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August 14, 2009

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France squeezes past Faroes, Germany struggles

FRANCE squeezed a 1-0 victory out of an unconvincing performance in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier in the Faroe Islands while Germany labored to a 2-0 win in Azerbaijan.

France had forward Andre-Pierre Gignac's first international goal to thank for a triumph that lifts it within five points of Group 7 leader Serbia with a game in hand.

With striker Thierry Henry injured and playmaker Franck Ribery only fit enough to come on in the second half, the former world champion struggled to shine even though it never looked like conceding against dogged opponents.

Azerbaijan was no pushovers in Group 4 either.

It made a bright start in Baku only for midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger to give Germany the lead against the run of play, driving the ball in from the edge of the box in the 12th minute. The visitors rode their luck before Miroslav Klose made up for a dreadful first-half miss by doubling the lead with a header in the 54th.

Germany leads the group with 19 points from seven games, four more than second-placed Russia which has played six matches.

Norway moved off the bottom of Group 9 and revived its campaign by thrashing 10-man Scotland 4-0 in Oslo with Morten Gamst Pedersen grabbing a double.

The match turned when Scotland's Gary Caldwell got himself sent off after two yellow cards in quick succession and gave away the freekick that enabled John Arne Riise to score the first goal.

Norway has six points from as many games, one behind second-placed Macedonia. The Netherlands have already qualified from the group.

Slovenia moved up to third in Group 3 by crushing San Marino 5-0 at home.

Croatia won 3-1 in Belarus to go solo in second place in Group 6 and keep alive its slender hopes of catching runaway leader England, which is still seven points in front after winning its seven games so far.

The group winners qualify for South Africa, with the eight best runners-up going through to a two-legged play-off.


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