World champions Spain regained top spot in their 2014 World Cup qualifying group on Tuesday as they beat former leaders France 1-0 in a hard fought clash.
While Pedro Rodriguez’s second-half goal saw them take a one point lead over France in Group I, the team they beat in the 2010 World Cup final, The Netherlands maintained their perfect record with their sixth win in six games, a 4-0 success over Romania.
The Dutch — who have recovered brilliantly under Louis van Gaal since he stepped in after they exited Euro 2012 at the group stage — lead Group D by seven points, second-placed Hungary having drawn 1-1 away in Turkey. The Czech Republic could sneak the runners-up play-off spot as a 3-0 win in Armenia on goalkeeper Petr Cech’s 100th appearance put them just two points behind Bulgaria and also with a game in hand.
The enthralling duel for top spot in Group A shows no sign of abating as Belgium edged Macedonia 1-0 in Brussels while Croatia stayed on level terms by coming from a goal down to beat plucky Wales 2-1 in Swansea.
Both sides are on 16 points with the Belgians ahead on goal difference, the two of them are nine points clear of Serbia, who put Scotland out of their misery by beating them 2-0 in Novi Sad to end their already dim hopes of making it to the finals.
Injured Pedro out of action
Pedro will be out of action for 10 days after pulling a muscle in his leg during Tuesday’s World Cup qualifying win in France, his club said on Wednesday. His injury means he will miss this weekend’s clash with Celta Vigo in La Liga and perhaps the next game too. “Pedro will miss the match this Saturday and is doubtful for next weekend’s tie against Mallorca,” said Barcelona in a statement.