Holland continued there impressive form under Marco Van Basten, with a comfortable 2-0 win against Armenia. They took the lead after only 3 minutes with a goal from Romeo Castelen. Manchester United’s Rudd Van Nistelrooy killed the game off just after the half hour mark in what was an easy night’s work for the in-form Dutch side.
The Czech Republic set the tone in the group earlier in the day with a win over Andorra. The Czechs romped home to a 4-0 whitewash over he whipping boys of the group. Valencia transfer target Milan Baros was in fine-form. The Liverpool striker scored one and created another for Vratislav Lokenc. Tomas Rosicky sealed the points with the second penalty of the game in the second half.
The Czechs remain hot on the trail of the Dutchmen, while Romania kept their chances of qualification alive with a 2-1 win over Macedonia. The hero on the night for Romania was Nicolae Mitea who bagged both goals in a solid performance for the visitors.
Ukraine stretched their lead at the top of the group with a 1-0 win over potential threat Denmark.
Bayern Leverkusen striker Andrej Voronin tapped in a rebound from a shot by Oleg Gusev. The Danes did not pose much of a threat throughout the game and their prospects of reaching next year’s finals look bleak.
Turkey kept their chances alive of gaining second place in the group with thumping 5-2 deatruction of Georgia. A first half double from Fatih Tekke set the ball rolling and then second half strikes from Mustafa Avci and Tuncay Sanli sealed the points for the Turks.
European Champions Greece stayed two points ahead of Turkey with a 2-0 win over Albania, Otto Rehhagel’s team finished festivities off with a second half strike from Giorgias Karagounis.
Slovakia and Portugal remain tied on the same number of points in Group Three after last night’s battle between the two sides.
The Slovaks took the lead through Miroslav Karhan, courtesy of an eighth minute penalty. Luis Felipe Scolari’s men equalised through a goal from Tottenham flop Helder Postiga on the 61 minute mark.
Latvia continued their push for the finals with an impressive 4-0 win over lowly Luxembourg. Dynamo Kiev forward Mario Verpakovskis grabbed two goals in the win. Latvia could be a late candidate for second place in the group.
Meanwhile, Russia lost ground in the race for second spot with a poor performance in former Soviet Estonia – Estonia’s Sergei Terechov cancelling out Andrei Ashavins’ eighth minute strike.
France let a lead slip and were also reduced to ten men in the second half of their Group 4 game in Israel.
They took the lead through Juventus front man David Trezeguet, but the forward was later sent off for head butting Bolton Wanderers’s Tal Ben Haim.
Israel struck a late equaliser through ex ‘crazy gang’ Wimbledon player Walid Badir. France looked vulnerable defensively and in a tight group, they look set to struggle to qualify for next year;’s finals.
Switzerland capitalised on the stalemate with a 1-0 win over Cyprus, thanks to a late winner from Rennes’Alexander Frei. With Switzerland and Republic of Ireland have a game in hand on France and Israel, the battle for qualification in Group 4 is heating up, with any two of four teams still in with a chance of qualifying for Germany.
Norway and Slovenia failed to close the gap on Italy, who did not play last night. Norway were frustrated by a resilient and stubborn Moldovan side in a goalless draw, while Slovenia drew 1-1 with Belarus.
Portsmouth striker Aleksander Rodic scored for Slovenia before Belarus equalised through Alexander Kluchy.
The results did bring cheer in Scotland. It is still mathematically possible for the Scots to qualify for the World Cup in Germany. It looks as though Italy will run away this group.
England played well in their game against Azerbaijan, but unfortunately could not find the back of the net until the second half.
Steven Gerrard struck after half-time following good wing play from Wayne Rooney, who set up Gerrard to score a scrappy goal from twenty yards out.
David Beckam added a well worked second goal and the points were secure for Sven Goran Eriksson’s men.
The game was overshadowed by the Azerbajan manager Carlos Alberto’s verbal attack on Michael Owen, with the Brazilian questioning his ability, respect for other professionals and also labelling him a midget.
Poland scored a late goal to sink Northern Ireland, who produced a much better performance that their efforst against England at the weekend. In the group’s other game, Austria completed a double over Wales courtesy of a late goal from Aufhauser. The result keeps alive Austria’s slim hopes of qualifying.
The group is shaping up, Poland and England are both in the driving seat, meaning the final games of the campaign will be a fight for pole position in the group.
Spain and Serbia and Montenegro drew blanks on a night where Spain were really looking for a win to go top of the group.
Luis Aragones started Jose Reyes on the left and Joaquin on the right, but no Raul, but when the Madrid captain entered the arena in the second half he made an impact, especially on Torres, who began to come to life after the interval.
The performance of the day though came from Spanish wonderkid Sergio Ramos. The rightback looked very accomplished at the highest level, and at only 19 years of age, the boy has plenty more caps in him.
Elsewhere in the group San Marino scored their first goal of the qualifiers through Andy Selva. Unfortunatley Belgium were able to overcome the small prinicpality 2-1, the winner coming in the 65 minute when former Manchester City defender Daniel Van Buyten sealed the points for the Belgians.
Lithuania who are looking to finish second in the group were held against Bosnia Herzegovina, Elvir Bolic gave the Bosnians the lead but Stankovicius cancelled it out in the second half.
Croatia went top of the group with a 3-0 win over Malta.
Rangers striker Dado Prso grabbed two goals and ex-Juventus defender Igor Tudor completed the collection of goals.
Celtic’s Stilian Petrov scored for Bulgaria in their 1-1 draw with Hungary, but the result meant that Bulgaria missed the chance to close the gap on Croatia and Sweden.
The group looks a straightforward fight between Sweden and Croatia and only time will tell whether Bulgaria can mount a sustained challenge.