THE Netherlands and Italy have both booked their berth in next summer’s World Cup Finals and Germany are one win away from joining them.
Robin Van Persie ensured the Dutch qualified from Group D with a 2-0 win over Andorra. The striker scored a quick-fire brace in the second half as Louis van Gaal’s side claimed a win that will take them to Brazil following Romania’s defeat by Turkey.
The win means the Netherlands finished the night on 22 points – nine clear of both Romania and Turkey following the latter’s 2-0 win in Bucharest and eight ahead of Hungary who are in second place with 14.
Italy secured qualification with two matches to spare after coming from behind to beat the Czech Republic 2-1.
Nerves were frayed after a first half in which Libor Kozak had given the visitors the lead and Mario Balotelli had missed two sitters as well as hitting the crossbar.
However, Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini headed in the equaliser at his home stadium seven minutes after the break before Balotelli – who has never missed a spot kick in his professional career – scored what was to prove the winner from the penalty spot after he was fouled by Theodor Gebre Selassie. Italy top Group B with 20 points, seven more than second-placed Bulgaria after they beat Malta 2-1.
Germany moved to within a win of securing their place thanks to a workmanlike win over the Faroe Islands. Per Mertesacker gave Joachim Low’s men the lead midway through the first half, but Germany had to wait until midway through the second half before a penalty by Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil doubled their advantage after Atli Gregersen was sent off.
Thomas Muller, who had earned the penalty, then rounded off the win in the 84th minute as Germany maintained a five-point lead over Sweden at the top of Group C. They can book their ticket for the World Cup with a win over the Republic of Ireland next month while a point would be enough if Sweden, their final group opponents, fail to beat Austria in their next game.
Greece kept pace with Bosnia-Herzegovina at the top of Group G as Dimitris Salpingidis’s goal gave them a vital 1-0 win over Latvia.