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Rediff.com  » Sports » FIFA 2018 WC qualifiers: Scrappy England, Germany book ticket to Russia

FIFA 2018 WC qualifiers: Scrappy England, Germany book ticket to Russia

October 06, 2017 11:14 IST

Images from the European World Cup qualifiers played on Thursday

England's Harry Kane (on ground) scores the winner past Slovenia goalkeeper Jan Oblak during their FIFA 2018 World Cup Group F Qualifier at Wembley Stadium in London on Thursday

IMAGE: England's Harry Kane (on ground) scores the winner past Slovenia goalkeeper Jan Oblak during their FIFA 2018 World Cup Group F Qualifier at Wembley Stadium in London on Thursday. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Harry Kane's stoppage time goal earned England a 1-0 victory over Slovenia on Thursday and a place at next year's World Cup finals although his last-gasp effort barely masked a sterile Wembley display by the hosts.

 

The England skipper pounced from close range to convert Kyle Walker's cross in the 94th minute after a night of frustration for Gareth Southgate's misfiring team in a half-full stadium.

A draw would have sufficed thanks to Slovakia's 1-0 defeat away to Scotland but Kane's effort, his 14th of the season in all competitions for club and country, at least prevented the inevitable boos that would have greeted a goalless stalemate.

It was Kane's second real chance of the evening -- his other effort being well saved by Jan Oblak early in the first half.

England top Group F with 23 points to second-placed Scotland's 17 and have one game to go in Lithuania on Sunday. They have now not lost in 38 qualifying matches.

While England's display will not raise too many hopes of great things in Russia, at least in Kane they have a striker who gives them a puncher's chance of making progress.

He now has 11 goals from 22 appearances for England.

"We have qualified, and that's all that matters. We had to be patient and in the last 10 minutes they were getting tired," Tottenham Hotspur's Kane, who wore the captain's armband for the third time and the first time at home, said.

"It's no easy feat these days (to reach a World Cup). We're all delighted. We have another game on Sunday and we need to keep doing what we're doing and working hard."

Some England fans were reduced to crafting paper aeroplanes for amusement during a turgid second half in which Slovenia began to threaten a shock victory to boost their own hopes.

Each time a paper plane reached the pitch a huge cheer rang around Wembley, such was the scant nature of the entertainment being served up by Southgate's lacklustre side.

Southgate admitted afterwards that the performance was not up to scratch, but echoed Kane's comments.

England's Marcus Rashford battles for the ball with Slovenia's Aljaz Struna

IMAGE: England's Marcus Rashford battles for the ball with Slovenia's Aljaz Struna. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

"We would have liked to have been more fluid and score more goals but they were a side that came to defend," Southgate, who took over from Sam Allardyce a year ago after one qualifying game, told reporters.

"It was frustrating. Was it the performance we wanted? Absolutely not. But the objective was to qualify for Russia."

The home side began brightly enough with Manchester United youngster Marcus Rashford causing problems up front.

Kane got his first sight of goal after 15 minutes and worked Oblak with a 25-metre shot the keeper gathered near his post.

Rashford also whipped in a devilish cross that needed only a slight touch from someone to have opened the scoring.

Slovenia had a half-hearted penalty appeal turned down when Josip Ilicic went down under a challenge from keeper Joe Hart.

Atletico Madrid's Oblak made good saves from Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Rashford before halftime.

If England were unconvincing before the break they lost all momentum after it. Slovenia's Bojan Jokic met a floated cross with a downward header just after the break which Hart fumbled slightly before smothering.

Hart also had to race off his line late on as Slovenia began to sense the unease in the home ranks.

Hundreds of fans had already left the stadium when Oblak's ambitious throw-out was intercepted by Walker and the right back drove forward before whipping in a cross that Kane met with just enough force for the ball to squirm past the keeper.

Germany qualify for World Cup with easy win over Northern Ireland

Germany’s Sandro Wagner celebrates with Thomas Muller after scoring their second goal against Northern Ireland during their World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park in Belfast

IMAGE: Germany’s Sandro Wagner celebrates with Thomas Muller after scoring their second goal against Northern Ireland during their World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park in Belfast. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Germany qualified for the World Cup in style on Thursday when superb early strikes from Sebastian Rudy and Sandro Wagner set them on the way to a 3-1 win in Northern Ireland that maintained their perfect record in Group C.

Rudy fired a remarkable outswinging shot from long-range past Michael McGovern after two minutes and Wagner scored with another emphatic effort in the 21st as the world champions clocked up their ninth successive win to move on to 27 points.

Joshua Kimmich added a third in the 86th minute as the hosts' run of five successive wins was brought to an abrupt halt. Josh Maggenis scored a consolation in stoppage-time.

Northern Ireland have 19 points from nine games and had already made sure of a two-top finish before the match. However, they are still not certain of finishing as one of the eight best runners-up up in the nine European groups.

