Italy and Netherlands through to World Cup

European nations book berths in Brazil finals but others will have to sweat it out in remaining matches.

    Italy and Netherlands through to World Cup
    Buffon equalled the Italian record for most caps [Getty]

    Italy and the Netherlands became the first European teams to qualify for next year's World Cup, securing their places in Brazil with matches to spare.

    The Azzurri clinched Group B on Tuesday with a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in Turin, with second-half goals from defender Giorgio Chiellini and striker Mario Balotelli overcoming an early goal by Libor Kozak.

    Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made his 136th international appearance, matching Fabio Cannavaro's national record. Italy are four-time world champions and will now take part in their 14th consecutive finals.

    Czech Republic coach Michal Bilek resigned after the game. 

    The Netherlands secured qualification in Group D with a 2-0 victory against minnows Andorra. Manchester United's Robin van Persie grabbed both goals in the second half.

    Germany beat the Faroe Islands 3-0 in Torshavn but still need one more win for automatic qualification in Group C after closest rivals Sweden beat Kazakhstan 1-0 in Astana.

    Elsewhere, France kept their qualification campaign alive, coming from behind to beat Belarus 4-2 in group I, but still trail Spain at the top of the group having played a game more.

    Group H remained wide open after Ukraine drew with England 0-0 in Kiev. England lead the group but there are only three points between the top four teams in the group.

    World record signing Gareth Bale came on as a substiture for Wales but the $120m man was unable to close the gap in Wales' 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Serbia to leave them bottom of Group A.

    Northern Ireland meanwhile slipped to a shock 3-2 defeat at lowly Luxembourg in Group F - only the fourth World Cup victory in the tiny nation's history.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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