Spain, England land in finals

Spain, England land in finals

Former champs France, Portugal hang on with gritty performances

European champions Spain maintained their perfect record with a 3-0 victory over Estonia in sweltering Merida, while England got their eighth win from eight games, 5-1 against Croatia, to join the Netherlands as qualifiers from Europe.

France had to show grit to stay in contention, holding Serbia 1-1 away despite playing for more than 80 minutes with 10 men, while Cristiano Ronaldo's chances of playing in South Africa were boosted by a 1-0 win for Portugal in Hungary.

World champions Italy need one more point after beating Bulgaria, while Scotland and Belgium were eliminated. 

The winners of the nine European groups qualify directly for South Africa and the best eight runners-up play off among themselves for four more places. Two goals each from Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard and one from Wayne Rooney saw England through at Wembley, as  they gained sweet revenge for their defeat to the Croatians in the European qualifiers about two years ago. Croatia stay second in Group 6.

Spain have swept all before them since their win at Euro 2008 and they secured progress from Group Five with their customary elan and goals from Cesc Fabregas, Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata.

The Dutch were the first nation to qualify but they were in no mood to take it easy against Scotland, a late goal from Eljero Elia sealing the fate of the Scots.  Serbia, needing a win in Belgrade to qualify for their first World Cup as an independent nation, were gifted a goal and one-man advantage after only 10 minutes against France but they could not get the win they needed to secure qualification.

Germany stayed one point clear of Russia at the top of Group Four after both won to set up a showdown next month.

World Cup qualifying results

Europe: Slovenia: 3 (Zlatko Dedic 14th, Milivoje Novakovic 45th, Valter Birsa 62nd) bt Poland: 0;     Malta: 0 lt to Sweden: 1 (Ian Azzopardi (ow) 81st); Albania: 1 (Erjon Bogdani 51st) drew Denmark: 1 (Nicklas Bendtner 40th); Hungary: 0 lt to Portugal: 1 (Pepe 10th); Israel: 7 (Elyaniv Barda 9th, 21st, 43rd, Aviram Barukhyan 15th, Omer Golan 58th, Ben Sahar 63rd, 84th) bt Luxembourg: 0; Moldova: 1 (Valeriu Andronic 90th) drew Greece: 1 (Fanis Gekas 34th); Latvia: 2 (Alexandrs Cauna 62nd, Vitalijs Astafjevs 75th) drew Switzerland: 2 (Alex Frei 43rd, Eren Derdiyok 80th); Czech Republic: 7 (Milan Baros 28th, 44th, 45+3, 66th; Vaclav Sverkos 47th, 90+5, Tomas Necid 86th) bt San Marino: 0; Northern Ireland: 0 lt to Slovakia: 2 (Stanislav Sestak 15th, Filip Holosko 66th); Slovenia: 3 (Zlatko Dedic 14th, Milivoje Novakovic 45th, Valter Birsa 62nd) bt Poland: 0; Liechtenstein: 1 (Michele Polverino 75th) drew Finland: 1 (Jari Litmanen 73rd); Wales: 1 (James Collins 54th) lt to Russia: 3 (Igor Semshov 36th, Sergei Ignashevich 71st, Roman Pavlyuchenko 90+2); Germany: 4 (Michael Ballack 14th, Miroslav Klose 55th, 65th, Lukas Podolski 71st) bt Azerbaijan: 0; Armenia: 2 (Hovhannes Goharyan 23rd, Sargis Hovsepyan 52nd) bt Belgium: 1 (Daniel Van Buyten 90+3); Bosnia: 1 (Sejad Salihovic 25th) drew Turkey: 1 (Emre Belozoglu 4th); Spain: 3 (Cesc Fabregas 33rd, Santi Cazorla 82nd, Juan Mata 90+2) bt Estonia: 0; Belarus: 0 drew Ukraine: 0; Andorra: 1 (Oscar Sonejee 69th) lt to Kazakhstan: 3 (Sergey Khizhnichenko 14th, 34th, Ruslan Baltiyev 28th); England: 5 (Frank Lampard 7th, 59, Steven Gerrard 18th, 66th, Wayne Rooney 77th) bt Croatia: 1 (Eduardo da Silva 71st); Faroe Islands: 2 (Suni Olsen 12th, Arnbiorn Hansen 34th) bt Lithuania: 1 (Tomas Danilevicius 23rd); Romania: 1 (Gheorghe Bucur 53rd) drew Austria: 1 (Franz Schiemer 82nd); Serbia: 1 (Nenad Milijas 13th) drew France: 1 (Thierry Henry 31st); Italy: 2 (Fabio Grosso 11th, Vincenzo Iaquinta 40th) bt Bulgaria: 0; Montenegro: 1 (Mirko Vucinic 57th) drew Cyprus: 1 (Ioannis Okkas 64th); Norway: 2 (Thorstein Helstad 2nd, John Arne Riise 26th) bt Macedonia: 1 (Boban Grncarov 79th); Scotland: 0 lt to Netherlands: 1 (Eljero Elia 82nd).

South America: Venezuela: 3 (Nicolas Fedor 32nd, 52nd, Ronald Vargas 70th) bt Peru: 1 (Juan Fuenmayor (og) 41st); Brazil: 4 (Nilmar 31st, 73rd, 75th, Julio Baptista 40th) bt Chile: 2 (Humberto Suazo 45th, 52nd); Uruguay: 3 (Luis Suarez 7th, Andres Scotti 76th, Sebastian Eguren 87th) bt Colombia: 1 (Jackson Martinez 63rd); Paraguay: 1 (Nelson Valdez 28th) bt Argentina: 0; Bolivia: 1 (Gerardo Yecerotte 85th) lt to Ecuador: 3 (Edison Mendez 4th, Luis Valencia 46th, Cristian Benitez 56th);    

CONACAF: El Salvador: 1 (Rudis Corrales 90+1) bt Costa Rica: 0; Mexico: 1 (Cuauhtemoc Blanco 75th) bt Honduras: 0; Trinidad and Tobago: 0 lt to United States: 1 (Ricardo Clark 62nd);
Asia: Saudi Arabia: 2 (Nassir Al Shamrani 13th, Hamad Al Montashari 90+1) drew Bahrain: 2 (Jaycee Okwunwanne 42nd, Ismaeel Latif 90+4). Bahrain qualify for a play-off spot.
Africa: Cameroon: 2 (Jean Makoun 24th, Samuel Eto’o 64th) bt Gabon: 1 (Daniel Cousin 90th); 

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