Zlatan saves Sweden against Faroes

Zlatan Ibrahimovic bundled home the winner to spare Sweden's blushes as they came from a goal down to beat the Faroe Islands 2-1 in their 2014 World Cup Group C qualifier.

Zlatan saves Sweden against Faroes

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Cool finishing by striker Christian Benteke, midfielder Kevin de Bruyne and late substitute Kevin Mirallas gave Belgium a valuable 3-0 win at Serbia in an entertaining Group A World Cup qualifier.

The result left the Belgians joint top of the group with seven points from three games along with Croatia, who came from behind to win 2-1 at fellow former Yugoslavs Macedonia.

Serbia, whose inexperienced team showed plenty of potential but also a lack of steel at the back, have four points from three games and now face a crunch visit to neighbours Macedonia on Tuesday.

The home side were punished for missing a hatful of chances when the score was level and after Belgium broke the deadlock against the run of play, Serbia struggled to keep up their momentum as the physically stronger visitors ran them ragged on a slippery turf in Red Star's stadium.

Roared on by 18,000 fans who turned up in driving rain, Serbia made a bright start and twice came close in the opening minutes after Zoran Tosic hit the post and Dusan Tadic saw his bouncing shot saved by Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois.

Captain Branislav Ivanovic, who had a tense personal battle with his Chelsea team mate Eden Hazard, then failed to connect on Tosic's stinging low cross from the right which flashed across the face of goal.

Zeljko Brkic did well to keep out a Benteke effort from a tight angle at the other end moments later but was powerless in the 34th minute, when the Belgian striker headed Nacer Chadli's teasing cross from the right into the roof of the net.

The lively Tosic, who was a handful for his markers on either flank, spurned a good chance to put Serbia back on level terms before the break, firing wide with his weaker, right foot from eight metres.

For all his tireless running and close control, the former Manchester United winger was again guilty of poor finishing shortly after the break as he scuffed a weak shot well wide from a good position.

Hazard should have made it 2-0 at the other end several minutes later, but Brkic did well to recover and palm away the midfielder's dinked shot after Chadli sent him clear with a defence-splitting pass.

Gaps in Serbia's tiring 4-2-3-1 formation began to open up as Belgian substitute Dries Mertens, who replaced Hazard, missed another chance for the visitors.

Belgium looked the more confident and composed team and it was no surprise when they doubled their lead midway through the second half as right wing de Bruyne broke through the middle and beat Brkic with a low shot from 13 metres.

Courtois parried a stinging shot by substitute Marko Scepovic as Serbia pressed forward in vain and de Bruyne nearly added a third for Belgium shortly afterwards, hitting the side netting from close range.

Everton striker Mirallas came on for de Bruyne in the dying minutes but made an immediate impact, side-footing home a pinpoint Mertens cross from the left in stoppage time.

Vedran Corluka and Ivan Rakitic scored as Croatia came from behind for a 2-1 away victory over fellow ex-Yugoslavs Macedonia in Skopje.

Although Croatia dominated possession in the first half, the hosts hit them on the break in the 16th minute when Agim Ibraimi scored with a fine finish.

Former Tottenham Hotspur defender Vedran Corluka slotted in the equaliser following a corner by Sevilla's Ivan Rakitic 13 minutes before halftime.

Rakitic then added a second through a superbly taken 30-metre free kick in the 60th minute.

"In the beginning of the match we were not aggressive enough in clearing the ball and conceded a goal, but we did not lose our calm and we pulled off an excellent comeback," Croatia manager Igor Stimac told Croatian television.

Croatia are second in Group A with seven points from three matches, trailing Belgium on goal difference.

In their next matches on Tuesday, Croatia are at home to Wales and Macedonia host Serbia.

Inspired by Gareth Bale, Wales came from a goal behind with 10 minutes left to beat British rivals Scotland 2-1 in Cardiff. Full report here.


