Mon, Jun 08, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Netherlands’ victory secures first European berth

AFP , PARIS

A revived England all but booked their World Cup finals place on Saturday by swatting Kazakhstan 4-0 as the Netherlands became the first European nation to seal their berth for South Africa.

The Netherlands saw off Iceland 2-1 in Reykjavik, with first half goals from Manchester City’s Nigel De Jong and Mark van Bommel to make them the untouchable leaders in Group 9, 11 points clear of second-placed Scotland.

Earlier in Almaty, England, who missed out on Euro 2008 and suffered the heartache of successive quarter-final shootout losses at both the World Cup and the Euros, moved closer to booking a ticket.

Boosting English morale, Ukraine managed to hold Croatia to a 2-2 draw in Zagreb. Belarus leapfrogged the Ukrainians into third in Group Six by beating Andorra 5-1.

The Kazakhs caused England sA Nenad Milijas penalty gave Serbia a 1-0 home win over Austria, meaning 2006 finalists France are now five points adrift of the Group Seven leaders, albeit with a game in hand. The leading pair face off in a crunch game on Sept. 9.

The Republic of Ireland wasted a chance to move a point clear of world champions Italy in Group Eight when they had to settle for a 1-1 draw away to Bulgaria at the Vasil Levski Stadium.

In Group Three, Slovakia swamped hapless San Marino 7-0 to move two points clear of Northern Ireland, who were facing Italy in a friendly international.

In Group Four, where the Germans lead Russia by four points — although the latter have a game in hand — Finland moved to within two points of the Russians after a 2-1 home win over Liechtenstein while Wales are all but out of contention despite a 1-0 win in Azerbaijan.

Elsewhere, Denmark rule the roost in Group One after provisionally extending their advantage over Hungary to three points with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Sweden.

Despite a last-gasp 2-1 win in Albania, Portugal are still fighting for their lives as they trail the Danes by seven points and the Hungarians by four.

Also See: Pragyan Ojha leads India to victory over Bangladesh

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