Striker Wayne Rooney carried on his scintillating international form as he scored twice in England’s 6-0 demolition of Andorra in their World Cup 2010 qualifying match on Wednesday.
The Manchester United striker endured a recent barren spell for his club, failing to register in his final seven games of the season and playing poorly during their Champions League final defeat against Barcelona in Rome.
Despite this slight dip domestically, Rooney’s goalscoring form for England has never deserted him.
The forward’s two clinical strikes at Wembley on Wednesday make it eight in seven qualifying games and have England fans dreaming that he can fire them to ultimate glory during the finals in South Africa next year.
The Liverpudlian did his job so well that England’s Italian coach Fabio Capello could rest him for the second-half with his team already three goals to the good.
The confident frontman tore into the hapless visiting defence almost from the kick-off and could have netted twice before his fourth minute strike.
Before the second minute had elapsed he executed a superb turn on the edge of the penalty area before demonstrating his subtlety with a chip that goalkeeper Koldo Alvarez tipped over the crossbar.
The Manchester United player should have registered from the resultant corner but he contrived to head the ball against the crossbar with an open goal gaping after livewire winger Theo Walcott’s shot had been saved by Alvarez.
However, the former Everton player made no mistake with his header a minute later, comfortably guiding full-back Glen Johnson’s right-wing cross into the far corner of the net when completely unmarked six-yards from goal.
With the comfort of an early goal, the home team were content to pass the ball around in midfield but the stocky striker’s menacing movement was still clearly unsettling the visitor’s defense.
The Johnson-Rooney combination nearly struck again in the 25th minute when the Portsmouth player’s cute pass found the forward in space in the penalty area.
The prolific hitman clearly had a good idea of what he wanted to do, but snatched at his attempted turn and shot, dragging the ball wide.
The game was effectively won in the 29th minute when Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard drove home Walcott’s cross.
With the only question being how many England could get, Rooney sensed blood and grabbed his second of the night, and his 23rd international goal in total, 10 minutes later.
Once more it was his marauding right-back accomplice Johnson who provided him with the cross, but his electric movement and cool finish into the roof of the goal were all his own work. Although England continued to dominate in the second-half, completing the rout with three farcical late goals, they lacked the same guile and coolness, showing how vital Rooney will be to their chances next July.
Also on Wednesday, Serbia consigned the Faroe Islands to a 2-0 defeat in Torshavn in the Faroe Islands.
Standard Liege forward Milan Jovanovic scored just prior to half-time to put Serbia ahead, with center-back Neven Subotic putting the match beyond the Faroe Islands with a second goal midway through the second-half.
Ukraine are now level on points with the Croats after coming from behind to secure a narrow 2-1 win at home to Kazakhstan.
Earlier, forgotten man Aleksandr Kerzhakov struck twice as Russia won 3-0 in Finland to move to within a point of Group Four leaders Germany.
Iran set-up a nerve-shredding final round of Asian World Cup qualifiers after a 1-0 win over the United Arab Emirates kept their hopes of a fourth appearance in the finals alive.
Star midfielder Ali Karimi scored the only goal with a fierce drive after 52 minutes in Tehran.
Iran remain in fourth place in Group B with 10 points from seven matches, one behind North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
Table-topping South Korea, with 15 points, have already made sure of their place in the finals in South Africa next year.
The second automatic qualifying spot will be decided next Wednesday when Iran travel to South Korea while the Saudis welcome North Korea to Riyadh.
Qatar ended their eight-game campaign with a 1-1 draw against Japan in Yokohama but it was not enough to keep them in contention.
With Australia and Japan already assured of the top two places in Group A, with their names in the hat for the World Cup draw in December, the race for the third place play-off slot is now between Bahrain and Uzbekistan.
Bahrain lost 2-0 to Australia in Sydney to remain on seven points to Qatar’s six and Uzbekistan’s four.
Uzbekistan and Bahrain play each other next week in Manama with the home team needing a draw to make the play-offs.
In Group A, Saudi Arabia’s 0-0 draw against South Korea in Seoul left them alongside North Korea on 11 points. North Korea have the edge in goal difference ahead of the two sides’ winner-takes-all showdown in Riyadh.
AFP, RECIFE, BRAZIL
Robinho scored in the 40th minute and Nilmar netted the winner in the 49th as Brazil seized sole possession of first place in South American 2010 World Cup qualifying by beating Paraguay 2-1.
Other matches saw host Ecuador upset Argentina 2-0, Chile rise to second in the table with a 4-0 romp over visiting Bolivia, Venezuela and Uruguay play to a 2-2 draw and host Colombia blank qualifying doormat Peru 1-0.
The results left Brazil (7-1 with six drawn) atop the table on 27 points, one more than Chile (8-4 with two drawn) and three ahead of Paraguay (7-4 with three drawn) after the 14th of 18 rounds of matches.
AFP, MEXICO CITY
Oscar Rojas scored three minutes into the second half to give Mexico a 2-1 victory over Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday, but the Mexicans could not escape fourth place in 2010 World Cup qualifying.
Mexican supporters endured a nervous half-time before watching new coach Javier Aguirre claim his first victory since replacing former England coach Sven Goran Eriksson in April.
Honduras moved into third place — the final guaranteed World Cup spot — with a 1-0 home triumph over El Salvador.
Group 1: Sweden 4, Malta 0
Group 4: Finland 0, Russia 3
Group 6: England 6, Andorra 0
Ukraine 2, Kazakhstan 1
Group 7: Faroe Islands 0, Serbia 2
Group 9: Macedonia 2, Iceland 0
Netherlands 2, Norway 0
Honduras 1, El Salvador 0
Mexico 2, Trinidad and Tobago 1
Ecuador 2, Argentina 0
Colombia 1, Peru 0
Brazil 2, Paraguay 1
Chile 4, Bolivia 0
Venezuela 2, Uruguay 2
Group A: Australia 2, Bahrain 0
Japan 1, Qatar 1
Group B: S Korea 0, Saudi Arabia 0
Iran 1, UAE 0
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