The Netherlands remained perfect in qualifying for soccer’s 2014 World Cup. England scored its biggest victory in 17 years, and defending champion Spain was held to a surprising home draw.
France, Germany and Bosnia-Herzegovina were among the other winners last night as European qualifying resumed. The winners of each of the nine groups on the continent qualify for the World Cup in Brazil, with the best eight runners-up going into a playoff for the remaining four slots.
The Netherlands made it five straight wins with a 3-0 home defeat of Estonia. Rafael van der Vaart, Robin van Persie and Ruben Schalke scored in Amsterdam for the Dutch, whose 15 points are five more than Hungary and Romania, who drew 2-2, in Group D. Turkey beat Andorra 2-0 in the final group match.
England routed San Marino 8-0 in Group H to stay two points behind Montenegro, which was a 1-0 winner at Moldova. England visits Montenegro in the next round of qualifiers on March 26.
England, which at No. 4 is more than 200 places ahead of San Marino in the FIFA world rankings, took the lead on an own goal in the 12th minute. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jermain Defoe, Ashley Young and Frank Lampard then made it 5-0 by halftime.
Mirko Vicinic scored in the 78th minute for Montenegro, which tops the group with 13 points. Ukraine moved up to third with five points after beating Poland 3-1.
World and European champion Spain’s 1-1 draw with Finland left it two points behind France in Group I ahead of their matchup in four days in Paris.
Teemu Pukki scored with 12 minutes left for Finland after Sergio Ramos had given Spain the lead in Gijon. The Spanish dominated the game with 19 shot attempts and 19 corner kicks.
Olivier Giroud, Mathieu Valbuena and Franck Ribery had the goals as France beat Georgia in Paris.
Germany remained unbeaten in Group C with a 3-0 victory in Kazakhstan. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller scored for the Germans, who lead the group with 13 points. Sweden stayed five points back after a 0-0 draw with Ireland and Austria routed the Faroe Islands 6-0.
Croatia and Belgium both won 2-0 to remain tied at the top of Group A with 13 points. Belgium beat Macedonia and Croatia defeated Serbia to leave both with 13 points. Wales beat Scotland 2-1 in the final group match.
Bosnia-Herzegovina beat Greece 3-1 in a matchup of top teams in Group G. Bosnia moved three points ahead of the Greeks. Latvia and Liechtenstein finished 1-1, as did Slovakia and Lithuania.
Fabio Coentrao’s stoppage-time goal gave Portugal a 3-3 draw with Israel that kept the teams tied for second in Group F with eight points, four fewer than Russia.
Russia’s match against Northern Ireland was postponed because of snow in Belfast. Azerbaijan and Luxembourg finished 0-0 in the other match in the group.
Aleksandar Tonev scored three times as Bulgaria routed Malta to move within a point of first-place Italy, which didn’t play yesterday, in Group B, while Denmark beat the Czech Republic 3-0.
Iceland and Albania won away games to move within a point of Group E leader Switzerland. Gylfi Sigurdsson scored twice as Iceland beat Slovenia 2-1, while Albania defeated Norway 1-0.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at email@example.com