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Netherlands and Italy qualify for World Cup finals

ESPN staff
September 10, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Robin van Persie scored twice for the Dutch © Getty Images
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Robin van Persie ensured the Netherlands qualified for the World Cup finals from Group D with a 2-0 win over Andorra.

The Dutch striker scored a quick-fire brace in the second half as Louis van Gaal's side claimed a win that will take them to Brazil following Romania's defeat by Turkey. The win means Holland finished the night on 22 points - nine clear of both Romania and Turkey following the latter's 2-0 win in Bucharest and eight ahead of Hungary who are in second place with 14.

Italy came from behind to beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in Turin and join the Netherlands in qualifying for the finals.

Aston Villa striker Libor Kozak put the visitors ahead in the 19th minute before Giorgio Chiellini equalised shortly after the re-start. Mario Balotelli scored the winner from the penalty spot in the 54th minute after he was brought down by Gebre Selassie in the box.

The Czechs ended the game down to 10 men after substitute Daniel Kolaf was sent off with one minute remaining for a double booking. Victory leaves Italy unbeaten in Group B and seven points clear of nearest rivals Bulgaria, who beat Malta 2-1 earlier today.

The Italians have now won six of their eight qualifying matches and clinched their place in next year's tournament in Brazil with two games to spare.

The Netherlands and Italy reach next year's event along with Brazil, South Korea, Iran, Australia and Japan.

Germany moved to within a win of securing their place at the World Cup thanks to a 3-0 victory over the Faroe Islands.

Per Mertesacker gave Joachim Low's men the lead midway through the first half, but Germany had to wait until midway through the second half before a penalty from Mesut Ozil doubled their advantage from after Atli Gregersen was sent off. Thomas Muller, who had earned the penalty, then rounded off the win in the 84th minute as Germany maintained a five-point lead over Sweden at the top of Group C.

A quickfire goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic was enough to secure victory for Sweden in Kazakhstan as the Scandinavians remained three points clear in second place over Austria.

Fabio Capello's Russia took a big step towards securing their place in Brazil after a strong second half show saw off Israel 3-1 in their Group F clash in St Petersburg.

Two goals from Fabian Schar helped Switzerland move ever closer to a place at the 2014 World Cup finals as they beat Norway in qualifying Group E.

France belatedly found their scoring touch as they twice came from behind to finally beat Belarus 4-2. Franck Ribery, passed fit after a buttock injury, equalised twice after first Egor Filipenko and then Timofey Kalachev had given Belarus the lead.

Goals in the final 20 minutes from Samir Nasri and Paul Pogba then sealed a hard-fought victory for Didier Deschamps' side, keeping alive their slim hopes of beating Spain to automatic qualification but more importantly keeping them five points ahead of Finland in the race for second place.

Mario Balotelli collected another goal for his nation © Getty Images
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