Football Football

Germany, Belgium, Swiss join World Cup party


BELGIUM-WORLD-CUPPARIS, France, October 12 – Germany, Belgium and Switzerland reached the World Cup finals on Friday as England, defending champions Spain, Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina all edged closer.

Germany booked their place with a convincing 3-0 win over the Republic of Ireland to move to 25 points in Group C.

Belgium beat Croatia 2-1 in Zagreb to top Group A and make the finals for the first time since 2002.

Switzerland reached the finals for the third time after a 2-1 win over Albania assured them of top spot in Group E.

The three join Italy and Netherlands who had already made sure of qualification.

Goals by Sami Khedira, Andre Schuerrle and Mesut Ozil confirmed Germany’s place in Brazil next year.

Sweden made sure of a play-off spot from the same group with a 2-1 win at home to Austria.

“All in all, we’ve done well in qualifying. The team have done their duty with eight wins out of nine games,” said Germany coach Joachim Loew.

On-loan Everton striker Romelu Lukaku scored the two first-half goals that took Belgium through.

Lukaku found the target in the 16th and 38th minutes with Niko Kranjcar hitting a late consolation for Croatia who must now hope to make the finals via the play-offs.

“Belgium can be very proud of this team. We are going to Brazil and will try and have a great tournament,” said Belgium’s Manchester United star Marouane Fellaini.

Second-half goals from Xherdan Shaqiri and Michael Lang gave Ottmar Hitzfeld’s Switzerland victory in Tirana and an unassailable 21 points at the top of Group E.

It was a win which left one famous Swiss fan over-joyed.

“Switzerland made it to the World Cup, how happy am I on a scale 1-10? About a 25. Great effort and congratulations,” tweeted tennis ace Roger Federer.

Spain moved to within a point of sealing their place in Brazil with a 2-1 win over Belarus.

Second-half goals from Xavi and Alvaro Negredo mean Vicente del Bosque’s men lead France by three points at the top of Group I with the world champions set to face Georgia in their final qualifier on Tuesday.

Tottenham’s Andros Townsend crowned his international debut with a fine goal as England beat Montenegro 4-1.

Wayne Rooney broke the deadlock early in the second half and an own goal from Branko Boskovic doubled the hosts’ lead, before Dejan Damjanovic replied for the visitors.

Townsend restored England’s two-goal cushion with 11 minutes to play, driving home right-footed from 25 yards before an injury-time penalty from Daniel Sturridge completed the scoring.

England will approach their final game at home to Poland on Tuesday needing another win to secure a berth in Brazil.

They lead Group H by a point from Ukraine, who beat Poland 1-0 in Kharkiv.

“The job’s half-done. If we want to qualify directly, we’ll have to win against Poland on Tuesday night. It won’t be easy,” said England boss Roy Hodgson.

Russia, coached by Fabio Capello, cruised to a 4-0 win in Luxembourg to open a three-point lead over Portugal in Group F.

Alexander Samedov, Viktor Faizukin, Denis Glushakov and Alexander Kerzhakov all scored to put Russia on 21 points.

Portugal were then held to a 1-1 draw by Israel who grabbed an 85th-minute leveller from Eden Ben Basat.

Ricardo Costa had opened the scoring for Portugal who face Luxembourg in their final match while Russia go to Azerbaijan.

Bosnia-Herzegovina saw off whipping boys Liechtenstein 4-1 with Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko scoring twice.

They lead Group G on goal difference from Greece who edged Slovakia 1-0.

The Netherlands swamped Hungary 8-1 in Amsterdam with Robin van Persie grabbing a hat-trick.

The Dutch have 25 points from nine games in Group D.

Denmark’s play-off hopes suffered a blow after a late equaliser by Alberto Aquilani helped Italy secure a 2-2 draw in Copenhagen that maintained their unbeaten record in Group B.

Italy, who qualified for Brazil with two games to spare, are on 21 points while Bulgaria, in second, and Denmark are both eight points adrift.

The Czech Republic sit in fourth, only one further point behind.

The nine group winners qualify for the finals while the eight best runners-up will play off for the remaining four spots.