World champions Spain and fellow European heavyweights Germany were hit late in extra time to end up with just a point apiece in their respective 2014 World Cup home qualifiers on Tuesday.
Spain were pegged back by a goal four minutes into injury-time by Olivier Giroud as France erased memories of their limp performance in their Euro 2012 quarter-final defeat by Spain to force a 1-1 draw in Madrid.
While Spain extended their unbeaten run in competitive matches to 25, they will rue the missed penalty by Cesc Fabregas on the stroke of halftime, which would have put them 2-0 up.
However, if there is much contemplation to be done, it will be by Germany, who somehow let slip a 4-0 lead over the Swedes to be rocked with four goals by their opponents in the final half hour, Rasmus Elm scoring the dramatic equalizer in the third minute of time added on.
There was to be no special celebration for Cristiano Ronaldo on his 100th appearance for Portugal as they had to rely on a 79th minute equalizer by Helder Postiga to force a 1-1 draw at home against 117th-ranked Northern Ireland.
Ronaldo, who had started the night with a broad grin as he was presented with a special cap, exited the pitch in pouring rain with a furious look on his face.
Pouring rain also featured in Warsaw. Indeed, it was the only action the sodden spectators saw as the authorities defied the elements and lost out badly by not closing the roof as the Italian referee had to call off the match between Poland and England.
It was rescheduled to be played for 3pm GMT yesterday.
Elsewhere, 2010 World Cup finalists Holland showed that any hangover from their first round exit at Euro 2012 is firmly over as they beat Romania 4-1 away to make it four wins from four games.
Euro 2012 finalists Italy also strolled to victory, 3-1 at home to Denmark while Holland’s neighbors Belgium top their group on goal difference over Croatia after a 2-0 win over crisis-hit Scotland.
Scottish boss Craig Levein’s position looks to be increasingly untenable, while his Welsh counterpart, Chris Coleman, also cannot be feeling too secure.
Italian veteran Giovanni Trapattoni may well survive for a bit longer as his Republic of Ireland team shook off some of the shock of their 6-1 hammering at home to Germany on Friday with a 4-1 away win over the Faroes.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque was pragmatic about the result and his side’s chances of qualifying automatically in first spot — they top the group ahead of France on goal difference.
“We controlled the game in the first half, but lacked a bit in the final third. We then seemed to tire and let them back in later on,” del Bosque said. “We have five matches left, our return game in France will be important but we can’t forget the other sides.”
His France counterpart, Didier Deschamps — who stepped into the vacuum left by Laurent Blanc after he left following Euro 2012 — believed his side had been unlucky not to come away with the points.
“I have always believed in the quality of my side and our ability to achieve the objective of getting to the finals in Brazil,” he said.
While they were both relatively happy with a point, Sweden handler Erik Hamren was ecstatic at the unlikely point his side had garnered.
“To come to Germany and get a point against one of the best teams in the world is incredible,” he said. “It is something historical, I am very proud of my team and the way they reacted.”
Germany remain top of Group C on 10 points with Sweden second in the table on seven, but with a game in hand.
Germany coach Joachim Loew had gone from a calm presence on the bench to striding increasingly alarmed round the touchline.
“To sum things up, the first 60 minutes were brilliant from us, the last 30 were incredibly weak,” Loew said. “It’s deathly quiet in the changing room: Players are laid out on the benches and are totally speechless.”
Other European qualifier results:
‧ Croatia 2, Wales 0
‧ Macedonia 1, Serbia 0
‧ Czech Republic 0, Bulgaria 0
‧ Austria 4, Kazakhstan 0
‧ Estonia 1, Andorra 0
‧ Hungary 3, Turkey 1
‧ At Larnaca, Cyprus
‧ Norway 3, Cyprus 1
‧ Switzerland 2, Iceland 0
‧ Albania 1, Slovenia 0
‧ Russia 1, Azerbaijan 0
‧ Israel 3, Luxembourg 0
‧ Greece 1, Slovakia 0
‧ Bosnia 3, Lithuania 0
‧ Latvia 2, Liechtenstein 0
‧ Montenegro 1, Ukraine 0
‧ Moldova 2, San Marino 0
‧ Belarus 2, Georgia 0