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European WCQ Wrap: Sweden stun Germany, France fightback against Spain, England's game washed out

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The 2014 World Cup qualifiers continued to produce fireworks across Europe as the continental giants took the field for the last round of qualifiers for the calendar year. England will still have to turn out later tonight as their clash against Poland in Warsaw was abandoned due to a water-logged pitch caused by heavy rainfall, with the players unable to even conduct their pre-match training routine.

Events at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin more than made up for the dampener at Warsaw as Sweden produced one of the greatest comebacks in recent times as they clawed back from being 4-0 down to draw 4-4 against a shell-shocked Germany. Miroslav Klose’s early brace combined with Per Mertesacker’s goal before half-time gave the home side a commanding 3-0 lead, which was further consolidated by Mesut Ozil’s strike ten minutes into the 2nd half.

Then came the improbable comeback triggered by quick goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mikael Lustig just after the hour mark. Johan Elmander gave the Scandinavians hope by making it 4-3 in the 76th minute and Rasmus Elm sent the away section into wild celebrations by netting the equalizer deep into injury time. Sweden are three points behind Germany at the top and have a game in hand.

The Vicente Calderon didn’t witness an eight-goal thriller but it was still treated to a quality encounter between Spain and France, which ended 1-1 thanks to an injury-time equalizer from Olivier Giroud. The French were knocked out of Euro 2012 by the all-conquering Spanish armada, but Didier Deschamps side gave a better account of themselves this time around. Spain did take the lead midway through the first half courtesy of a Sergio Ramos effort, with the defender scoring on the rebound after his initial shot cannoned off the woodwork.

The home side then missed a great opportunity to extend their lead as Cesc Fabregas’ penalty minutes before the break was saved by Hugo Lloris. The French were also guilty of spurning numerous chances in the 2nd half, with Karim Benzema the guilty party again. but Giroud came up trumps four minutes into added time by turning in Franck Ribery’s cross.

Italy remained atop Group B with an impressive 3-1 hammering of Denmark despite being down to 10-men. Quick-fire goals from Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele De Rossi put the Azzurri ahead in the 1st half, which ended with the Danes halving the deficit through William Kvist Jorgensen. Pablo Osvaldo’s red card early in the 2nd half seemed to have derailed the Italians, but they regrouped to regain their two-goal lead as Mario Balotelli stuck the 3rd in the 54th minute.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands maintained their fine run of form by thrashing Romania 4-1, with Rafael van der Vaart and Robin van Persie getting on the scoresheet for the Oranje. Elsewhere, Belgium defeated Scotland 2-0, Wales sunk to a 2-0 loss at Croatia while Republic of Ireland regained a semblance of dignity by beating Faroe Islands 4-1.

Results:

Group A:
Belgium 2-0 Scotland
Macedonia 1-0 Serbia
Croatia 2-0 Wales
Group B:
Italy 3-1 Denmark
Czech Rep. 0-0 Bulgaria
Group C:
Germany 4-4 Sweden
Austria 4-0 Kazakhstan
Faroe Islands 1-4 R. of Ireland
Group D:
Hungary 3-1 Turkey
Romania 1-4 Netherlands
Andorra 0-1 Estonia
Group E:
Albania 1-0 Slovenia
Iceland 0-2 Switzerland
Cyprus 1-3 Norway
Group F:
Portugal 1-1 Northern Ireland
Israel 3-0 Luxembourg
Russia 1-0 Azerbaijan
Group G:
Slovakia 0-1 Greece
Bosnia-H 3-0 Lithuania
Latvia 2-0 Liechtenstein
Group H:
Poland p-p England (Postponed and to be played on 17/10/2012)
San Marino 0-2 Moldova
Ukraine 0-1 Montenegro
Group I:
Spain 1-1 France
Belarus 2-0 Georgia