Spain, England Reach World Cup; France, Uruguay Into Playoffs
World champion Spain and England were among seven teams to secure a soccer World Cup spot in the final round of group qualifiers. Former winner France and 2010 semifinalist Uruguay dropped into the playoffs.
Alvaro Negredo and Juan Mata scored as Spain beat Georgia 2-0 last night to top its pool ahead of the French and advance to next year’s 32-team tournament in Brazil. Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard got England’s goals in a 2-0 win against Poland.
“We have done the job, we’ve played 10 matches unbeaten,” England manager Roy Hodgson said in comments on the Football Association’s website. “If you want to win the lottery you have to buy a ticket, and we have our ticket now.”
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Russia also advanced to the four-yearly championship by winning their European qualifying groups, while Chile and Ecuador grabbed South America’s final two direct spots to send Uruguay into its fourth playoff in a row. Honduras secured its second straight appearance to lift the number of qualified teams alongside tournament host Brazil to 21.
Four more teams will advance from the European playoffs, while African nations will take another five spots. The remaining two berths will be filled by the winners of the intercontinental playoffs between Uruguay and Jordan, and New Zealand and Mexico, which had two stoppage-time goals from the U.S. to thank for keeping its qualifying campaign alive.
Spain, which won its first world title in 2010, had needed a draw in Albacete to finish ahead of France and take one of Europe’s nine group winners’ berths. Negredo and Mata scored from close range in each half.
At London’s Wembley Stadium, Rooney scored a 41st-minute header for England from Leighton Baines’s cross. Gerrard made the game safe with two minutes left, bustling through the Polish defense before toe-poking the ball into the net.
England finished atop Group H one point ahead of Ukraine, which beat San Marino 8-0.
“We have shown we are a good team and have got some fantastic young players,” Rooney said in a televised interview. “We are excited and this is a good time to play for England.”
Turkey lost 2-0 at home to the Netherlands in Group D to miss out on a third straight World Cup after finishing third at the 2002 edition. Romania beat the Turks to a playoff place by defeating Estonia 2-0.
Denmark finished with a 6-0 win against Malta, though didn’t make the playoffs because it had the worst record of the nine second-place finishers by tallying 16 points in Group B.
France, the 1998 champion, is among the eight runners-up who must enter the two-match playoffs on Nov. 15 and 19 for Europe’s remaining four slots. The French finished the group stage by beating Finland 3-0.
Russia allowed a last-minute goal to tie with Azerbaijan in Baku, though topped Group F by a point ahead of Portugal, which beat Luxembourg 3-0. Roman Shirokov put Russia ahead after 15 minutes before Vagif Javadov tied it for 10-man Azerbaijan. Russia last played at the World Cup in 2002.
Bosnia-Herzegovina striker Vedad Ibisevic scored with 22 minutes left in Lithuania to send his team to its first World Cup ahead of Greece on goal difference. Both teams finished with 25 points in Group G after Greece beat Liechtenstein 2-0.
The European playoffs draw is Oct. 21, when Portugal, Greece, Croatia, Ukraine, France, Sweden, Romania and Iceland will be seeded into two pots. The seedings will be based on the FIFA rankings published tomorrow.
In South America, Chile’s 2-1 home win against Ecuador assured both teams of finishing ahead of two-time world champion Uruguay, whose 3-2 victory against group winner Argentina in Montevideo wasn’t enough to overhaul Ecuador on goal difference.
Uruguay finished fifth and will face Asia playoff winner Jordan over two matches next month for a World Cup berth.
Honduras booked the last direct spot from the North and Central America and the Caribbean region to condemn Mexico to a playoff. The U.S. scored twice in stoppage time at the end of its game against Panama to win 3-2 and prevent its opponent from snatching the playoff spot from Mexico on total goals scored.
Mexico will host the first game of its series against New Zealand on Nov. 13 or 14, with the return match Nov. 20.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at email@example.com