Group leaders Italy beat Armenia 3-1 away, while Bulgaria were held to a 1-1 draw by Denmark and Czech Republic beat Malta 3-1. Click here for full report.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic bundled home the winner to spare Sweden's blushes as they came from a goal down to beat the Faroe Islands 2-1 in their 2014 World Cup Group C qualifier.

The Sweden captain sunk the plucky Faroes on 75 minutes, flicking Pontus Wernbloom's delicate first-time pass past keeper Gunnar Nielsen before firing home.

The fired-up Faroes, playing on their new artificial pitch for the first time, stunned the Swedes on 57 minutes when a weak Jonas Olsson clearance fell to Rogvi Baldvinsson and he scored with a low shot past Andreas Isaksson.

Sweden coach Erik Hamren made an inspired double substitution just after the hour, bringing on Anders Svensson and Alexander Kacaniklic.

The move quickly paid off when Ibrahimovic, limited to speculative shots from distance in the opening half, linked up with Svensson and set up Kacaniklic to equalise.

Sweden have two wins from two in the group but lie behind leaders Germany, who thrashed Ireland 6-1 in Dublin. Full report here.


Ruben Schaken scored on his debut as the Netherlands eased to a 3-0 home win over Andorra in Group D of World Cup qualifying.

Rafael Van der Vaart, replacing the injured Wesley Sneijder, opened the scoring after seven minutes when he turned away from his marker and finished with a well-placed shot.

Klass Jan Huntelaar headed home the second goal after an assist from winger Jeremain Lens, who then combined with forward Schaken who made it 3-0 from close range on 50 minutes.

The Dutch, who won all eight of their 2010 World Cup qualifiers, top Group D in 2014 qualifying with nine points after three matches, ahead of Romania on goal difference. The group pacesetters clash in Bucharest on Tuesday.

Romania beat Turkey 1-0 away to extend their perfect start in Group D and stay level on points with the Dutch. Petrolul striker Gheorghe Grozav scored in first-half injury time.

In the other Group D clash, Hungary won 1-0 away in Estonia thanks to Tamas Hajnal’s goal early in the second half. They now lie third, three points ahead of Turkey.


Switzerland and Norway scored within 90 seconds of each other late in the game to draw 1-1 in their World Cup Group E qualifier.

A dour match suddenly came to life when substitute Mario Gavranovic put the Swiss ahead in the 79th minute, scoring at the far post after Granit Xhaka flicked on a corner.

Norway, who had posed little threat, equalised from another corner when defender Brede Hangeland headed home at the near post - the first goal the Swiss have conceded in the group.

Norway then launched a series of dangerous attacks and nearly snatched the winner when Tarik El Younoussi curled a shot against the foot of the post from outside the area in the 89th.

Group leaders Switzerland have seven points from three games after losing their 100 per cent record while Norway, who began with a shock defeat in Iceland, have four.

Iceland are second after Gylfi Sigurdsson gave them a late 2-1 win over Albania in Tirana.

Birkir Bjarnason put the visitors ahead after 18 minutes before Edgar Cani equalised 11 minutes later. But Tottenham midfielder Sigurdsson snatched a win with nine minutes left.

Iceland now have six points from three matches.

A brace from Tim Matavz helped Slovenia beat minnows Cyprus 2-1 in their match in Maribor, but they were hanging on in the end after conceding a late goal and losing their main defender Bostjan Cesar to a late red card.

Matavz scored in each half as Slovenia seemed to be cruising, but Stathis Aloneftis struck with seven minutes left before Cesar saw red. His team-mates held on for their first win of the campaign.

Cyprus are now bottom of the group, behind Slovenia on goal difference.


Russia claimed a narrow 1-0 win over Portugal to go top in the group, while Israel hammered minnows Luxembourg 6-0 away. Full report here.


Midfielder Giorgos Karagounis became Greece's most capped player but the hosts failed to rise to the occasion in drawing 0-0 with Bosnia in 2014 World Cup Group G qualifying.

