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Rediff.com  » Sports » Big guns come out blazing but England fire blanks

Big guns come out blazing but England fire blanks

October 12, 2006 12:06 IST
Europe's traditional big guns came out blazing to score victories in their Euro 2008 qualifiers on Wednesday, apart from England who fired more blanks in their 2-0 defeat in Croatia.

World champions Italy won 3-1 in Georgia, France bounced back from their shock defeat in Scotland on Saturday to beat the Faroe Islands 5-0, Germany won 4-1 in Slovakia and the Dutch overcame Albania 2-1 as most matches went with the formbook.

That result stretched the Netherlands's unbeaten home run in European qualifiers to a record-extending 39 matches since they last lost at home in 1963.

Even Greece, who have had a miserable time since winning Euro 2004 and failed to reach this year's World Cup finals, showed championship form with a 4-0 win in Bosnia to score their third win in three and maintain a perfect start in Group C.

The major upset of the night came in Ta'Qali where Malta beat once-mighty Hungary 2-1.

Although Hungary have disintegrated as a soccer nation since the heady days of the 1950s when they boasted the finest team in the world, they have reached a new low with this defeat. It was Malta's first win in a European qualifier for 24 years.

It was also a notable night for Hakan Sukur who scored four in Turkey's 5-0 win over Moldova to take his international tally for his country to 50 as Turkey, like Greece, maintained their 100 percent start to their Group C campaign.

SPECIAL NIGHT

Poland's Ebi Smolarek also had a night to remember.

He scored both goals in a 2-1 win in Chorzow to give the Poles their first win over Portugal since 1986 when his father Wlodzimierz scored in a 1-0 victory at the World Cup in Mexico.

After Wednesday's matches four teams still have perfect records in the competition -- Turkey and Greece in Group C, Germany in Group D and Sweden in Group F.

The Swedes maintained their fine start with a 2-1 win in Iceland after the home side took an early lead. An equaliser almost immediately from Kim Kallstrom and a second after 59 minutes from Christian Wilhelmsson secured Sweden's win.

Germany were also untroubled in Slovakia where Lukas Podolski made amends for his weekend red card in a friendly against Georgia with two goals. Michael Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger scored the others.

Croatia, who crushed Andorra 7-0 on Saturday, did not have things quite that easy against a poor England side, who failed to score for the second time in five days after their 0-0 draw with Macedonia on Saturday.

Croatia, though, were not flattered by the 2-0 scoreline and their 29-match competitive home run was rarely threatened.

They were only denied in the first half because of a superb display from England goalkeeper Paul Robinson but he was beaten twice in eight minutes midway through the second half.

First, Eduardo da Silva's looping header drifted over Robinson into the net and then he conceded a calamitous own goal from Gary Neville whose harmless-looking back pass hit a divot and rolled under the keeper's boot as he prepared to clear.

Two teams lost their 100 percent records -- Scotland and Czech Republic.

UKRAINE WIN

Ukraine ended leaders Scotland's perfect start in Group B with a 2-0 win in Kiev that gave them their second win in three matches after a defeat by world champions Italy on Saturday.

Ukraine edged a narrow victory after Oleksandr Kucher poked home after 60 minutes and Andriy Shevchenko added a second with a penalty in the 90th minute.

Czech Republic, who smashed San Marino 7-0 on Saturday, lost their 100 percent record in Group D when they drew 1-1 with Ireland in Dublin.

The Irish, stunned 5-2 by Cyprus on Saturday, took the lead through Kevin Kilbane after 62 minutes but Jan Koller equalised for the Czechs two minutes later.

The only teams through to the 2008 finals met in a friendly in Innsbruck with Austria beating co-hosts Switzerland 2-1 to ease the pressure on under-fire boss Josef Hickersberger who had only won one of his four previous matches in charge of the team.

The result also ended Switzerland's seven match run without conceding a goal.

The next round of qualifiers is on Nov. 15, although the majority of teams are not back in competitive action until March 24 next year.

Mike Collett
Source:
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