Dutch qualify for World Cup, England march on (European Roundup)

June 7th, 2009 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Bayern Munich Hamburg, June 7 (DPA) The Netherlands became the first team from Europe to qualify for the 2010 football World Cup and England moved closer to the finals in South Africa.
With goals from Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel, Dutch won 2-1 in Iceland Saturday and clinched their place 369 days before the opening match of the 2010, World Cup finals.

England prevailed 4-0 in Kazakhstan but are not through yet. Gareth Barry, Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard were on target in Almaty.

Denmark got a vital 1-0 win in Sweden, Portugal’s slim chances remained intact from a injury-time 2-1 win in Albania, a 2-2 draw between Croatia and Ukraine helped only England in their group, and Slovakia trounced San Marino 7-0 as 14 matches were played in seven of the nine European groups.

Only the group winners and the best second-placed team qualifies directly for next year’s World Cup.

The Dutch claimed the first of 14 European berths for the finals to make up for the disappointment of having to sit out Euro 2008.

Manchester City midfielder de Jong opened the scoring in the eighth minute in Reykjavik and Bayern Munich captain van Bommel made it 2-0 in the 16th.

Iceland scored late from Kristjan Sigurdsson but the Dutch prevailed to top Group 9 with a maximum 18 points from six games and can’t be caught by second-placed Scotland, who have seven points with three games to play.

The Dutch were the fourth team overall to qualify Saturday, following Japan, Australia and South Korea in the Asian zone. South Africa has direct entry as World Cup host nation.

England joined the Dutch and Euro 2008 champs Spain, who were idle on Saturday, with six wins in as many games, and can raise the mark to seven against hosts minnows Andorra Wednesday at Wembley.

“It’s another big step forward to qualification,” said England coach Fabio Capello.

Kazakhstan came close in the first minute and had a goal ruled out for off-side before Barry headed England ahead two minutes before the break against the flow of play.

Heskey doubled their lead two minutes later, firing home a deflected Steven Gerrard cross to make it 2-0 at the interval.

England struggled to break down the home side after the break, but Rooney eased any nerves with the third goal in the 73rd minute. And Lampard rounded off the scoring with the fourth from the penalty spot 12 minutes from the end.

“We can do better, but it was a professional display. We’re on a confident run and we need to keep it going - we’ve not qualified until we’re qualified,” said Lampard.

England have 18 points in Group 6 and are now seven points clear of Croatia (11), with Belarus on nine following a 5-1 drubbing of Andorra and Ukraine on eight.

Croatia had a dream start in Zagreb in the crucial game with Ukraine with Mladen Petric on target in the second minute. But Andriy Shevchenko levelled in the 13th and Oleksander Gai headed Ukraine 2-1 up in the 54th before Luka Modric at least salvaged a draw for Croatia with a deflected shot with 18 minutes left.

In Group 1, Bruno Alves scored three minutes into stoppage time in Tirana as Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal escaped another disaster 2-1. Hugo Almeida opened for Portugal in the 27th but Albania levlled just two minutes later from Erjon Bogdani.

In the other game, Denmark goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen saved a 12th minute penalty from Kim Kallstrom and Thomas Kahlenberg stole the winner 10 minutes later in the Scandinavian duel in Solna.

Denmark lead the way with 16 points from Hungary (13), Portugal (nine) and Sweden (six).

Finland and Wales got crucial wins in their playoff hopes in Group 4 dominated by Germany (16 points) and Russia (12).

Finland improved to 10 points with a narrow 2-1 win over bottom side Liechtenstein in Helsinki, with Mikael Forsell (33rd) and Jonathan Johansson (71st) reversing an early deficit from Mario Frick, Liechtenstein’s first goal of the campaign.

Wales have nine points from a 1-0 in Baku against Azerbaijan, with David Edwards grabbing the 41st-minute winner. But Wales have played two more matches than Russia.

Slovakia moved atop group 3 with 15 points from a 7-0 demolition of bottom nation San Marino, with Marek Ceh getting a brace. Idle Northern Ireland are second on 13 points and Poland third on 10.

In Group 8, Ireland moved within one point of leading world champions Italy and maintained a five-point advantage over Bulgaria with a 1-1 draw in Sofia. Richard Dunne scored for Ireland in in 24th with Dimitar Telkiyski responding five minutes later.

Cyprus and Montenegro drew 2-2 in another Group 8 game while Macedonia drew 0-0 with Norway at the bottom of Group 9.

Serbia moved five points clear of France, who have a game in hand, atop Group 7 from a 1-0 win against Austria from Nenad Milijas’ early penalty. Romania won the other game 1-0 in Lithuania.

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