Tuesday, October 10, 2006

England held to draw, Scotland upsets France, Spain loses in Euro 2008 qualifying

Scotland upset World Cup runner-up France 1-0 Saturday, and Spain lost for the second time in European Championship qualifying. The Netherlands and England were both held to draws and world champion Italy earned its first win.

Scotland's win puts it in first place in Group B with a perfect nine points from three games, three more than France.

Gary Caldwell capped a standout defensive performance by turning home an in-swinging corner from Paul Hartley at Hampden Park.

"It is amazing — an unbelievable result," Caldwell said. "One of the best ever for Scotland. But the group goes on and there is a long way to go yet."

It was also the first time in 14 years that France had lost a qualifying game on the road. Since a 2-0 loss to Bulgaria on Sept. 8, 1992, France had won 13 European Championship and World Cup qualifying games away from home and drawn seven.

"I know what we have to do and what we cannot do," France coach Raymond Domenech said. "Playing for playing is not enough. We have to play to win and have that combative attitude again."

Also in Group B, Italy beat Ukraine 2-0 off goals from Massimo Oddo and Luca Toni for its first win since lifting the World Cup in July. Key Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko missed the match with a fever.

Lithuania beat the Faeroe Islands 1-0 in the same group to be third with four points. Italy is fourth with four points and Ukraine is fifth with three.

"The France loss shows how difficult this group is. It's tough for everyone to gain points," Italy coach Roberto Donadoni said. "We have an extremely difficult road ahead of us."

The winners and runners-up of the seven groups advance to the final tournament in Austria and Switzerland from June 7-29. The two hosts automatically qualify.

Sweden beat Spain 2-0 to keep its perfect record after three games and lead Group F. Johan Elmander and Marcus Allback scored and goalkeeper Rami Shaaban made several key saves.

Spain has only three points from three games after losing to Northern Ireland 3-2 last month. It opened qualifying with a 4-0 win over Liechtenstein.

Denmark drew 0-0 with Northern Ireland and Latvia beat Iceland 4-0 in the other Group F games. Denmark and Northern Ireland each have four points, with Spain in fifth place.

England beat Macedonia 1-0 last month but couldn't score at Old Trafford.

"It's never an easy ride in these qualifying groups. Ask Italy. Ask France," England midfielder Frank Lampard said. "That's the way it goes."

England barely had a shot on goal in the first half, but the second half of the Group E match provided more opportunities for the hosts. Macedonia goalkeeper Jane Nikolovski kept out attempts from Peter Crouch and Wayne Rooney, and Steven Gerrard hit the crossbar.

Israel held Russia to a 1-1 draw in Moscow. Israel substitute Amit Ben Shushan scored late in the second half. Andrei Arshavin scored for Russia after five minutes.

Croatia beat Andorra 7-0 to equal its highest ever margin of victory, with Mladen Petric scoring four goals.

England still leads Group E with seven points, followed by Israel, which also has seven. Croatia is third with four points.

The Netherlands earned a 1-1 draw at Bulgaria off a header from Robin van Persie in the 61st minute. Martin Petrov scored for Bulgaria.

Romania beat Belarus 3-1 in another Group G game with goals from Adrian Mutu, Ciprian Marica and Dorin Goian.

That win puts it top of the group with seven points, ahead of the Dutch on goal difference. Slovenia earned its first points with a 2-0 win over Luxembourg.

There were plenty of goals in Group D qualifiers. Ireland fell to a 5-2 defeat at Cyprus, the Czech Republic beat San Marino 7-0 and Slovakia defeated Wales 5-1.

Michalis Constantinou and Constantinos Charalambides each scored twice against Ireland in Nicosia, with Alexis Garpozis adding the other. Stephen Ireland and Richard Dunne got the goals for Ireland.

Dunne was sent off in the 78th minute for two yellow cards.

Jan Koller and Milan Baros scored two goals each for the Czechs, with Marek Kulic, Jan Polak and David Jarolim also scoring.

"We got what we wanted," Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner said. "It was a compulsory victory for us ... without a card and without an injury."

Wales fell to its heaviest home defeat in 98 years against Slovakia. Marek Mintal scored two goals for Slovakia, with Dusan Svento, Miroslav Karhan and Robert Vittek adding the others.

Wales' previous worst home defeat was a 7-1 loss to England in Wrexham in 1908. The hosts were without Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs, who had a hamstring injury.

"I was surprised it was so easy, but then Wales were depleted and they did not have Ryan Giggs," Slovakia coach Dusan Galis said. "These things make a difference."

The Czech Republic leads Group D with nine points, followed by Germany and Slovakia with six points each.

In Group C, European champion Greece beat Norway 1-0 off a goal from Kostas Katsouranis to go top of the standings with six points. Turkey also has six points after beating Hungary 1-0 off a goal from Tuncay Sanli and Moldova drew 2-2 with Bosnia-Herzegovina. Norway also has six points.

In Group A, Nikola Zigic scored for Serbia in a 1-0 win over Belgium. Armenia held Finland to a 0-0 draw and Poland beat Kazakhstan 1-0. Euro 2004 runner-up Portugal beat Azerbaijan 3-0 with two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and one from Ricardo Carvalho.

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