World Cup joy for Italy, Germany, Serbia, Denmark

World Cup joy for Italy, Germany, Serbia, Denmark

Seven European teams have now booked their places for South Africa next year, following already-qualified European champions Spain, England and the Netherlands.

There were no real surprises on a night of World Cup action, with France as expected clinching a play-off place behind Serbia in their group. Also going into next month's play-offs were Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ireland.

Holders Italy earned a last-gasp 2-2 draw in Ireland to secure top place in Group 8 ahead of the Irish, coached by Italian Giovanni Trapattoni. Mauro Camoranese cancelled out an early Glenn Whelan goal. Sean St Ledger put the Irish ahead three minutes from time, only for Alberto Gilardino to level in the last minute. A 35th-minute Miroslav Klose goal gave three-time World Cup winners Germany a 1-0 win over Russia in Moscow to give Joachim Loew's side an unassailable lead in Group 4 and consign the Russians to the play-offs.

Germany survived the 69th-minute loss of Jerome Boateng, who was sent off for a second booking on his international debut. Denmark overcame second-place Sweden 1-0 thanks to a 79th-minute goal from Jakob Poulsen to clinch top spot in Group 1.

Portugal, who went into the day needing, first, help from Denmark and then to beat Hungary, had everything go their way. Knowing that the Danes had won, the Portuguese pushed from the first whistle and took the lead in the 18th minute through Simao. Liedson added a second in 74th minute before Simao made sure with his second of the night in the 79th minute.

Portugal now need to beat Malta on Wednesday at home to qualify for a play-off place. Serbia enjoyed a 5-0 drubbing of Romania with goals from Nikola Zigic, Marko Pantelic, Zdravko Kuzmanovic and two late on from Milan Javanovic to seal top place in Group 7.

France made sure of the play-off place as runners-up in the group with a 5-0 thrashing of the Faroe Islands, courtesy of a brace from Andre-Pierre Gignac and one each from William Gallas, Nikolas Anelka and Karim Benzema to keep Raymond Domenech's side clear of Austria, who earned a 2-1 win over Lithuania. Two goals from defender Philippe Senderos in the sixth and eighth minutes and a third from Benjamin Huggel in the 23rd earned Switzerland a 3-0 win at Luxembourg in Group 2.

The Swiss under Ottmar Hitzfeld need one more point from Wednesday's home encounter against Israel to make absolutely sure. Theofanis Gekas scored four goals as Greece defeated Latvia 5-2 to stay within three points of the Swiss. The Greeks must now hope the Swiss lose their last match while they beat Luxembourg.
Israel still have slender hopes of finishing second thanks to a 3-1 victory over Moldova.

Bosnia-Herzegovina earned a 2-0 win at Estonia with goals from Edin Dzeko in the 32nd minute and Vedad Ibisevic in the 66th to make sure of a play-off place behind European champions Spain in Group 5.

The result put paid to the hopes of Turkey, who then slid to a 2-0 defeat in Belgium. Already-qualified Spain made it nine straight wins with a 2-1 victory in Armenia. Juan Manuel Mata hit the winner for Spain from the penalty spot in the 64th minute after Robert Arzumanyan, six minutes earlier, had equalized an early Cesc Fabregas goal.
Group 3 remains tight after Slovenia earned a 2-0 win at leaders Slovakia. Slovakia, playing on Wednesday at Poland, remain two points ahead of Slovenia, who will be expected to beat San Marino away.

The Czech Republic kept alive their slim hopes of a runners-up spot with a 2-0 win over Poland but remain two points behind Slovenia. England lost their perfect record in qualifiers after a 1-0 defeat against Ukraine in Dnepropetrovsk. Having already secured qualification, Fabio Capello's men failed to record a ninth straight win as they were reduced to 10 men after the early sending off of Robert Green and were beaten by a Sergiy Nazarenko goal.

England remain on 24 points at the top of Group 6, while Ukraine moved into second place on 18 points, one clear of Croatia in third.