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Rediff.com  » Sports » Germany lead the way to Euro 2008 finals

Germany lead the way to Euro 2008 finals

October 14, 2007 09:25 IST

Germany became the first country to win a place at Euro 2008 with a 0-0 draw in Ireland on Saturday, while World Cup finalists Italy and France still live in fear of losing out to Scotland.

The draw left Germany three points clear of Czech Republic in Group D and eight ahead of third-placed Ireland, who have two games left and are very unlikely to qualify.

Coach Joachim Loew told Germany's ARD television: "We're all delighted... now we've qualified for the Euro finals. Hats off to the team."

Germany's feat is unique as most groups have three or even four teams fighting for two places at next year's finals in Austria and Switzerland.

However, the Czechs, Romania, who beat the highly-fancied Netherlands 1-0, Croatia, Spain and Sweden all look very good bets for a tournament ticket.

Nowhere is the battle more enthralling than Group B, where the Scots remain surprise leaders on 24 points after a convincing 3-1 victory over Ukraine at Hampden.

Goals from Kenny Miller and Lee McCulloch had Scotland 2-0 up after 10 minutes and James McFadden struck in the second half to allay any fears raised by Andriy Shevchenko's 24th minute riposte from the visitors.

Scotland manager Alex McLeish said: "We can still qualify and...to tell you that with two games to go is fantastic, especially as no one gave us a prayer when the draw was made."

World champions Italy are second on 23 points after beating Georgia 2-0 in Genoa, with France just a point behind after their 6-0 rout of the Faroe Islands.

Italy, whose hopes are likely to turn on their crunch game away to Scotland on November 17, had goals from Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Grosso to thank for their win.

A strike by Thierry Henry in the Faroes equalled Michel Platini's record of 41 goals for France as Les Bleus made light of a tortuous journey to the islands which ended only hours before kickoff.

There was no doubting the verdict of Romania coach Victor Piturca after his team's home victory over the Dutch: "It is a huge step towards qualifying for next year's finals."

ROMANIA TOP

A close-range strike by defender Dorin Goian left Piturca's men top of Group G with 23 points -- three clear of the Dutch, now likely runners-up, with Bulgaria third on 18.

Croatia lead Group E with 26 points after a goal by Brazilian-born striker Eduardo da Silva earned them a 1-0 home win over Israel.

England's game with Estonia at Wembley Stadium ended in a fifth consecutive 3-0 qualifying win for the hosts, who stay three points behind the Croatians.

Their impressive run, after a wobbly start to the campaign under new coach Steve McClaren, has left England needing another win over Russia in Moscow on Wednesday to qualify. 

They can count on the moral support of Croatia, who will also reach the finals with an England win or draw.

Sweden and Spain should go through from Group F, which they lead with 22 points apiece -- six more than Northern Ireland.

The Swedes won 3-0 away to Liechtenstein, while Spain's 3-1 victory in Denmark dealt a bodyblow to the Danes' hopes of qualifying.

Holders Greece opened up a four-point lead in Group C with a 3-2 home win over 10-man Bosnia, who had Mirko Hrgovic sent off for a bad tackle a minute after he levelled the game at 1-1.

The victory came as second-placed Turkey were held to a surprise 1-1 draw in Moldova and raises the stakes for the crunch game between Greece and Turkey in Istanbul on Wednesday.

Portugal, the Euro 2004 hosts and losing finalists, are in a four-way race in Group A after a 2-0 win in Azerbaijan.

Poland lead on 24 points after Euzebiusz Smolarek scored a 10-minute hat-trick in a 3-1 home win over Kazakhstan. Portugal and Finland have 20 points each with outsiders Serbia on 17.

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