The group winners qualify directly for Russia along with four winners of the playoffs which involve the eight best runners-up.

Northern Ireland had won their first four home games in the group without conceding a goal but that record was quickly ended by Rudy's thumping effort.

Germany’s Leroy Sane shoots on goal

IMAGE: Germany’s Leroy Sane shoots on goal. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters

The hosts, backed by a boisterous crowd, were repeatedly exposed and McGovern made a superb save at point-blank range to keep out a Sandro Wagner header three minutes later.

Wagner headed against the post from Kimmich's pinpoint cross before being rewarded with Germany's second goal, collecting Thomas Mueller's pass with his back to goal before turning and firing a left-foot shot past a shell-shocked McGovern.

Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was tested once in the first half when he dived at the feet of Corry Evans after he got free in the area.

"This was a bonus game for us, it could have gone to 4-0 or 5-0 but we kept out goal difference in a healthy state," said Northern Ireland coach Michael O'Neill. "It could easily have been obliterated."

The hosts put Germany under more pressure in the second half and the best chance fellow to Conor Washington who clipped the bar from an excellent position.

Kimmich fired the third for Germany, although they were denied a clean sheet Maggenis's goal, which left the home crowd celebrating as if their team had won.

Scotland seal dramatic late win over Slovakia

Scotland players celebrate as Martin Skrtel of Slovakia scores an own goal during theirGroup F Qualifier at Hampden Park in Glasgow

IMAGE: Scotland players celebrate as Martin Skrtel of Slovakia scores an own goal during theirGroup F Qualifier at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Scotland kept alive their hopes of reaching the World Cup Finals with a last-gasp 1-0 victory over 10-man Slovakia at HampdenPark on Thursday.

After hitting the woodwork twice and seeing Slovakia keeper Martin Dubravka produce four world-class saves, Scotland must have thought their World Cup adventure was over.

But Gordon Strachan's side refused to lie down and got the winner with two minutes left on the clock.

Former Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel turned a low cross from Ikechi Anya past his own keeper to help Scotland move up to second place in Group F.

Victory over Slovenia on Sunday in their final group game will secure a playoff place for Scotland as they look to qualify for the showpiece event in Russia next year.

After Dubravka had made a superb save to keep out a close-range header from Christophe Berra early in the game, the home side were given a major lift on 23 minutes when Slovakia were reduced to 10 men.

Robert Mak was shown his second yellow card after attempting to fool the referee when he went down inside the box despite not being touched by Scotland keeper Craig Gordon.

Scotland threw everything at the Slovakia goal as they attempted to find the breakthrough, but Dubravka came to Slovakia's rescue again on 61 minutes when he made a fine save to keep out a fierce shot from Scotland forward Leigh Griffiths.

Scotland supporters must have feared it was not going to be their night after they hit the woodwork twice in the space of five minutes.

Chris Martin picked up the loose ball on the edge of the penalty area on 68 minutes, but his powerful effort cannoned back off the bar.

After scoring two free kicks against England, Griffiths then tried his luck from a similar range but his curling effort struck the underside of the bar.

But spurred on by a passionate home crowd, Scotland refused to give in and got their just rewards on 88 minutes when substitute Ikechi Anya raced into the box and his low cross was turned past his own keeper by Skrtel.

Denmark edge Montenegro to keep alive World Cup hopes

Denmark kept alive their hopes of clinching either automatic qualification for next year's World Cup or a playoff berth after a superb goal by midfielder Christian Eriksen gave them a 1-0 Group E win at Montenegro on Thursday.

The result left the Danes second on 19 points from nine games, three behind leaders Poland and three ahead of third-placed Montenegro, who now have only a slim chance of finishing as the group's runners-up.

Denmark are at home to Romania in their final game on Sunday while Poland, who thrashed Armenia 6-1 away earlier on Thursday, are at home to Montenegro knowing that they will go through with a draw.

Montenegro made the brighter start in the cauldron of their Podgorica stadium as they pressed forward in numbers but were stung by a moment of individual brilliance by Eriksen.

The Tottenham Hotspur playmaker gave goalkeeper Danijel Petkovic no chance with a rasping shot from 20 metres with his weaker left foot in the 15th minute, after Henrik Dalsgaard headed a long ball into his path.

The home side suffered another blow five minutes later after their captain and top scorer Stevan Jovetic limped off with a thigh injury, leaving Montenegro's three-pronged attack with no cutting edge.

Denmark winger Pione Sisto tormented his markers throughout and forced a good save from Petkovic with a ferocious drive in the 65th minute as Montenegro struggled to make any impact at the other end.

Eriksen and substitute Nicklas Bendtner missed sitters in the closing stages as Montenegro threw caution to the wind but had nothing to show for their industrious approach.

Europe's nine group winners will qualify automatically for next year's 32-team tournament in Russia while the eight best runners-up will enter two-leg playoffs for the remaining four berths.

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