Greece hit the woodwork twice but failed to breakdown a stubborn Bosnia defence. Dimitris Salpingidis also missed a late chance to win it for the hosts, who also had a let off when Giannis Maniatis headed Zvjezdan Misimovic's shot off the goalline.

The highlight of the night for home fans was the introduction of Karagounis, who won his 121st cap and surpassed the mark the 35-year-old shared with Theo Zagarakis when he replaced Stelios Malezas after 67 minutes.

Fanis Gekas hit the post early on with the goal at his mercy and struck the woodwork again in the first half through Vasilis Torosidis.

Both teams have seven points from three matches.

Edgaras Cesnauskis scored twice to give Lithuania a 2-0 2014 World Cup Group G qualifying win over Liechtenstein and avenge their humiliating defeat against the same opponents in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.

Lithuania struggled against the technically limited but well-organised part-timers until Russian-based Cesnauskis broke the deadlock with a low left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area six minutes after halftime.

After several meaty challenges on a slippery pitch, Cesnauskis added a second with a thundering drive from 30 metres in the 75th minute to leave Lithuania with four points from three games.

Playing in front of only 1,112 fans, Liechtenstein had one chance to take the lead when Philippe Erne tested Zydrunas Karcemarskas from 25 metres in the 17th minute.

Liechtenstein, who stunned the same opponents with a 2-0 win in June last year, have lost their opening three games in Group G.


England took charge of the group with an easy 5-0 win at home to San Marino, with Wayne Rooney’s brace putting him fifth on the all-time goal-scoring charts for his country. Full report here.

Ukraine are one of their main rivals but could only manage a goalless draw in Moldova. England, who have seven points play Poland on Tuesday, while Ukraine face second-placed Montenegro.


Pedro set up Jordi Alba for the opening goal before grabbing a hat-trick as Spain extended their winning run in major championship qualifiers to 24 matches with a 4-0 World Cup Group I victory in Belarus.

Spain's main group rivals France suffered a humiliating 1-0 home defeat to Japan in a friendly match on Friday.

The world and European champions produced a typically efficient performance in chilly Minsk, dominating possession and quickly snuffing out any forward forays by the outclassed eastern Europeans.

It was a useful warm-up for Tuesday's qualifier with France in Madrid when coach Vicente del Bosque's makeshift defence featuring converted midfielder Sergio Busquets alongside Sergio Ramos will face a much stiffer test.

Spain have six points from two games, level with France but ahead on goal difference.

Georgia, who lost 1-0 to Spain in Tbilisi last month, are third on four points with Finland on one and Belarus on zero. In the group’s other match, Georgia and Finland drew 1-1 in Helsinki.

After Cesc Fabregas and David Silva went close early on, full back Alba opened the scoring in the 12th minute when he raced on to Pedro's flick, rounded goalkeeper Sergei Veremko and drove the ball into the net.

Silva sent Pedro clear to make it 2-0 nine minutes later and the Barcelona forward added his second in the 69th when he sped away from the defence and lifted the ball over the onrushing Veremko.

Fabregas, playing in the roving forward position he occupied at Euro 2012, set up his club mate to complete his treble in the 72nd minute before substitute David Villa, another Barca man, crashed a shot against the crossbar.

Spain last failed to win a World Cup or European Championship qualifier in a 1-1 draw with Iceland in Reykjavik in September 2007 and have now won all 20 under Del Bosque.

They have gone a national record seven competitive games without conceding a goal - Italy were the last team to score against them in a 1-1 draw in the group stage at Euro 2012 in June.

Friday's match was not shown on television in Spain as the country's cash-strapped broadcasters were not prepared to pay the price set by rights holder Sportfive.

It was the first time a Spanish World Cup qualifier had not been shown on national TV, local media reported, and was the latest reminder of how the country is suffering from the economic crisis.

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