Italy, Netherlands reach finals

Italy and Netherlands became the first European teams to book their places at next year's FIFA World Cup finals.

Italy had to come from behind to seal its place with two games to spare after former Lazio frontman Libor Kozak fired Czech Republic ahead after 19 minutes in Turin.

Giorgio Chellini headed the Azzurri level on 52 minutes, when Petr Cech failed to deal with a corner, before Mario Balotelli stroked home the winning penalty moments later to secure a 2-1 success.

Theodore Gebre Selassie recklessly gave away the penalty and a bad night for the Czech Republic defence was rounded off when Daniel Kolar saw red with a minute left.

Robin van Persie sent Netherlands through to Brazil with a second-half double in a 2-0 win over Andorra.

Louis van Gaal's side made heavy work of it but Van Persie's goals on 50 and 55 minutes were enough.

After Turkey beat Romania 2-0 in Bucharest earlier in the evening, Netherlands knew victory would be enough to confirm its place in the FIFA World Cup finals.

Germany and Switzerland moved to the brink of securing their places with comfortable victories.

Germany was a 3-0 winner over Faroe Islands through Per Mertesacker (23), Mesut Ozil (74 pen) and Thomas Muller (84) while Alti Gregersen saw red for the host on 73 minutes.

Sweden is Germany's closest rival in Group C, five points adrift, after Zlatan Ibrahimovic's goal after 27 seconds earned a 1-0 win over Kazakhstan.

Austria kept its hopes alive after David Alaba struck late to beat Republic of Ireland 1-0 in Vienna.

Switzerland could have progressed from Group E after its 2-0 win over Norway, with defender Fabian Schar netting in each half.

But Iceland's 2-1 win over Albania in the late game ensured Switzerland celebrations were kept on hold.

Iceland moved up to second place - and in sight of a first ever major tournament - after goals from Birkir Bjarnason (13) and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson (47) cancelled out Valdet Rama's ninth-minute opener.

Slovenia is a point behind Iceland in a tight group after its 2-0 win in Cyprus.

France had to twice come from behind to beat Belarus 4-2 and end its run of five games without scoring.

Franck Ribery twice had to equalise after goals from Egor Filipenko and Timofey Kalachev before Samir Nasri and Paul Pogba secured three points to move France level with Spain - which has played a game less - in Group I.

Finland beat Georgia 1-0 to remain five points behind the top two.

Russia moved top of Group F with a 3-1 win over Israel in St Petersburg.

Fabio Capello's side is a point ahead of Portugal, which was not in action, while Luxembourg produced the shock of the night as it beat Northern Ireland 3-2.

Mathias Janisch stabbed home the winner three minutes from the end.

England edged to the top of Group H with a goalless draw against Ukraine, which joined the inactive Montenegro a point behind Roy Hodgson's men.

Poland is two points further back after it eased past San Marino 5-1 - Piotr Zielinski netting twice for the visitor.

Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece remain locked on 19 points at the top of Group G after they both collected three points.

Bosnia-Herzegovina came from behind to beat Slovakia 2-1 - Ermin Bicakcic and Izet Hajrovic scoring in the final 20 minutes - while Dimitris Salpigidis (58) grabbed the only goal as Greece beat 10-man Latvia.

Lithuania beat Liechtenstein 2-0 to round out the group.

The battle for second place behind Netherlands in Group D tightened further with Hungary's 5-1 win over Estonia giving it the advantage.

The eastern European side is a point ahead of both Romania and Turkey, whose qualification hopes have improved vastly after back-to-back wins under the re-installed Fatih Terim.

Bulgaria held on to second place in Group B behind Italy with a 2-1 win in Malta but Denmark is just a point further back after skipper Daniel Agger converted a second-half penalty against Armenia.

The 1-0 win was revenge for Denmark after Armenia beat it 4-0 in Copenhagen earlier in qualifying.

Group A's top two Belgium and Croatia were not in competitive action, and in their absence it was left to Scotland to climb off the foot of the section with a 2-1 win in FYR Macedonia.

Wales moved bottom - despite the presence of Gareth Bale off the bench - as it was thumped 3-0 by Serbia in Cardiff.

Source PA Sport