico are currently out of the qualifying spots with three draws in as many games.

Costa Rica claimed their first win with a 2-0 triumph over Jamaica.

The Ticos went ahead after Michael Umana finished a Joel Campbell free-kick in the 25th minute, while Diego Calvo came off the bench to evade several Jamaican defenders and beat the keeper with eight minutes to go.

Asia

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni was left to rue a profligate forward line as the Blue Samurai blew a chance to become the first team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

Japan only needed to draw against a Jordan team they had thrashed 6-0 last June to secure a fifth consecutive finals appearance but were let down by poor finishing in a 2-1 reversal at Amman's King Abdullah International Stadium.

Japan, who lead Asia's Group B on 13 points from six matches, host Australia on 4 June and wrap up their campaign away to Iraq a week later.

A deeper gloom descended on the Australian camp after Holger Osieck's side rallied to salvage a 2-2 home draw against Oman to complicate their passage to Brazil.

In Seoul, a winning goal deep into injury time helped South Korea overcome Qatar 2-1 to revive their Group A campaign after managing just one point from their last two matches.

Korea occupy second spot in the group on 10 points from five games as they chase an eighth straight finals appearance.

Group leaders Uzbekistan, on 11 points from six games, increased their hopes of securing a maiden World Cup finals appearance while virtually crushing Lebanon's hopes with a 1-0 victory over the West Asians.

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