10 Sep 2009

Spain and England off to South Africa

6:13 pm on 10 September 2009

Spain and England reached the 2010 football World Cup finals in South Africa with the sort of commanding home victories their fans have become accustomed to in qualifying.

European champions Spain maintained their perfect record with a 3-nil victory over Estonia in sweltering Merida, while England got their eighth win from eight games, 5-1 against Croatia, to join the Netherlands as qualifiers from Europe.

France had to show grit to stay in contention, holding Serbia 1-all away despite playing for more than 80 minutes with 10 men, while Cristiano Ronaldo's chances of playing in South Africa were boosted by a 1-nil win for Portugal in Hungary.

World champions Italy need one more point after beating Bulgaria, while Scotland and Belgium were among the countries eliminated.

The winners of the nine European groups qualify directly for South Africa and the best eight runners-up play off among themselves for four more places.

The Dutch were the first nation to qualify but they were in no mood to take it easy against Scotland, a late goal from Eljero Elia sealing the fate of the Scots.

Norway took advantage of Scotland's defeat in Group Nine to beat Macedonia 2-1 and sneak into second place.

Germany stayed one point clear of Russia at the top of Group Four after both won to set up a Moscow showdown next month.

Group One leaders Denmark were held 1-all in Albania and had their lead cut to three points by Sweden, who won 1-nil in Malta.

Group Two leaders Switzerland were held 2-2 in Latvia but stayed three points clear when Greece were held 1-all by table-propping Moldova.

The Faroe Islands won their first World Cup qualifier for eight years when they beat Lithuania 2-1.