EURO big guns closer to qualification
After reigning world and European champions Spain, France, Holland and Italy had shown their continental rivals the way with victories yesterday, hard earned in the case of Spain as they came from behind to edge out the Czech Republic, the Three Lions and Die Mannschaft did not disappoint.
Fabio Capello's England put their match with Wales to bed within 15 minutes of the kickoff as Frank Lampard scored from the penalty spot and Darren Bent doubled the advantage to secure a comfortable 2-0 victory at the Millennium Stadium and give the visitors command of Group G on goal difference from Montenegro.
"We played really well, we passed the ball quickly and created chances to score goals with no chances for Wales," said Capello. "The goals that we scored were really nice and in every moment we were focused on the game which was important.
On the downside, a booking for Wayne Rooney means the striker will miss the next qualifier against Switzerland at Wembley in June.
Miroslav Klose slammed home two goals and Thomas Mueller added a brace of his own as the Germans, who join the Dutch in Group E and Spain in Group I as countries maintaining their 100 percent records, continue to dominate Group A.
"They were compact and defended pretty well, but I'm pleased with my goals at the beginning and the end of the game," said Klose.
Elsewhere Saturday, two-time champions France, who defeated Luxembourg yesterday, received a further boost when rivals Belarus - their shock opening-match conquerors - went down to the only goal in Albania, leaving Les Bleus with a four-point cushion in Group D.
Tight race in Group B
Group B is developing into a pot boiler with previous leaders Russia held to a goalless draw in Armenia. Those dropped points mean that Slovakia, 1-0 winners in Andorra, and the Republic of Ireland, 2-1 winners over Macedonia with Robbie Keane's 46th international goal the clincher, now join the Russians in a three-way tie on ten points at the top of the group.
Irish winger Damian Duff hailed his side's showing ahead of trips to come both to Russia and Macedonia.
"There are no easy games in Europe any more. It's a massive three points. We're there or thereabouts. We believe we can do it," Duff told Sky Sports.
Norway still lead Group H, meanwhile, despite dropping their first points in a 1-1 home draw with Denmark, who are three points adrift along with Portugal.