- World Cup qualifiers
Belgium, Germany & Switzerland book tickets to BrazilESPN staff October 11, 2013 « Wales win, Azerbaijan shock Northern Ireland | Cardiff announce Moody departure »
Belgium clinched their place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil thanks to a 2-1 win against Croatia in Zagreb, sealed by two goals from Everton's on-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku.
Lukaku fired the Belgians in front after 15 minutes and doubled their lead after 38, skipping round Stipe Pletikosa before slotting home.
Although Niko Kranjcar pulled one back with seven minutes remaining, Belgium held on for the victory that ensures their place in next summer's finals.
Germany eased through to Brazil with a 3-0 win at home to Republic of Ireland . Sami Khedira and Andre Schurrle had scored either side of the break against a stubborn Irish side, before Mesut Ozil ensured the party could start early with a third goal in injury time.
Switzerland booked their ticket to the finals with a comfortable 2-1 away win over Albania. Xherdan Shaqiri's scuffed shot found its way into the back of the net two minutes after half-time, and Michael Lang doubled the advantage 30 minutes later. Hamdi Salihi's late penalty proved to be no more than a consolation for the home side.
Iceland remain in pole position to clinch the runners-up spot thanks to a 2-0 victory over Cyprus in Reykjavik. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson opened the scoring on the hour-mark and Gylfi Sigurdsson made the points safe 13 minutes from time.
The result kept Lars Lagerback's side in second place in the pool - a point better off than Slovenia, who were 3-0 winners against Norway. Milivoje Novakovic hit a hat-trick as Slovenia emphatically ended the hopes of the Norwegians. Novakovic struck twice inside two minutes inside the opening quarter of an hour before completing his treble with a close-range finish early in the second half.
Edin Dzeko bagged a brace as Bosnia-Herzegovina moved a step closer to their first major finals appearance with a 4-1 victory over Liechenstein.
Dzeko scored either side of goals from Zvjezdan Misimovic and Vedad Ibisevic as Bosnia struck four times in 13 first-half minutes to effectively seal the win. The result means Safet Susic's men, who top Group G, can book their World Cup place with victory over Lithuania on Tuesday.
Italy substitute Alberto Aquilani struck a last-gasp equaliser to deny Denmark a crucial victory in Copenhagen. Dani Osvaldo put Italy ahead in the 28th minute before Nicklas Bendtner pulled the hosts level on the stroke of half-time and the Danes were then twice denied by the woodwork early in the second half before Bendtner put the hosts ahead with 12 minutes remaining.
However, Aquilani's close-range effort in the 90th minute earned pool winners the Azzurri a 2-2 draw and left Denmark trailing second-placed Bulgaria on goal difference.
Portugal's slender hopes of automatic qualification all but died as Israel struck a late equaliser in Lisbon. Ricardo Costa had scored for Portugal in the first half, but Eden Ben Basat levelled with just five minutes remaining, meaning only a convincing win against Luxembourg coupled with a Russia defeat in Azerbaijan will enable Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. to avoid the play-offs.
Armenia boosted their hopes of clinching second place in World Cup qualifying Group B with a dramatic 2-1 victory over nine-man Bulgaria in Yerevan - denting their opponents' ambitions in the process.
Romania boosted their hopes of reaching the playoffs after a one-sided 4-0 victory over Andorra, while Russia remain on course to qualify after recording an expected 4-0 victory over Luxembourg in Group F.
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