Negredo, Mata book Spain ticket, France, Portugal in playoffs
Posted Thursday, October 17 2013 at 01:00
LONDON- World Champions Spain confirmed their place in the World Cup with a Premier League double.
Chelsea star Juan Mata doubled Spain’s lead over Georgia after Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo opened the scoring.
It confirmed Spain’s expected place at the top of Group I, while France’s 3-0 win over Finland secured them in the play-off spots.
Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and an own goal from Joona Toivio gave France the win, but Didier Deschamps’ men - in their number Patrice Evra, Olivier Giroud, Samir Nasri, Laurent Koscielny, Yohan Cabaye and Loic Remy - had to settle for second in the group.
Negredo’s fellow City frontman Edin Dzeko also added himself to the list of Premier League stars at next year’s World Cup as Bosnia secured their place in Brazil, sparking incredible scenes among fans at the game and back home in Sarajevo. Bosnia won 1-0 in Lithuania to qualify for their first-ever tournament, with Dzeko finding space in the hosts’ resolute defence to set up strike partner Veded Ibisevic scoring the decisive goal in the 68th minute.
The result meant Bosnia topped Group G, sending Greece, who beat Liechtenstein 2-0, into the play-off spots. It also ended years of qualification heartache for Bosnia, who lost out in play-offs to Portugal in qualification for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
However, it wasn’t such good news for Dzeko’s cross-city rival Nani, whose Portugal side must contend with the play-offs next month.
A Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portugal, despite easing to a 3-0 win over Luxembourg, had to settle for second place in Group F due to Fabio Capello’s Russia drawing 1-1 in Azerbaijan. Nani - skipper in Ronaldo’s absence - netted Portugal’s second, sandwiched between goals from Silvestre Varela and former Spurs striker Helder Postiga.
Meanwhile in Group B, Italy, who had already qualified, saw Mario Balotelli spare their blushes by grabbing a last-minute equaliser at home to Armenia. Armenia went ahead as early as the fifth minute before Alessandro Florenzi’s equaliser, while Balotelli’s effort cancelled out Henrik Mkhitarayan putting the minnows ahead for a second time.
Of more consquence in that group was Denmark’s 6-0 thrashing of Malta, in which Liverpool’s Daniel Agger netted two penalties.
The result saw the Danes leap into second place in the group, but they were ultimately handed heartbreak as the worst-performing runners-up in the nine groups, thus missing out on a play-off place.
Petr Cech’s Czech Republic paid the price for a poor campaign by finishing third, despite winning 1-0 in Bulgaria. His Chelsea team-mate Andre Schurrle had more luck, scoring a hat-trick for Germany in a breathtaking Group C dead rubber against Sweden.The teams, seemingly enjoying being unburdened with pressure - Germany winning the group at a canter with Sweden cemented in second place - contested a thrilling eight-goal clash, with Germany coming out on top 5-3, thanks to Schurrle’s hat-trick and goals from Arsenal star Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze.
Things got worse for Ozil, however, who hobbled off in the 82nd minute, but the extent of the injury is unclear. Darron Gibson was a Premier League star whose immediate future is more certain, being taken off on a stretcher in Ireland’s 3-1 win over Kazakhstan in front of Everton boss Roberto Martinez in the same group.
Robbie Keane and John O’Shea both grabbed goals for Ireland, followed by an own goal from Andrey Finonchenko, whose challenge injured the Everton midfielder.
Similarly sure of their qualification were Robin van Persie’s Holland, who ended Turkey’s hopes of qualification by winning 2-0 in Istanbul.
The visitors, who also counted Norwich’s Leroy Fer among their number, won through goals from Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder.
The big news in Group D, however, saw Romania - in their number West Ham defender Razvan Rat - clinch the play-off spot thanks to a 2-0 win over Estonia.