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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Football

En-route to Brazil: Big guns qualify for 2014 World Cup finals
AP
Turin, September 12, 2013
First Published: 01:43 IST(12/9/2013)
Last Updated: 01:46 IST(12/9/2013)

Italy and the Netherlands became the first European teams to qualify for next year’s World Cup, and the United States, Costa Rica and Argentina also grabbed spots in the field on Tuesday.

Giorgio Chiellini scored in the 51st minute and Mario Balotelli converted a penalty in the 54th, giving Italy a 2-1 come-from-behind win over the Czech Republic in Turin. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made his 136th international appearance, matching Fabio Cannavaro’s Italian record.

The Azzurri, a four-time World Cup-winner, clinched first place in Group B and will be appearing in football’s top tournament for the 14th straight time.

Libor Kozak had scored in the 19th minute for the Czechs. With little chance to qualify, Czech coach Michal Bilek resigned after the game.

Robin Van Persie’s goals in the 49th and 53rd minutes lifted the Netherlands to a 2-0 win at Andorra. The Oranje, a three-time World Cup runner up, won Group D.

They joined host Brazil and Asian nations Australia, Iran, Japan and South Korea in the 32-team field for the World Cup, which kicks off June 12.

Seven in a row

Second-half goals by Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan lifted the United States to a 2-0 home victory over Mexico. The US then secured its seventh straight World Cup appearance when Honduras drew 2-2 against Panama.

The US moved into first place in the CONCACAF qualifying group with 16 points from eight of 10 scheduled games, one ahead of Costa Rica, which was held to a 1-1 draw at last-placed Jamaica, but still wrapped up a spot for Brazil.

Two-time champion Argentina got in with a 5-2 victory over Paraguay, sealing its spot with two games to spare in South American qualifying.

Uruguay had a 2-0 home win over Colombia to move into fifth place, behind fourth-placed Ecuador on goal difference.

Colombia’s defeat prevented it from sealing its World Cup berth and it remains second, three points behind Argentina. Colombia is assured of finishing no lower than fifth, as is third-placed Chile, which did not play on Tuesday.

Venezuela won 3-2 at home over Peru, keeping alive its qualification hopes, sitting three points behind fifth-placed Uruguay.

Delayed

Three-time champion Germany won 3-0 at the Faeroe Islands through goals by Per Merteswacker and Thomas Mueller around Mesut Ozil’s penalty, getting in position to clinch Group C next month. Sweden is second after winning 1-0 at Kazakhstan, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring in the first minute.

England drew 0-0 at Ukraine as Frank Lampard made his 100th international appearance, leaving the Three Lions atop Group H with two games left, one point ahead of Montenegro and Ukraine.

France twice came from behind to win 4-2 at Belarus as Franck Ribery scored twice and Samir Nasri and Paul Pogba added goals. Defending champion Spain leads France on goal difference in Group I.


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