Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Tue 9 June 2009

World Cup 2010 Qualifying Report: Europe

The Netherlands became the first European team to book their place at the 2010 World Cup Finals at the weekend after their 2-1 win over Iceland in Reykjavik. The Dutch maintained their 100% record in the campaign thanks to a goal apiece from Nigel De Jong and Mark Van Bommel, and it leaves them 11 points clear at the top of Group 9 ahead of Scotland who have a game in hand.

The next team to qualify, albeit not quite yet, could be England who also got their sixth win in six matches on Saturday. Their 4-0 win away to Kazakhstan started a little uncertainly and indeed they almost fell a goal behind inside 20 seconds, but goals from Barry, Heskey, Rooney and Lampard progressively settled the nerves and they now have a seven point lead in Group 6.

Both Croatia and Ukraine failed to keep up with Fabio Capello's men when they played out a 2-2 draw in Zagreb. Though Mladen Petric gave the home side the lead after two minutes, Ukraine fought back to be 2-1 up, thanks in part to an Andriy Shevchenko goal. All was not lost for Croatia, however, as Spurs' Luka Modric equalised with 68 minutes on the clock and the points were shared. With Belarus beating Andorra 5-1, Ukraine now find themselves down in fourth position while Croatia continue to lead the chasing pack behind England in second spot.

The Republic of Ireland lost the chance to go top of Group 8 after struggling to a 1-1 draw away to Bulgaria. Manchester City's Richard Dunne put the Irish in front after 24 minutes but Dimitar Tekiyski put the home side back on level terms five minutes later. A tough midfield battle ensued with the Bulgarians having much of the attacking play, but the game ended a draw which leaves Bulgaria still five points behind the Irish in the group table, albeit with a game in hand.

Serbia continue to fly high at the top of Group 7 after their 1-0 over Austria. Only a seventh minute Nenad Milijas penalty separated the teams in Belgrade, but it means Serbia increase their lead over second-placed France to five points.

Group 1 saw Denmark take advantage of a missed penalty early on by Sweden's Kim Kallstrom to end their big Scandinavian derby 1-0. Thomas Kahlenberg, who only last month moved from Auxerre to Wolfsburg, picked up the winning goal just ten minutes later to strengthen the Danes' position at the top of the group table.



With second-placed Hungary not playing, it was up to Portugal to provide the other main headline in the group as they ended a run of three draws with a 2-1 win over Albania. Coach Carlos Queiroz has faced much criticism recently after a poor run of form and things looked to be getting worse with the score set at 1-1 going into injury time at the end of their match. Fortunately for him and his team's supporters, Bruno Alves chipped in with a winner three minutes into time added on to give Portugal only their second win of the campaign.

That win was enough for the Portuguese to leapfrog Sweden into third place in the group, but with Albania remaining an outside threat, the group still looks wide open at this stage.

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