Mon, Mar 28, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Switzerland gives France trouble

WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS The Swiss held the French to a scoreless draw while England shut out Northern Ireland 4-0, as Israel and Ireland ended in a 1-1 draw

AP , LONDONAP, LA PAZ, BOLIVIA

France's Benoit Pedretti attempts to score past Swiss players during a qualifying match for the 2006 World Cup at the Stade de France stadium in Saint Denis, France, Saturday. Swiss players, from right: Allexander Frei, Philipp Degen, Benjamin Huggel, Philippe Senderos, Reto Ziegler and Daniel Gygax. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.

PHOTO: AP

England, the Netherlands and Italy posted comfortable wins in World Cup qualifying on Saturday, but 1998 champion France was held to a 0-0 draw by Switzerland.

France could have a hard time guaranteeing itself a berth in the next year's World Cup finals. It is tied at the top of Group 4 with Israel and Ireland, which drew 1-1. All three teams have nine points.

England scored four goals in 15 minutes in a 4-0 win over Northern Ireland, the Dutch got goals from Philip Cocu and Ryan Babel to beat Romania 2-0, and Italy beat Scotland 2-0 off two free kicks from Andrea Pirlo.

Also, Freddie Ljungberg scored two goals for Sweden in a 3-0 win over Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic needed an 87th-minute winner from Vratislav Lokvenc to edge Finland 4-3. World Cup host Germany, which qualifies automatically, beat Slovenia 1-0 in a friendly.

France labored to a 0-0 draw with Switzerland at Stade de France, with striker David Trezuguet, Patrick Vieira and Sylvain Wiltord all missing chances. Goalkeeper Fabien Barthez made several key stops.

France has drawn its last six home games, scoring only two goals, since coach Raymond Domenech took charge in July.

In Tel Aviv, substitute Abas Suan scored in injury time with a powerful 25m shot through the box to give Israel the draw. Ireland took a fourth-minute lead through Clinton Morrison.

After Ireland, France and Israel, Switzerland has six points, with Cyprus and Faeroe Islands one point each.

Italy was the only team in Group 5 to play and its 2-0 win over Scotland increased its lead to 12 points, five more than second-place Norway.

In Manchester, England, Joe Cole celebrated his first competitive start with England's opening goal in the 46th minute.

Michael Owen scored his 29th international goal and Frank Lampard added another. England's fourth was through a Chris Baird own-goal.

England leads Group 6 with 13 points, one more than Poland, which crushed Azerbaijan 8-0. Austria, which topped Wales 2-0, is third with eight points. Northern Ireland is next with three points, followed by Wales and Azerbaijan with two each.

Tomas Frankowski scored a hat trick for Poland, and Marek Saganowski added two more. Kamil Kosowski and Jacek Krzynowek also scored, and Azerbaijan's Aftandil Hadzhiev put in an own-goal.

Austria got late goals from Ivica Vastic and Martin Stranzl.

Milan Baros, Tomas Rosicky and Jan Polak all scored for the Czech Republic in its Group 1 win.

Finland got three goals off three shots in the second half, the first from veteran striker Jari Litmanen. Aki Riihilahti also scored, while Jonatan Johansson got the final goal a minute after coming off the bench.

"It was a wild game," Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner said.

The Netherlands increased its lead in Group 1 with its win in Bucharest. Cocu scored after 45 seconds and Babel added another in the 85th.

"We were lucky with the early goal," Netherlands coach Marco Van Basten said.

Also in the group, Armenia beat Andorra 2-1 off goals from Ara Hakobian and Romik Khachtrian. The Netherlands leads with 13 points, followed by Czechs with 12, Romania with 10, Finland with nine, Macedonia with five and Andorra and Armenia with four.

Sweden extended its lead in Group 8 with its win in Sofia. Ljungberg scored a goal in each half, while Erik Edman added the other. The Bulgarians lost Georgi Markov to a red card in the 59th minute.

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