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.
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
KEY GOAL: Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is now free to focus on taking her fourth doubles title of the year with Barbora Strycova; they are due to face Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei on Monday returned to the court for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the WTA Tour, falling to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, who made a solid transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. “I’m not sure how well I adapted, to be honest,” Mertens told the WTA Web site. “I just feel like I might still be struggling a little. It was also [Hsieh’s] first match of the week, so that was a bit of an
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7