With 24 games taking place across Europe today, there was plenty of drama, as England, Greece, Spain and Netherlands maintained their 100 per cent records.
The first game of the day finished in Glasgow with Chris Iwelumo's 64th minute miss for Scotland against Norway providing the main talking point following a game of few chances at Hampden Park. The 30-year-old Wolves striker, on his international debut, somehow contrived to miss an open goal from close range to deny his side the lead at Hampden Park. Although Scotland go temporarily top of the Group 9 standings, they have played two games more and have just one point more than Netherlands, lying in second place.
Scotland's man of the match Scott Brown said after the match: "We're not hugely disappointed. We had Norway struggling to defend, they had a few chances, we had a few chances - we were just unlucky not to score. Now we have to go and try and pick up a win in the Netherlands. We'll give 110 per cent."
In Group 4, Finland took maximum points from their game against Azerbaijan in Helsinki, but had to rely on a 62nd minute penalty from Mikael Forssell to provide the difference between the two sides. The result puts the Finns on to four points after two games, the same return as Germany who currently lead the group.
There was a surprise in Group 7 as Faroe Islands picked up their first point of the preliminary campaign by holding Austria 1-1 in Torshavn. Both goals were scored within two minutes of one another as Bogi Lokin put the home side ahead in the 47th minute, with Austria replying through Martin Strandl in the 49th. The Faroes are still rooted to the bottom of the standings, but Austria move second.
Switzerland got their first win of the preliminary campaign with a 2-1 win over Latvia in St. Gallen. Goals from Alexander Frei and Blaise N'Kufo gave them the win, with Deniss Ivanovs's goal, sandwiched in between the two, merely a consolation. Latvia defender Juris Laizans saw red six minutes after Frei's goal for two bookable offences.
After a goalless opening 45 minutes, England hit five goals in a FIFA World Cup™ qualifier for the first time in seven years with a 5-1 win over Kazakhstan at Wembley in Group 6. Despite the scoreline, which saw goals for stand-in skipper Rio Ferdinand, a brace from Wayne Rooney, an Alexandr Kuchma own goal and a late strike from substitute Jermain Defoe, the Three Lions were largely unconvincing. Ashley Cole supplied Zhambyl Kukeyev for a Kazakhstan consolation in the 68th minute to close the score to 2-1, but Fabio Capello's men stepped up a gear in the closing stages to make it three wins out of three for the Three Lions.
"We had a couple of chances in the first half, but we knew that we had to be patient," said Rooney. "Thankfully we took our them in the second half. and we're delighted with that."
Georgia and Cyprus picked up their first points after a 1-1 draw in Tbilisi, the first South Africa 2010 Group 8 qualifier to be played in the country after the recent unrest. Michael Konstantinou put the visitors ahead in the 66th minute, but Levan Kobiashvili equalised seven minutes later, in a game which FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter was on hand to watch.
Kazakhstan came here and gave us a good game, but we know we can play better. The result and getting the points on the board was the main thing
Meanwhile in Cardiff, Wales went to the top of Group 4, albeit temporarily, with a 2-0 victory over Liechtenstein. David Edwards put John Toshack's side ahead three minutes before the break, just before captain Craig Bellamy missed a penalty. Ched Evans' header took a deflection off Mario Frick to double the advantage with ten minutes to go to round off the victory. "We made hard work of it, but we got the win," said Bellamy after the game. "It could have been better."
Ukraine were held at home to a goalless draw by Croatia in Kharkov, which means England lead Group 6 by two points from Ukraine and five from Croatia after three games.
Albania's unbeaten run in Group 1 came to an end when they were defeated 2-0 by Hungary in Budapest. Second half goals from Sandor Torghelle and Roland Juhasz sealed the win for Erwin Koeman's men. Denmark took full advantage of Albania's slip, beating Malta by three goals to nil to go top of the group by two clear points, as Sweden and Portugal played out a goalless draw in Stockholm.
Turkey came from behind to defeat Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-1 to take their tally to seven points from three games. Edin Dzeko put the Balkan side ahead after 26 minutes, but second half strikes from Sabri Sarioglu and Mevlut Erdinc sealed the points for Turkey.
In Group 8, Italy dropped points in Bulgaria with a 0-0 draw. Marcello Lippi's side lead by three points from the Republic of Ireland, who face Cyprus on Wednesday.
Lithuania's 100 per cent record in Group 7 is over after they were defeated 3-0 in Serbia with Branislav Ivanovic, Milos Krasic and Nikola Zigic among the goals, but Greece maintainted theirs in Group 2 with a 3-0 success over Moldova. UEFA EURO 2004 hero Angelos Charisteas bagged a brace either side of half-time, while Konstantinos Katsouranis added another to maintain their two point advantage over Israel, who won 3-1 in Luxembourg.
Poland and Slovenia are neck and neck at the top of Group 3 after wins over Czech Republic and Northern Ireland respectively. In Warsaw, Pawel Brozek and Jakub Blaszcykowski put Poland 2-0 ahead before Martin Fenin grabbed a consolation, while Slovenia left it late to record a 2-0 victory over Northern Ireland at the Maribor Stadium. After three games, Poland and Slovenia's record are identical. In the group's other match, Slovakia won 3-1 in San Marino.
France came from two goals down to draw with Romania 2-2. Florentin Petre and Dorin Goian but Romania 2-0 up inside the first 20 minutes, but Franck Ribery and Yoann Gourcuff levelled matters. It means that Group 7 is very open. Although France lie second from bottom on four points, they are only two points behind joint leaders Serbia and Lithuania.
Germany's 2-1 win over Russia puts them two points clear of Wales in Group 4. It was a stellar scoresheet in Dortmund with Lukas Podolski and Michael Ballack netting for Germany, with Andrei Arshavin grabbing Russia's goal. In Group 9, Scotland's group, Netherlands completed a 2-0 win over Iceland with Joris Mathijsen and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on target. Netherlands are at the section's summit with six points, two more than Scotland and with a game in hand.
Juanito, David Villa and Carles Puyol helped to maintain Spain's perfect record in Group 5, as they enjoyed a straightforward victory over Estonia in Tallinn, while Belgium made it seven points out of a possible nine as goals from Wesley Sonck and Everton's Marouane Fellaini gave them a 2-0 win over Armenia.
European Zone results
Saturday 11 October
Hungary 2-0 Albania
Denmark 3-0 Malta
Sweden 0-0 Portugal
Greece 3-0 Moldova
Switzerland 2-1 Latvia
Luxembourg 1-3 Israel
Poland 2-1 Czech Republic
San Marino 1-3 Slovakia
Slovenia 2-0 Northern Ireland
Wales 2-0 Liechtenstein
Finland 1-0 Azerbaijan
Germany 2-1 Russia
Belgium 2-0 Armenia
Estonia 0-3 Spain
Turkey 2-1 Bosnia-Herzegovina
England 5-1 Kazakhstan
Ukraine 0-0 Croatia
Faroe Islands 1-1 Austria
Serbia 3-0 Lithuania
Romania 2-2 France
Georgia 1-1 Cyprus
Bulgaria 0-0 Italy
Scotland 0-0 Norway
Netherlands 2-0 Iceland