Nervy Argentina seal place at the last
DIEGO MARADONA was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief last night after his Argentina side secured their place at next summer’s finals with a nervy 1-0 win in Uruguay.
Defeat in their final qualifier could have knocked the two-time champions out altogether, or at least sent them into a play-off. But a scrappy late goal from substitute Mario Bolatti saw Maradona’s men qualify in fourth place from the South American group, with 10-man Uruguay in the play-off.
Ukraine finally put paid to Croatia’s slim World Cup hopes with a six-goal show in Andorra. Former Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko scored as Ukraine clinched a place in Monday’s play-off draw as Group Six runners-up to England. Tottenham’s Niko Kranjcar headed a late goal to hand Croatia a 2-1 victory over Kazakhstan, but Slaven Bilic’s men were left to count the cost of their home and away defeats to England.
Switzerland claimed the solitary point they needed to qualify from Group Two with a 0-0 draw against Israel in Basel. It meant Greece’s 2-1 victory over Luxembourg was insufficient and they now join Ukraine in the play-off hat.
Also safely through to South Africa next year are Slovakia, whose 1-0 win in Poland was enough to see off Slovenia and take Group Three. Slovenia won 3-0 in San Marino but must settle for a play-off place.
Portugal held off the challenge of Sweden and Hungary to take the runners-up spot in Group One. Manchester United’s Nani scored in Portugal’s 4-0 win over Malta, as Sweden beat Albania 4-1 thanks to two goals from Olof Mellberg. Group winners Denmark were surprising beaten 1-0 at home by Hungary.
Play-off hopefuls Republic of Ireland were held to a 0-0 home draw by Montenegro, while a hat-trick in the final 12 minutes from Alberto Gilardino saved Italy from 2-0 down against Cyprus.Eliminated Northern Ireland ended their campaign with a creditable 0-0 draw in the Czech Republic while Wales, who also failed to qualify, finished with a 2-0 victory in Liechtenstein thanks to goals from David Vaughan and Aaron Ramsey.
EURO QUALIFIERS ROLL OF HONOUR
Who qualified: Denmark, Switzerland, Slovakia, Germany, Spain, England, Serbia, Italy, Netherlands
Play-Offs: Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ukraine, France, Republic of Ireland
* Draw to be made on Monday
Who missed out: Sweden, Israel, Czech Republic, Croatia