Crucial matches in the UEFA EURO 2008 and CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2008 qualifying campaigns were staged over the weekend, but as Germany, Portugal, Turkey, South Africa and Angola, among others, celebrated impressive victories, the aspirations of the Czech Republic, England, Greece, Eritrea and Tanzania took knocks.

Despite being depleted by injuries and suspensions,  Germany undid Czech Republic 2-1  in Prague to stride three points clear at the top of Group D. The FIFA World Cup™ bronze medallists produced an inspired display on foreign soil, and after Petr Cech had kept the deadlock intact with a series of fine saves, he was eventually beaten by Kevin Kuranyi's acrobatic header just before the interval. The Schalke 04 striker then doubled Germany's advantage shortly after the hour, nodding home Philipp Lahm's inviting cross, and although Milan Baros did halve the deficit 13 minutes from time, Joachim Low's charges held on for the full points haul.

Elsewhere in Group D, the Republic of Ireland made it nine points from their last three games by  edging out Wales 1-0 , Stephen Ireland's goal moving Steve Staunton's team level on points with second-placed Czech Republic

Mixed results for Spain and England
Meetings with Denmark and Israel were billed as must-win games for Spain and England respectively, and while the  Iberians revivified their qualification chances  by securing three points, Steve McClaren's troops were  held to a goalless draw in Tel-Aviv . The result leaves England three points shy of Russia and five adrift of Group E leaders Croatia, who eked out a 2-1 victory over ten-man Macedonia, Darijo Srna rising from the bench to net the equaliser before creating Eduardo's 88th minute winner.

Valencia marksmen Fernando Morientes and David Villa scored a goal apiece to give Spain a two-goal cushion against Denmark, but despite being at a numerical disadvantage following the dismissal of Niclas Jensen, the guests pulled one back within five minutes of the restart through Michael Gravgaard. The Danes duly pursued a share of the spoils, but the hosts' rearguard stood firm against their advances. The success moved Spain on to six points, one behind Denmark and six short of Group F front-runners Sweden, whose advantage over second-placed Northern Ireland was cut to two points due to the Green and White Army's 4-1 away triumph over Liechtenstein

Portugal and Turkey impress
Portugal got their qualification campaign back on track courtesy of a  4-0 defeat of Belgium , a result that was indebted to the performances of wingers Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Quaresma. The former netted twice and the latter, who tormented the visitors throughout, was also on target, breaking his international duck with an exquisite chip.

The result elevated Luiz Felipe Scolari's team up to third in Group A, level on points with fourth-placed Serbia, who were surprisingly beaten 2-1 by Kazakhstan. Poland assumed leadership of the eight-team pool following a  5-0 reverse of Azerbaijan , although they have played one game more than their nearest challengers.

Tied on points going into the round,  Turkey overwhelmed bitter rivals Greece 4-1  to take the ascendancy in Group C. The UEFA EURO 2004 champions went in front after just five minutes, but Tuncay Sanli equaliser for Turjey and second-half goals from Gokhan Unal, Tumer Metin and Gokdeniz Karadeniz sealed a 4-1 win. 

Parreira and Vogts make winnings starts
Carlos Alberto Parreira made a winning start  as head coach of South Africa, the Bafana Bafana running out comfortable  3-0 victors over Chad  to ease two points clear at the head of Group 11. Another celebrated coach, former Scotland and Germany gaffer Berti Vogts, got his spell in charge of an African force off on a positive note, although it took an eleventh hour Nwankwo Kanu effort to  steal Nigeria a 1-0 win over Uganda  that gave them a five-point cushion at the summit of Group 3.

South Africa and Nigeria were not the only former CAF Africa Cup of Nations champions left celebrating, with Cameroon, Sudan,  Cote d'Ivoire , TunisiaAlgeria  and Egypt all among the weekend winners. Liberia succeeded in keeping Samuel Eto'o quiet, but it was insufficient to stop Cameroon from claiming a third successive win in Group 5, Achille Webo's double  helping the Indomitable Lions to a 3-1 victory  in Yaounde. Cote d'Ivoire outmuscled Madagascar 3-0 to continue en route to progression from Group 1, and Tunisia's Issam Jomaa scored all three goals to  sink the Seychelles in a 3-0 away win  in Group 4.

Elsewhere,  Angola beat second-placed Eritrea 6-1  in Group 6 to make themselves firm favourites to book a place at Ghana 2008, and with Stephen Keshi back at the controls, Togo defeated Sierra Leone 3-1, two-goal Emmanuel Adebayor proving the Sparrow Hawks' hero. Senegal also improved their chances of making the cut, a Mamadou Niang treble thrusting them to a 4-0 win over Tanzania and ensuring that they replaced the Taifa Stars in Group 7's pole position.


UEFA EURO 2008 qualifiers

Group A
Poland 5-0 Azerbaijan
Kazakhstan 2-1 Serbia
Portugal 4-0 Belgium

Group B
Scotland 2-1 Georgia
Faroe Islands 0-2 Ukraine
Lithuania 0-1 France

Group C
Moldavia 1-1 Malta
Norway 1-2 Bosnia-Herzegovina
Greece 1-4 Turkey

Group D

Republic of Ireland 1-0 Wales
Cyprus 1-3 Slovakia
Czech Republic 1-2 Germany

Group E
Croatia 2-1 Macedonia
Israel 0-0 England
Estonia 0-2 Russia

Group F
Liechtenstein 1-4 Northern Ireland
Spain 2-1 Denmark

Group G

Luxembourg 1-2 Belarus
Albania 0-0 Slovenia
Netherlands 0-0 Romania

CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2008 qualifiers
Group 1
Madagascar 0-3 Côte d'Ivoire

Group 2
Egypt 3-0 Mauritania
Botswana 1-0 Burundi

Group 3
Nigeria 1-0 Uganda
Lesotho 3-1 Niger

Group 4
Mauritius 1-2 Sudan
Seychelles 0-3 Tunisia

Group 5
Equatorial Guinea 3-1 Rwanda
Cameroon 3-1 Liberia

Group 6
Angola 6-1 Eritrea
Kenya 2-0 Swaziland

Group 7
Senegal 4-0 Tanzania
Burkina Faso 1-1 Mozambique

Group 8
Algeria 2-0 Cape Verde Islands
Gambia 0-2 Guinea

Group 9
Togo 3-1 Sierra Leone
Mali 1-1 Benin

Group 10
Libya 2-0 Namibia

Group 11
Congo 0-0 Zambia
Chad 0-3 South Africa

Group 12
Zimbabwe 1-1 Morocco