Gomez strikes for Germany again
Germany all but secured a place at the Euro 2012 finals with a 3-1 win in Azerbaijan while Zlatan Ibrahimovic got a hat-trick as Sweden demolished Finland 5-0 to provide an unexpected spark to the end of the European season.
Germany, after surviving an early let-off, can almost book their flights to Poland and Ukraine after Mario Gomez scored his fourth goal in three internationals in a comfortable outing that gave them their seventh win in as many qualifiers.
Belarus and Bosnia chalked up 2-0 wins over Luxemburg and Albania respectively as Group D, where France are now only one point clear at the top, remained wide open.
The Faroe Islands provided an upset with a 2-0 win over Estonia as Tuesday night's programme of matches, although less than inspiring on paper, provided more drama than expected to round off a marathon European season.
The rest will be short-lived however, with the qualifiers for next season's Champions League due to start on June 28.
Image: Germany's Mario Gomez (2nd from left) and Andre Schurrle (left) celebrate their victory over Azerbaijan
'The players are at the limit'
Germany coach Joachim Loew was among those to welcome the break, pointing out that the season had dragged on for another 24 days since the end of the Bundesliga.
"The players are at the limit," he said after a match which saw manager Berti Vogts lose to his former team for the fourth time in his stint as Azerbaijan coach.
Germany, with Philipp Lahm their oldest player at 27, beat Azerbaijan 6-0 earlier in their Group A campaign but had more trouble this time with Vugar Nadyrov hitting the bar for the hosts with the score at 0-0.
Mesut Ozil and Gomez put Azerbaijan in their place, however, by scoring twice in a 11 minutes before halftime.
Murad Huseynov pulled one back for the valiant hosts in the 89th minute but Andre Schuerrle made it 3-1 in added time.
Image: Germany's Benedikt Howedes (foreground) is challenged by Azerbaijan's Rashad F Sadygov
Ibrahimovic master class downs Finns
Germany have 21 points from seven games, 10 ahead of Belgium and a further point in front of Turkey, who have a game in hand and are the only team with a mathematical chance of overtaking them.
The winners of the nine groups qualify directly for the finals along with the second-placed team with the best record while the other eight runners-up play off for four more places.
Ibrahimovic, who missed the 4-1 win in Moldova on Friday to rest an ankle injury, produced a master class in finishing after coming off the bench in the 25th minute with Sweden already leading through a Kim Kallstrom freekick.
The tall striker scored twice within 10 minutes and completed his hat-trick in the 53rd with a header.
Emir Bajrami added a late fifth as Sweden, second in Group E with 15 points from six games, moved within three points of leaders Netherlands, who have a maximum 18.
Image: Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates after scoring against Finland
Belarus, Faroe Islands record wins
Hungary, who have played a game more than the leading pair, are a further three points behind in third after a predictable 3-0 win in San Marino.
Belarus, second in Group D, reduced France's lead to one point with a laboured 2-0 win over Luxemburg, as halftime substitute Sergei Kornilenko converted a penalty three minutes after coming on and laid on the second for Anton Putilo.
Belarus have played a game more than the French, who they held to a 1-1 draw on Friday, and third-placed Bosnia, who are two points behind them following a 2-0 win over Albania in their first home game since the lifting of an international ban.
Haris Medunjanin gave Bosnia the lead midway through the second half in Zenica and, after Albania's Andi Lila was sent off in the 87th minute, Darko Maletic scored in added time.
Estonia had hoped to move a point behind second-placed Slovenia in Group C, where Italy are runaway leaders. Instead, they lost 2-0 away to Faroe Islands with Frodi Benjaminsen and Arnbjorn Hansen scoring either side of halftime.
Image: Belarus' Sergei Kornilenko (centre) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Luxemburg