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Netherlands, Japan, Australia, South Korea qualify World Cup

JAPAN, Netherlands, Australia and South Korea became the first nations to qualify for next year's World Cup, joining host South Africa in the 32-nation field.

England, meanwhile, put itself in good position to advance, winning 4-0 at Kazakhstan on goals by Wayne Rooney, Gareth Barry, Emile Heskey and Frank Lampard to improve to 6-0 in Europe Group Six.

David Beckham entered in the 75th minute for his 111th international appearance.

Japan became the first country to qualify for the second straight World Cup, winning 1-0 at Uzbekistan on a ninth-minute goal by Shinji Okazaki.

Australia will appear in back-to-back World Cups for the first time following a scoreless draw at Qatar, the Socceroos' sixth consecutive shutout in the Asian finals. It will be the third World Cup appearance for the Socceroos, who were knocked out in the second round in Germany 2006 by eventual champion Italy on a contentious late penalty.

Australia and Japan each have 14 points with two games left, ensuring they can't be caught by Bahrain, Qatar, or Uzbekistan.

South Korea reached its seventh consecutive World Cup with 2-0 victory at the United Arab Emirates. Park Chu-young scored in the fifth minute and Ki Sung-yueng in the 37th. A semifinalist when it was World Cup co-host in 2002, South Korea will be making its eighth World Cup appearance overall.

South Korea has 14 points, three ahead of North Korea, which was held to a scoreless draw at home by Iran, and four in front of Saudi Arabia. The top two teams in each Asian group qualify, and the third-place teams meet in a playoff.

The unbeaten Netherlands grabbed Europe's first berth, winning 2-1 at Iceland on goals by Nigel de Jong in the ninth minute and Mark van Bommel in the 16th. Kristjan Orn Sigurdsson scored for Iceland in the 88th. The nine European group winners qualify and the top eight second-place teams go to playoffs.

In Europe, Ireland tied 1-1 at Bulgaria in Group Eight, getting a 24th-minute goal from Richard Dunne and allowing a 29th-minute goal when Dimitar Telkiyski beat goalkeeper Shay Given. Italy leads with 14 points, followed by Ireland with 13 and Bulgaria with eight.

Italy beat visiting Northern Ireland 3-0 in an exhibition,

Denmark opened a three-point lead over Hungary in Group One with its first victory over Sweden since 1996, a 1-0 win on Thomas Kahlenberg's goal in the 22nd minute. Portugal is third with nine points after winning 2-1 at Albania. Bruno Alves scored in the third minute of injury time. Hugo Almeida had put the visitors ahead in the 27th but Erion Bogdani tied it two minutes later.

In South America, Brazil moved ahead of Paraguay into first place on goal difference with a 4-0 win at Uruguay. Daniel Alves, Juan, Luis Fabiano and Kaka scored for Brazil, which now has 24 points with five matches remaining.

Chile won 2-0 at Paraguay on goals by Matias Fernandez and Humberto Suazo and is third, one point ahead of Argentina, which won 1-0 over visiting Colombia on Daniel Diaz' goal in the 56th.

The top four South American teams qualify and the No. 5 nation goes to a playoff.

In Africa, Togo lost 3-0 at Gabon, which got goals from Bruno Ecuele, Roguy Meye and Moise Brou. Emmanuel Adebayor picked up a yellow card for Togo. Cameroon, which lost its final-round opener against Togo, also is in Group A and hosts Morocco today, The five African group winners will join South Africa.


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