Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Fri 11 September 2009

World Cup Round-up (September 9 2009)

This Wednesday was a busy match day where the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers were concerned, so let's take a quick look at all the important news from around the globe...

Europe

And where better to start (from our point of view) than with news that England have qualified for their 13th World Cup Finals. Their 5-1 victory over Croatia not only took the aggregate score over the two games to 9-2, but also gives England a chance of being one of the few teams in the modern era to qualify with a 100% win record. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard each picked up two goals with Wayne Rooney adding one of his own to secure a fourth successive Finals for the Three Lions.

Also qualifying from the European section are the European champions Spain who beat Estonia 3-0. Cesc Fabregas got his name on the scoresheet with the first of his team's goals, and the result means Spain also maintain their 100% record in Group 5.

Elsewhere, in Group 3 Slovakia know that a win in either of their two remaining games will be enough to see them through to South Africa next year. A convincing 2-0 win in Belfast now puts them within touching distance of a place at the Finals while Northern Ireland must hope that a win over the Czechs and other results going their way next month will help them get through too.

It's a similar story in Group 7 where Serbia now require a win in their final pair of games to go through, following a 1-1 draw against France on Wednesday. France looks likely to go through as runners-up although Austria could mathematically catch them up yet. Ironically both Austria and the French will face each other on the final match day in a month's time.

Italy also look likely to go through as winners of Group 8. They now have a four point lead over the Republic of Ireland having beaten Bulgaria 2-0. Fabio Grosso and Vincenzo Iaquinta were on hand to seal all three points and give the Irish a fighting chance of going through in second after Bulgaria were left five points behind Trappatoni's team with only six remaining.

Portugal's chances of going through look slightly better after they beat Hungary 1-0 in Budapest, but they're still only third in the table – level on points with Hungary and two points adrift of Sweden in second. Sweden's 1-0 win over Malta meant they're now three points behind the leaders Denmark.

While Scotland lost 1-0 to the Netherlands (thereby confirming their absence from next year's World Cup), Russia and Germany both won their games in Group 4 to ensure a thrilling climax is on the cards to decide who wins that group. Germany currently lead the Russians by a single point and both teams play each other on October 10th in Moscow, a match which will determine who gains automatic qualification and who enters the play-off stages.

South America

What were slight concerns last weekend are now full-blown worries for Diego Maradona, his team and the many thousands of Argentinean football fans after a 1-0 defeat to Paraguay.

Argentina's away form continues to elude them after Nelson Valdez grabbed the decisive goal 27 minutes into the game. It means Argentina have now lost four of their last five qualifiers and a slip to fifth spot in the table – and as many of you will know, the team that finishes fifth will go into a play-off with the fourth-best team in North and Central America. Paraguay, meanwhile, go up to second in the group and are now certain of their place in the Finals.

While Argentina laboured in vain, Brazil (who have already qualified) romped to a 4-2 over Chile who slip to third. The game featured two hat-tricks – one on each side – from Nilmar and Humberto Suazo, and despite the defeat, Chile can still qualify if they can pick up one more point in their last two games against Colombia and Ecuador.

Speaking of the latter, Ecuador got themselves into prime position by going up to fourth in the table after a 3-1 win in Bolivia. With Colombia losing by the same scoreline in Uruguay and Venezuela also winning 3-1 at home to Peru, it'll be any one from five that takes the decisive play-off spot when the competition ends next month.

North and Central America

...and it could be Costa Rica that they'll end up playing after another defeat for Rodrigo Kenton's men. Somewhat surprisingly it was lowly El Salvador who handed out a 1-0 injury time win to Costa Rica which leaves them in fourth place behind Honduras who lost 1-0 to Mexico. Cuauhtemoc Blanco's 76th minute penalty lifts his side up to second place, a point behind leaders USA and one in front of the Hondurans.

In yet another 1-0 scoreline, the US beat Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain. Ricardo Clark's 30-yard swerving shot was the difference between the two teams and secured the Americans a first away win in the competition since September 2008.

The penultimate round of games sees USA travel to Honduras while Mexico play host to El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago pay a visit to Costa Rica.

Asia

The eagerly anticipated second leg of the Asian play-off took place on Wednesday and after Bahrain and Saudi Arabia could only draw 0-0 at the weekend, the advantage always looked to be with the latter on home soil for the rematch.

Ultimately, the opposite turned out to be true – dramatically so. With 90 minutes on the clock, the score stood at 1-1, thereby giving an away goal advantage to Bahrain. Just a minute into stoppage time, however, Hamad Al Montashari popped up to restore Saudi Arabia's lead as the home crowd went wild.

Sadly for them, there was another two minutes left to play – enough time for Bahrain to win a corner which substitute Ismail Abdullatif headed in to end the game at 2-2. The away goals victory means Saudi Arabia fail to qualify for the World Cup Finals for the first time since 1990 while Bahrain now head for another play-off – this time against Oceania champions New Zealand – the first leg of which will be on October 10th in Bahrain.

Africa

Finally to Africa where there was just one game on Wednesday. In Group A, Cameroon beat Gabon 2-1 (Samuel Eto'o scoring his side's second) to go top of the group by a single point ahead of the Gabonese.

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