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Belgium and Germany lead qualifiers

12 Oct 2013 01:46:52

Belgium and Germany lead qualifiers

Belgium, Germany and Switzerland have secured their places at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, with Russia almost certain to join them.

Italy and Holland were the only guaranteed European qualifiers heading into Friday's round of fixtures.

The first nation to join them were Belgium after they overcame closest challengers Croatia 2-1 in Zagreb.

The visitors needed only to avoid defeat to be sure of qualifying as winners of Group A, but got across the line with plenty in reserve.

Romelu Lukaku's brace sealed an impressive victory as Croatia - who replied late on through Niko Kranjcar - had to be content with a place in the play-offs.

Switzerland secured their place in Brazil with a comfortable 2-1 away win over Albania.

A draw would have been enough for Ottmar Hitzfeld's side to secure top spot in Group, E but they played for the win and got it with second-half goals from Granit Xhaka and Michael Lang.

There was late drama when Diego Benaglio fouled Odise Roshi in the area and Hamdi Salihi blasted home an 89th-minute penalty, but Switzerland hung on to finish the job off with victory.

Germany beat the Republic of Ireland to secure their spot in Brazil, triumphing 3-0.

Sami Khedira set the ball rolling with a deflected 12th-minute effort from distance, but it was not until Chelsea forward Andre Schurrle converted Toni Kroos' pass from close range 13 minutes after the restart that the points were assured.


PA

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