LONDON: The latest round of World Cup qualifiers saw champions Spain held, surprisingly, to a 1-1 draw by the minnows of Finland in Gijon.
Sergio Ramos marked his 100th international by giving Vicente Del Bosque’s side the lead shortly into the second half but Teemu Pukki made the most of a rare chance for the visitors to level on 78 minutes.
The World Cup holders slipped to second place in Group I and must beat new leaders France in Paris on Tuesday to reclaim top spot.
France, meanwhile, claimed a 3-1 victory over Georgia in Paris. First-half stoppage time brought the opening goal from Olivier Giroud, followed up by more after the interval from the outstanding Mathieu Valbuena and Franck Ribery.
Two goals in three first-half minutes helped Germany to pick up three more points on their way to a 3-0 win in Kazakhstan. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gotze’s quickfire goals in the 20th and 22nd minutes settled the outcome with Thomas Muller claiming the third.
Also in Group C, Austria cruised to their second win of the qualifying campaign by crushing the Faroe Islands 6-0 inVienna.
Ten-man Montenegro maintained their two-point lead at the top of Group H after Mirko Vucinic’s goal was enough to win 1-0 at Moldova. Montenegro face pursuers England – who beat San Marino 8-0 with two goals from Jermain Defoe – on Tuesday.
Ukraine claimed their first victory in Group H by beating their Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland 3-1 on a dramatic night in Warsaw. The visitors had failed to win a competitive game since beating Sweden at last summer’s tournament but strikes from Andriy Yarmolenko and Oleg Gusev put them on the right track.
Lukasz Piszczek ensured a few nervous minutes when he notched Poland’s only goal but Roman Zozulya made the points safe for Ukraine on the stroke of half-time.
Holland recorded their 13th consecutive World Cup qualifying win to further improve their chances of reaching the finals in Brazi lwith a 3-0 victory over Estonia in Amsterdam. They thus moved five points clear in Group D.
Rafael Van der Vaart, Robin Van Persie and substitute Ruben Schaken scored the second-half goals.
Alexandru Chipciu’s goal in the third minute of stoppage time earned Romania a valuable 2-2 draw in their Group D clash in Hungary.
The Steaua Bucharest player, on as an 86th-minute substitute, grabbed the visitors’ second leveller of the match to keep his side level on points with Hungary in second place. The draw kept Hungary above Romania on goal difference in their mutual duel for a play-off spot.
Turkey breathed life back into their fading qualifying campaign with a minimalist 2-0 victory over minnows Andorra in Group D on goals from Selcuk Inan and and new hero Burak Yilmaz.
Fabio Coentrao’s last-minute goal earned Portugal a 3-3 draw in Israel as they hit back from 3-1 down in the closing stages.
Russia are the runaway leaders on 12 points – they play Northern Ireland on Saturday after had weather in Belfast forced a 24-hour postponement – with Israel edging Portugal on goal difference.
Croatia claimed a comfortable 2-0 win over Serbia though of greater importance was the fact that such a high-risk match went off peacefully. Mario Mandzukic putCroatiain front midway through the first half and Ivica Olic made it two at the break.
Belgium lead the way in Group A on goal difference after a comfortable 2-0 win in Macedonia. Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard with a penalty were on target for the visitors, who are now on 13 points from five matches and a goal better off than Croatia.
Wales won 2-1 at Scotland in Friday night’s other Group A game.
Tottenham midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson scored both goals to sink Slovenia and keep Iceland’s hopes of World Cup qualification alive with a 2-1 victory.
Norway slipped to fourth place in Group E after suffering a 1-0 home defeat to Albania. Hamdi Salihi’s 67th-minute strike proved enough even though Andi Lila was sent off in the closing stages for a second yellow card.
Three second-half goals guided Denmark to a comprehensive 3-0 victory over the Czech Republic as they claimed the first win of their qualification campaign.
Denmark’s superiority was rewarded with goals by Andreas Cornelius, Simon Kjaer and Niki Zimling moving them on to five points in Group B, the same as their hosts although still five behind leaders Italy.
In the night’s other Group B game, Aleksandar Tonev scored a hat-trick as Bulgaria beat Malta 6-0 inSofia.
Edin Dzeko scored twice as Bosnia-Herzegovina brushed aside Greece 3-1 in Zenica to move three points clear in Group G.
Latvia missed a penalty as Liechtenstein claimed their first point in Group G. Michele Polverino’s opener briefly had Liechtenstein on track for a first World Cup win since 2005 but Aleksandrs Cauna’s free-kick dragged Latvia back into the tie.
The same player saw his second-half penalty saved, however, and Latvia stay fifth in the group behind Lithuania and Slovakia after the 1-1 draw.
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