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Lukaku double sends Belgium to World Cup

11 Oct 2013 18:31:53

Lukaku double sends Belgium to World Cup

On-loan Everton striker Romelu Lukaku scored two first-half goals as Belgium beat Croatia 2-1 to became the third European team to reach the World Cup finals on Friday.

Belgium, who last made the global showpiece in 2002, topped Group A thanks to their impressive win in Zagreb and join Italy and the Netherlands in Brazil next summer.

Lukaku opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Steven Defour dispossessed Ivan Perisic.

Defour found Lukaku who then rounded goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa to score.

Lukaku made it 2-0 after 38 minutes despite Letikosa saving his first attempt.

Croatia substitute Niko Kranjcar beat Thibaut Courtois in the Belgian goal with six minutes left but the home side couldn't find another goal and must now hope to make the finals via the play-offs.

In other early matches on Friday, Bulgaria's hopes of finishing runners-up to Italy in Group B suffered a setback when they lost 2-1 to Armenia in Yerevan.

Denmark, who host Italy later Friday, while the Czech Republic, at Malta, saw their hopes of taking second spot boosted by Bulgaria's defeat.

Later Friday, three-time champions Germany need just a point against the Republic of Ireland in Cologne to reach the finals.

Joachim Loew's side have a five-point lead over Sweden in Group C having won seven of their eight qualifiers so far.

Switzerland, who famously defeated Spain in the group stages of the 2010 finals in South Africa, can make sure of their place in Brazil when they face Albania in Tirana.

The Swiss have a five-point lead in Group E over Iceland, as well as a vastly superior goal difference, with two matches left.

Russia were beaten by Slovenia in the play-offs for the 2010 tournament, but they lead Group F by a point from Portugal.

Fabio Capello's Russia go to Luxembourg where a victory will put the pressure on Portugal to get all three points at home to Israel to avoid the play-off lottery.

England are in the driving seat in Group H, leading Ukraine and Montenegro by a point.

Roy Hodgson's England face Montenegro at Wembley while Ukraine, unbeaten for a year, host Poland who are not out of contention.

In Group G, Bosnia-Herzegovina, who have never made a major finals, lead Greece on goal difference having hit 25 goals so far.

They welcome whipping boys Liechtenstein while Greece host Slovakia.

Defending champions Spain are locked on 14 points with France in Group I but have a game in hand.

That match sees them face Belarus in Mallorca where a win combined with a draw against Georgia next Tuesday will be enough for Vicente del Bosque's men.

The nine group winners all qualify for the 2014 finals while the eight best runners-up will play off for the remaining four spots.


AFP

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