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October 12, 2009

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European foursome reaches finals

A DOGGED Germany, late-scoring Denmark, stylish Serbia and dramatic Italy all booked their places in the World Cup finals on the penultimate night of European qualifying on Saturday.
Bosnia, France and Ireland secured places in next month's seeded playoffs which will provide another four qualifiers. Switzerland is also assured of a least a playoff berth but remains well-placed for automatic qualification.
Group stage qualifying for the 2010 tournament in South Africa is completed on Wednesday with the two-legged playoffs taking place on November 12 and 16.
Germany again marched impressively into the finals when a 1-0 win at chief rival Russia secured top place in Group 4.
The key moment came after 35 minutes when Miroslav Klose capitalized on an error to score his 50th international goal.
Germany, which had defender Jerome Boateng sent off in the 69th minute, held firm in the face of some lively Russian attacking in the second half and tops the group on 25 points.
Russia, on 21, was already assured of a playoff place.
Italy looked as if it would need its final Group 8 qualifier against Cyprus to make sure of progressing after Sean St Ledger put Ireland 2-1 up with a brilliant diving header three minutes from time in Dublin. But Alberto Gilardino leveled in the 90th to secure top spot on 21 points and leave Ireland in the playoffs.
Serbia swamped Romania 5-0 to qualify in style ahead of 2006 runner-up France in Group 7.
A brace from Milan Jovanovic took Serbia to 22 points.
Andre-Pierre Gignac got two in France's regulation 5-0 win over the Faroe Islands.
Denmark went through from Group 1 as Jakob Poulsen struck 12 minutes from time to secure a 1-0 home win over Sweden.
Sweden now looks likely to miss out altogether as it dropped to third on 15 points behind Portugal, which beat Hungary 3-0 to move to 16. Portugal, which looked out of it weeks ago, finishes off at home to Malta where a win will secure a playoff berth.
Never qualified
Bosnia, which has never qualified for a major event, moved closer after its 2-0 win in Estonia secured second in Group 5.
Bosnia has 19 points, seven clear of Turkey, which lost 0-2 in Belgium. Group winner Spain made it nine wins out of nine when it beat Armenia 2-1 away.
Philippe Senderos scored two headers as Switzerland cruised past Luxembourg 3-0 to get to 20 points in Group 2. A point at home to Israel will ensure progress.
Group 3 will go to the wire after Slovenia secured a superb 2-0 away win at leader Slovakia. Slovenia now has 17 points, two behind Slovakia. The Slovaks are away to Poland next while Slovenia visits San Marino.
England's run of eight successive wins was brought to an end in Ukraine with 0-1 loss that put the host in a great position to snatch second spot in Group 6 ahead of Croatia.
England had keeper Robert Green sent off after 14 minutes and, though Andriy Shevchenko missed the penalty, Sergiy Nazarenko's deflected shot after 29 minutes took Ukraine to 18 points, one ahead of Croatia with a trip to Andorra to come.


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