Mon, Oct 09, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Spunky Scotland leading Euro qualifying Group B


Scotland didn't even make the World Cup. Yet it's in front of the two teams that played for the title.

Scotland upset France 1-0 in Euro 2008 qualifying on Saturday -- putting it in first place in Group B with a perfect nine points from three games, three more than France.

Italy is fourth, with four points after its 2-0 win over Ukraine -- its first win since beating France in the World Cup final in July.

"The table looks great for us after three games," Scotland coach Walter Smith said. "I'm not sure there was great expectation ahead of this game but there is always great optimism -- that's just the way we are -- and it's nice for a change to see us sitting at the top of the table."


Gary Caldwell capped a standout defensive performance by turning home an in-swinging corner from Paul Hartley at Hampden Park.

Scotland hasn't qualified for a tournament since the 1998 World Cup.

It was also the first time in 14 years that France had lost a qualifying game on the road. Since a 2-0 loss to Bulgaria on Sept. 8, 1992, France had won 13 European Championship and World Cup qualifying games away from home and drawn seven.

"We wanted to carry on the euphoria [from the World Cup]," France coach Raymond Domenech said. "But it's an extremely difficult group and Scotland will prove difficult opponents for the other teams."

Also in Group B, Italy beat Ukraine 2-0 off goals from Massimo Oddo and Luca Toni. Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko missed the match with a fever.

"The France loss shows how difficult this group is. It's tough for everyone to gain points," Italy coach Roberto Donadoni said. "We have an extremely difficult road ahead of us."

Lithuania defeated the Faeroe Islands 1-0 in the same group to be third with four points. Ukraine is fifth with three.

22 games

Twenty-two qualifiers were played on Saturday, with Spain losing its second straight game and the Netherlands and England both held to draws.

The winners and runners-up of the seven groups advance to the final tournament along with hosts Austria and Switzerland.

Sweden beat Spain 2-0 to keep its perfect record after three games and lead Group F. Johan Elmander and Marcus Allback scored and goalkeeper Rami Shaaban made several key saves.

Spain has only three points from three games after losing to Northern Ireland 3-2 last month. It opened qualifying with a 4-0 win over Liechtenstein.

Denmark drew 0-0 with Northern Ireland and Latvia beat Iceland 4-0 in the other Group F games. Denmark and Northern Ireland each have four points, with Spain in fifth place.

England beat Macedonia 1-0 last month but couldn't score at Old Trafford.

"It's never an easy ride in these qualifying groups. Ask Italy. Ask France," England midfielder Frank Lampard said.

England barely had a shot on goal in the first half, but the second half of the Group E match provided more opportunities for the hosts. Macedonia goalkeeper Jane Nikolovski thwarted attempts from Peter Crouch and Wayne Rooney, and Steven Gerrard hit the crossbar.

In other results, it was: Israel 1, Russia 1; Croatia 7, Andorra 0; The Netherlands 1, Bulgaria 1; Romania 3, Belarus 1; Cyprus 5, Ireland 2; Czech Republic 7, San Marino 0; Slovakia 5, Wales1; Greece 1, Norway 0; Turkey 1, Hungary 0; Moldova 2, Bosnia-Herzegovina 2; Serbia 1, Belgium 0; Armenia 0, Finland 0; Poland 1, Kazakhstan 0; Portugal 3, Azerbaijan 0.

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