It was a fruitful evening's work for most of Europe's traditional heavyweights on the road to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, with the exception of title holders Italy - held at home by the Republic of Ireland. Spain, England and the Netherlands all won to move yet closer to sealing their place in South Africa. FIFA.com brings you all you need to know about the sixth Matchday of European Zone qualifying, which provided no fewer than 63 strikes in 23 matches - an average of 2.73 per game.
The European champions' finishing and fitness levels eventually helped them pick up all three points away against Turkey in their toughest match of the group so far. The home side, who controlled the midfield in the first half, opened the scoring via Semih Senturk and could well have added to their tally before the interval. After the break, however, Spain moved up a few gears and equalised through Xabi Alonso's penalty just after the hour mark. And just two minutes after Tuncay Sanli missed the chance to seal a memorable Turkish success, up popped Albert Riera to clinch victory for La Roja, who equalled their own 31-match unbeaten record.
Czech Republic 1-2 Slovakia
Goals: Martin Skrtel 30 o.g. (Czech Republic); Stanislav Sestak 23, Erik Jendrisek 83 (Slovakia).
Unconvincing and incapable of imposing themselves on the game, a Czech Republic side missing several experienced players crashed to a 2-1 defeat at home to Slovakia, for whom Erik Jendrisek scored a late winner. The Slovaks are now second in Group 3 with the Czechs back in fourth.
Italy 1-1 Republic of Ireland
Goals: Vincenzo Iaquinta 10 (Italy), Robbie Keane 89 (Ireland).
The reigning world champions played 87 minutes with just ten men after the early dismissal of forward Giampaolo Pazzini, yet still managed to open the scoring when Vincenzo Iaquinta met a cross from Fabio Grosso. Ireland cranked up the pressure, however, and got their reward in the shape of a last-gasp equaliser from man of the match Robbie Keane. Suitably spurred on, the boys in green subsequently went close to snatching a winner in injury time.
In Group 1, joint leaders Denmark and Hungary both won and now enjoy a seven-point cushion over struggling Portugal, although the Hungarians have played a game more.
Israel, held at home by Greece on Saturday, completed a disappointing few days by going down 2-1 away to the same opponents and dropped down to fourth spot in Group 2. Switzerland, who beat Moldova 2-0, are level on points at the top with Greece while Latvia are three points further back after a 2-0 success over Luxembourg.
Northern Ireland carved out a slender 1-0 victory over Slovenia in Group 3 courtesy of Warren Feeney's solitary strike. That kept Nigel Worthington's men a point clear of Slovakia, although they have played two games more than their closest rivals. Poland enjoyed the most convincing result of the evening, meanwhile, putting ten goals past San Marino without reply to post their biggest ever winning margin.
The situation changed little in Group 4, with Russia notching a 1-0 success in Liechtenstein to remain four points shy of Germany, having contested one match less. For their part, Joachim Low's pacesetters triumphed 2-0 in Wales.
With Spain refusing to drop points in Group 5, Bosnia-Herzegovina did their best to apply pressure by collecting an excellent 2-1 win away against Belgium, with Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko registering both their goals. The victors now enjoy a four-point lead over Turkey in the race for second spot.
Despite conceding Andriy Shevchenko's 23rd goal in qualifiers for the global showcase, England overcame Ukraine 2-1 at Wembley to strengthen their grip on Group 6. The section leaders are enjoying their best ever start to a FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign after five wins from five, with Croatia five points further back following their 2-0 success in Andorra.
In Group 7, France made their superiority count to edge a hard-fought match against Lithuania 1-0 at the Stade de France, Franck Ribéry once again making the difference for Les Bleus. The win lifted Raymond Domenech's charges within two points of leaders Serbia, with Romania still suffering further down the standings after they lost 2-1 in Austria.
Bulgaria overcame Cyprus 2-0 in Group 8 but lie an imposing seven points back from Italy and five behind second-placed Ireland. Lastly in Group 9, the Netherlands are virtually assured of their place in South Africa after racking up their fifth consecutive triumph, this time seeing off Macedonia 4-0.
10 - The number of unanswered goals scored by Poland against San Marino to give them their largest ever margin of victory, superseding the 9-0 win they recorded against Norway in 1963. The biggest ever win during a FIFA World Cup qualifier in Europe remains the work of West Germany, however, who saw off Cyprus 12-0 in 1969.
Handed possession 35 metres out from goal off a throw-in, Ballack took one touch before unleashing a thunderous effort with goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey helpless and unable to stop the ball nestling in the top corner of the net.
What they said
"We didn't deserve to lose twice to Spain. I've seen lots of Spain's matches and I promise you that very few teams created as many chances against them as we did," Fatih Terim, Turkey coach.
Have Your Say
Which will be the first team to qualify for South Africa from the European Zone?