• World Cup qualifiers

Ireland's qualifying hopes take a hit

ESPN staff
September 6, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Sweden came away with a 2-1 win in Dublin to dent the Republic of Ireland's World Cup dreams © Getty Images
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The Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualifying hopes were left in tatters after Anders Svensson marked his record-equalling 143rd appearance for Sweden with the goal that secured a 2-1 win.

The 37-year-old midfielder, who matched Thomas Ravelli's leading caps total for their country at the Aviva Stadium, fired home from Zlatan Ibrahimovic's slide-rule 57th-minute pass to help the Swedes complete a stirring comeback in front of a packed house.

Robbie Keane had blasted Ireland ahead after 22 minutes with his 60th international goal before Johan Elmander levelled after 33 minutes.

The result leaves Ireland fourth in Group C, eight points off leaders Germany and three behind Sweden in second place with three fixtures remaining.

Cristiano Ronaldo hit a second-half hat-trick to spare Portugal's blushes in a 4-2 win against Northern Ireland on a night that saw three red cards at Windsor Park.

The hosts looked to be on course for a stunning upset when Jamie Ward's scrambled effort put them 2-1 in front and a man to the good after Helder Postiga's dismissal. But makeshift left-back Chris Brunt saw red on the hour and Ronaldo took control with a pair of powerful headers and a late free-kick before Kyle Lafferty's dismissal completed Northern Ireland's misery.

Scotland suffered a 2-0 defeat at Hampden as Belgium took another massive step towards Brazil.

A goal in each half from Steven Defour and Kevin Mirallas secured victory for Belgium and kept them top of Group A against a Scotland side that was by no means disgraced.

Gareth Bale sat out the whole of Wales' defeat to Macedonia © AP
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Wales lost 2-1 to Macedonia in Skopje as new Real Madrid signing Gareth Bale sat the game out on the bench.

Ivan Trickovski fired the home side in front in the 21st minute and, though the excellent Aaron Ramsey equalised from the penalty spot for Wales, substitute Aleksandar Trajkovski struck the winner ten minutes from time.

England strolled to a 4-0 win over Moldova, but manager Roy Hodgson was left fuming after two-goal striker Danny Welbeck received a soft booking that rules him out of Tuesday's crunch game in Ukraine.

Welbeck scored either side of half-time as England secured a straightforward victory, but the gloss was taken off the United striker's night when he was booked for protesting against a tight line-call against him.

Rickie Lambert took his England tally to two goals in two games with an opportunistic header while man of the match Steven Gerrard also got on the scoresheet with his first international goal in over three years.

Ukraine, meanwhile, sent a stark warning to England ahead of next week's vital World Cup qualifier in Kiev as they took San Marino apart 9-0 on Friday night.

While beating San Marino is the minimum expectation whenever a side plays the minnows, Ukraine were ruthless in their work and could have done little else to prove they are ready for the arrival of Roy Hodgson's men.

Montenegro survived a late onslaught from Poland to walk away with a 1-1 draw that left them level on points with England at the top of Group H.

The visitors made a dream start through Dejan Damjanovic's 12th-minute strike but Robert Lewandowski equalised soon after.

Spain need just three more points to qualify for the 2014 World Cup after defeating Finland 2-0 in Helsinki to extend their lead at the top of Group I.

Jordi Alba opened the scoring for the world and European champions, who were made to suffer until Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo wrapped up the win late on.

Spain's closest rivals in the group, France, could only draw 0-0 with Georgia and slipped three points behind Vicente del Bosque's men.

France's scoreless run was extended to five games, with Didier Deschamps' side well below their best in the first half - and they were almost punished when Tornike Okriashvili hit the woodwork early in the second.

They stepped up a gear after that but could not find a way past home goalkeeper Giorgi Loria, who crowned a good display with two stunning saves in stoppage time to earn his side a point.

Robin van Persie struck an injury-time penalty as the Netherlands maintained their unbeaten record in World Cup qualifying with a 2-2 draw in Estonia.

The Dutch, who had travelled to Tallinn with a 100% record in Group D, were moments away from defeat after Konstantin Vassiljev cancelled out Arjen Robben's first-minute effort and added another. Time looked to be running out for Louis van Gaal's side but Van Persie spared their blushes in the third minute of stoppage time after being fouled by Raio Piiroja.

Miroslav Klose made history in Munich and helped Germany put one foot in Brazil in the process as he kickstarted a 3-0 victory over Austria.

The Lazio striker's 33rd-minute goal was his 68th in German colours and took him level with Gerd Muller as the country's all-time leading scorer.

It was a memorable enough moment in isolation but the goal, added to Toni Kroos' second-half goal, ensured Germany moved on to 19 points in qualifying Group C.

Genoa striker Alberto Gilardino scored the first-half header that edged Italy closer to a place in the finals with as they beat Bulgaria 1-0.

Italy had gone into the game needing two wins from four remaining matches and victory put them seven points clear of nearest challengers Bulgaria in Group B.

World Cup qualifying scores:

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