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Netherlands clinch 2010 spot

THE Netherlands became the first European side to qualify for the 2010 World Cup on Saturday and England moved closer to joining them in South Africa as both countries made it six wins out of six.

Mark Van Bommel's early goal clinched a 2-1 victory for the Dutch in Iceland, and Wayne Rooney scored his sixth goal in England's qualifying campaign in a 4-0 win at Kazakhstan.

While Group 6 leader England won't be assured of qualification even if it beats Andorra on Wednesday, the Netherlands is already celebrating winning Group 9 with two games to spare.

The goals came quickly for the Dutch in Reykjavik, with midfielder Nigel de Jong scoring in the 9th minute and Mark van Bommel doubling the lead seven minutes later. Kristjan Orn Sigurdsson scored a consolation goal for Iceland in the 88th.

Norway, bottom in the Netherlands' group, remains without a win as it was held to a 0-0 draw in Macedonia, a result which does little for either sides qualification chances. Scotland is second in Group 9 with seven points from five games.

In Almaty, Gareth Barry and Emile Heskey scored at the end of a nervy first half for England, while Frank Lampard added the fourth from the penalty spot after Rooney's 73rd-minute goal.

The emphatic 4-0 score didn't reflect England's languid performance as manager Fabio Capello blamed the pitch in Kazakhstan for the team's difficulty in stringing together passes. "We tried to play and move the ball quickly, but on this pitch it was not easy," Capello said.

A seventh straight win against Andorra, which was routed 1-5 by Belarus, would all but ensure England's passage to the finals.

"It would be another big step forward," the Italian said. "If we win we will have 21 points and it's a lot."

England is seven points clear of Croatia, which was held 2-2 by Ukraine. The nine European group winners qualify and the top eight runners-up go to playoffs.

Richard Dunne kept Ireland on course for at least second place in Group 8 with a headed goal in a 1-1 draw at Bulgaria.

The Northern Irish were toppled from the Group 3 summit by Slovakia, which routed last-place San Marino 7-0.

Denmark took the outright lead in Group 1 by beating Sweden for the first time since 1996.

Coming off three straight scoreless draws, Portugal revived its qualifying hopes by beating Albania 2-1 to move up to third in the group - seven behind Denmark and four adrift of Hungary.

Serbia beat Austria 1-0 to extend its lead over France at the top of Group 7 to five points.


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