2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

14 June - 15 July

Powerhouses make steady progress


Spain, 1-0 winners in Georgia, and Germany, who won 2-1 in Austria, were both forced to work hard for their points during Tuesday’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifiers, while England had to make do with a 1-1 draw at home to Ukraine. The Netherlands, meanwhile, continued their return to form with a resounding 4-1 victory in Hungary.
* FIFA.com* provides a rundown of the second round of matches from the European Zone qualifying campaign, on a night when just five teams proved capable of collecting three points away from home.

The big match
*England 1-1 Ukraine, Wembley Stadium, London
*Goals: Frank Lampard 87 pen (England); Yevhen Konoplyanka 38 (Ukraine)
Struck by numerous injury-enforced absences, England dug deep to rescue a point via the penalty spot with just three minutes remaining of normal time. In a game where the makeshift English defence struggled to form a cohesive unit and was often guilty of clumsy clearances, Ukraine’s goal stemmed from a loose ball in the English half that was quickly transferred to Yevhen Konoplyanka, who found himself unmarked as he drove towards the box.

The midfielder had all the time in the world to cut inside and unleash a long-range curling shot that flew into the top corner of the net. The Three Lions pushed hard for an equaliser, simultaneously leaving themselves open to counter-attacks, but a well-positioned Tom Cleverley missed two excellent opportunities to draw his side level, hitting the post with his second effort. Roy Hodgson’s men never gave up, however, and Lampard’s late spot kick earned them a deserved share of the spoils.

The other games
Group A
Scotland 1-1 FYR Macedonia
Serbia 6-1 Wales
Belgium 1-1 Croatia
Serbia put six goals past a shaky Welsh defence to move to the top of Group A in the company of Belgium and Croatia, who could not be separated in Brussels. Ivan Perisic gave the Croatians the lead just six minutes into the match, silencing the expectant fans at Stade Roi Baudouin, whose frustration grew as the away defence – expertly marshalled by Josip Simunic – repelled the Belgian attacks. It required a fine volley from Guillaume Gillet just before the break to bring Les Diables Rouges back into the match.

In the section’s remaining fixture, Scotland did themselves no favours with a draw at home to Macedonia.

Group B
Italy 2-0 Malta
Bulgaria 1-0 Armenia
Italy’s fans would be forgiven for being a little concerned this evening, as their heroes were made to wait until stoppage time to finally double Mattia Destro’s early strike through an own goal by Andrew Cohen. Although Malta made things awkward for Gli Azzurri throughout the match, the Italians’ poor finishing and heavy rainfall also contributed to the lack of home goals.

Bulgaria, impressive in their opening game on Friday, made do with a tight 1-0 win over Armenia.

Group C
Sweden 2-0 Kazakhstan
Austria 1-2 Germany
Picking up a victory in Austria is traditionally a tricky task, and the Germans again experienced this phenomenon on Tuesday evening. It nevertheless appeared as if they had the points safely in the bag early in the second half, having scored twice through Marco Reus and Mesut Ozil.

It was at this point that Marcel Koller’s charges appeared to come to life, reducing the deficit five minutes later via a Zlatko Junuzovic shot. Two minutes from the final whistle, Marko Arnautovic shot wide in front of an open goal, thereby failing to deliver what would have been a merited Austrian leveller.

Sweden, meanwhile, started out their qualifying campaign with an unspectacular 2-0 success versus Kazakhstan, Rasmus Elm and Marcus Berg grabbing the goals.

Group D
Romania 4-0 Andorra
Hungary 1-4 Netherlands
Turkey 3-0 Estonia
The changes that Louis van Gaal has made to the Oranje are visibly starting to pay dividends, as demonstrated by the impressive team display in their 4-1 win in Hungary. Jeremain Lens scored a brace and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who replaced Robin van Persie at half-time, was also on the scoresheet.

Romania chalked up their second triumph in five days, comfortably seeing off Andorra 4-0, albeit with two goals coming in injury time. Turkey confirmed that they will be a force to be reckoned with in this section, defeating Estonia 3-0.

Group E
Norway 2-1 Slovenia
Cyprus 1-0 Iceland
Switzerland 2-0 Albania
Xherdan Shaqiri and Gokhan Inler were the architects of Switzerland’s victory over Albania, who put in a solid performance despite the loss. Norway picked up three precious points at home to Slovenia, their winner coming courtesy of a John Arne Riise penalty in the fourth minute of injury time. The result sees the Slovenians prop up the group with two defeats from their opening two encounters.

Group F
Northern Ireland 1-1 Luxembourg
Israel 0-4 Russia
Portugal 3-0 Azerbaijan
Portugal made their fans wait against Azerbaijan, only netting the reassuring second and third goals of their 3-0 win in the final five minutes of a match in which Cristiano Ronaldo picked up a yellow card.

Conversely, Fabio Capello’s winning mentality is already beginning to have an effect on the Russians, who strolled to an easy victory in Israel, scoring two goals in each half and enjoying the lion’s share of possession. After their initial 2-0 success versus Northern Ireland, Russia now appear to have a serious chance of beating pool favourites Portugal to top spot. The two sides meet on 12 October.

In the group’s other match, Luxembourg secured a noteworthy draw in Belfast.

Group G
Bosnia-Herzegovina 4-1 Latvia
Slovakia 2-0 Liechtenstein
Greece 2-0 Lithuania
A ruthless Bosnia-Herzegovina side recorded a second high-scoring win in a row, with Latvia fulfilling the role of unfortunate victims this time around. Greece and Slovakia both registered solid successes over Lithuania and Liechtenstein respectively.

Group H
England 1-1 Ukraine
San Marino 0-6 Montenegro
Poland 2-0 Moldova
Montenegro pulled off the most prolific result of the night, with braces from Fatos Beciraj and Andrija Delibasic helping to overcome San Marino. The Montenegrins consequently move up to first place in the pool, above Poland – 2-0 winners against Moldova – on goal difference.

Group I
France 3-1 Belarus
Georgia 0-1 Spain
In an extremely one-sided encounter, world champions Spain got their campaign off to a laborious start in Georgia. The Spaniards were unable to find a way past the compact 4-5-1 implemented by opposing coach Temur Ketsbaia until the 86th minute, when a Cesc Fabregas cross found Roberto Soldado for a well-placed winner.

France, inspired by an impressive Franck Ribery, overcame a previous thorn in their side in the shape of Belarus, and have now positioned themselves as La Roja’s main rivals for top spot.

*The player *
Former Romania U-21 captain Gabriel Torje, once considered one of the most promising players ever produced by his country, is now in the process of living up to previous expectations. The diminutive winger has been on sparkling form over the last few days, scoring first against Estonia on Friday and then again versus Andorra on Tuesday. Under contract at Udinese but currently on loan at Grenada, he has attracted the interest of various clubs around Europe.

The goal
Israel 0-3 Russia, Alexander Kerzhakov 64
Having already opened the scoring in the seventh minute, Alexander Kerzhakov was again on hand to notch the third goal of his team’s 4-0 win in the second half, knocking home a perfectly weighted cross from Victor Fayzulin. The 29-year-old Zenit St. Petersburg striker has been on fine form since the Capello's arrival at the helm.

The stat *
– The number of matches without defeat that England have recorded under Roy Hodgson since his appointment as manager in May. The former Liverpool supremo has overseen six victories and three draws (against France, Italy and Ukraine), during which his charges have scored 15 goals and conceded five.

Have your say
Could Bosnia-Herzegovina end up as the surprise package of this European qualifying campaign?

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