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EURO qualifiers: Germany in finals, Italians and Dutch close

Germany became the first team to join co-hosts Poland and Ukraine in next year’s Euro 2012 finals when they thrashed neighbours Austria 6-2 in Gelsenkirchen on Friday to seal top spot in Group A

Reuters, Saturday 3 Sep 2011
Germany V Austria
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Although no other team joined them, Netherlands and Italy are almost there. The Dutch crushed San Marino 11-0 in Eindhoven in Group E to record their record international victory while Italy had to work harder to beat the Faroe Islands 1-0 in Torshavn in a Group C match.

It was also a good night for England, who won 3-0 in Bulgaria to pull clear at the top of Group G; France, who beat Albania 2-1 in Group D and Portugal who prevailed 4-0 in Cyprus in Group H.

Germany demolished their neighbours and rivals with two goals from Mesut Ozil and one each from Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski, Andre Schuerrle and Mario Goetze.

That gave the three-time European champions their eighth win from eight and kept them on course to finish with a 100 percent record in the qualifiers for the first time.

Germany were not the highest scorers on the night though as the Netherlands ran riot against tiny San Marino with Robin van Persie scoring four times as they recorded their biggest win since a 9-0 win over Norway in 1972.

The Dutch, who recently replaced world champions Spain at the top of FIFA’s world rankings, made a flying start with three goals in the opening 17 minutes. The final scoresheet comprised two for Wesley Sneijder, two for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and one each from John Heitinga, Dirk Kuyt and Georgino Wijnaldum adding to van Persie’s haul.

The Dutch have now scored 32 goals and conceded five in their seven matches, while San Marino’s sorry goal tally after eight matches reads 0-44.

STRONG POSITION

Having won all seven games, the Netherlands position at the top of the group was further strenghthened with third-placed Hungary beating second-placed Sweden 2-1 in Budapest thanks to a last minute winner from Gergely Rudolf.

Hungary are now level with the Swedes on 15 points and involved in a two-way tussle with them for the runners-up spot with the Dutch going to Finland on Tuesday where a win will effectively take them into the finals, although if Sweden beat San Marino as expected they will retain a remote mathematical chance of overhauling them.

Italy, who are also within touching distance of the finals, took an 11th minute lead in Torshavn against the Faroes through Antonio Cassano, but the islanders held firm until the end and did not concede again.

Italy’s cause was boosted with Estonia springing a surprise 2-1 win over second-placed Slovenia in Ljubljana with Ats Purje scoring the winner for the visitors in the 81st minute, three minutes after Slovenia had equalised through Tim Matavz.

If Italy beat Slovenia at home on Tuesday, they are through.

ROONEY DOUBLE

England are three points clear of Montenegro in Group G after a convincing 3-0 win in Sofia over Bulgaria where Wayne Rooney scored twice and Gary Cahill got the other, his first goal for his country.

That result took England to 14 points from six games, three clear of closest rivals Montenegro who went down 2-1 to Wales in Cardiff for their first defeat as the Welsh picked up their first points after four successive defeats.

England can stretch their lead at the top when they face Wales at Wembley on Tuesday while Montenegro’s next match is not until England visit in October.

France also pulled clear at the top of their group despite a sluggish 2-1 win in Albania thanks to goals from Karim Benzema and Yann M’vila in the opening 18 minutes.

Although Albania, a much improved side from years gone by, struck a minute into the second half through Erjon Bogdani, France held on and were further helped with second placed Belarus slipping to a 2-0 home defeat to third-placed Bosnia.

Portugal were the night’s other convincing winners, beating Cyprus 4-0 in Nicosia to make amends for the 4-4 home draw with them earlier in the campaign.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice and made another as Portugal won easily after Cyprus were reduced to 10 men after 35 minutes.

Portugal stay top of Group H on goal difference only though as Norway moved on to 13 points from six matches alongside them after beating Iceland 1-0 in Oslo.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

In other significant results, Greece and Croatia set up a head-to-head battle to qualify from Group F after Greece, the 2004 European champions, beat Israel 1-0 in Tel Aviv and Croatia won 3-1 in Malta.

That left Greece top of the group on 17 points, followed by Croatia on 16 and Israel, who have played a match more, on 13.

Russia went to the top of Group B after a 1-0 win over Macedonia in Moscow while Ireland and Slovakia, who were level with them on 13 points, drew 0-0 in Dublin.

Belgium, eyeing a runners-up place in Group A behind Germany, suffered a blow to their chances when they conceded a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw away to Azerbaijan.

That result allowed Turkey, who scored a stoppage time winner in a 2-1 victory over Kazakhstan to move ahead of Belgium in the race for second place.

There is one qualifier on Saturday when Scotland face the Czech Republic before another full programme next Tuesday.

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