Spain beat France, Netherlands maintain perfect record in World Cup qualifiers

Reuters, Wednesday 27 Mar 2013

World champions Spain bounced back from their surprise 1-1 draw with Finland on Friday when they beat France 1-0 in Paris and took over at the top of World Cup qualifying Group I on Tuesday

Spain's Andres Inestia Lujan, right, challenges for the ball with France's Blaise Matuidi during their World Cup Group I qualifying soccer match at Stade de France in Saint Denis. (Photo: AP)

Pedro scored the only goal at the Stade de France after 58 minutes while France finished with 10 men after Paul Pogba was sent off 12 minutes from time. Spain now have 11 points while France have 10.

The Netherlands made it six qualifying wins out of six when they thumped Romania 4-0 in Amsterdam with Robin van Persie scoring twice as the Dutch moved on to 18 points, seven clear at the top of Group D after second-placed Hungary drew 1-1 with Turkey.

Germany also moved a step closer to the finals when they beat Kazakhstan 4-1 in Nuremburg to climb to 16 points and open up an eight-point gap at the top of Group C with Sweden, who did not play, Ireland and Austria all on eight points after Ireland drew 2-2 with Austria in Dublin.

Italy also consolidated their place at the top of their section when they won 2-0 in Malta with two goals from Mario Balotelli to move three points clear of second-placed Bulgaria who drew 1-1 in Denmark in their Group B game. Italy have 13 points and Bulgaria have 10.

England briefly looked like replacing Montenegro at the top of Group H as they took the lead in Podgorica with a Wayne Rooney header after six minutes.
The home side equalised through Dejan Damjanovic in the second half to move on to 14 points, two points clear of England.

Belgium and Croatia, who started the day joint-top of Group A with 13 points, stayed neck-and-neck after Belgium beat Macedonia 1-0 with a goal from Eden Hazard and Croatia won 2-1 in Wales with late goals from Dejan Lovren and Eduardo.

The pair are nine clear of third-placed Serbia, who beat Scotland 2-0.

Portugal rekindled their chances by winning 2-0 in Azerbaijan after stumbling to a 3-3 draw against Israel on Friday to move within a point of Group F leaders Russia, who did not play.

The Israelis though also maintained their hopes of a first World Cup finals appearance since 1970 with a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland in Belfast to stay level with Portugal on 11 points.

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