Colombia rallies for World Cup slot
Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Colombia qualified for next year's World Cup on Friday night, while England and Russia won and moved into position to clinch next week.
Germany (8-0-1) defeated Ireland 3-0 at Cologne on goals by Sami Khedira, Andre Schuerrle and Mesut Ozil to guarantee first place in Group C and reach soccer's biggest tournament for the 16th straight time.
Belgium (8-0-1) earned its first berth since 2002, winning 2-0 at Croatia on a pair of goals by Romelu Lukaku to ensure first place in Group A.
Switzerland (6-0-3) clinched Group E with a 2-1 victory at Albania on second-half goals by Xherdan Shaqiri and Michael Lang.
In South America, Colombia (8-4-3) trailed by three goals but rallied for a 3-3 draw at home against Ecuador to clinch. Teofilo Gutierrez scored in the 69th and Radamel Falcao converted penalty kicks in the 75th and 84th minutes.
Fourteen of the 32 spots at next year's tournament in Brazil are set. The United States, Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Iran, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and South Korea already qualified, and Brazil gets an automatic berth as host.
In North and Central America and the Caribbean, Honduras (4-3-2) won 1-0 at home against Costa Rica (4-2-3) on Jerry Bengtson's 65th-minute goal and ensured itself of no worse than fourth place and a playoff against Oceania champion New Zealand. Mexico faced a must-win match at home against Panama with both teams at 1-2-5 and El Tri trailing on goal difference.
The nine European group winners qualify, and eight of nine second-place teams advance to playoffs, which will include Croatia and Sweden.
England (5-0-4) maintained its Group H lead, beating Ukraine 4-1 at Wembley on second-half goals by Wayne Rooney, Andros Townsend and Daniel Sturridge plus an own goal by Branko Boskovic on a mis-hit clearance attempt. England would clinch its fifth straight berth by beating visiting Poland on Tuesday.
Russia (7-2) won 4-0 at Luxembourg as Aleksandr Samedov, Viktor Faizulin, Denis Glushakov and Alexander Kerzhakov scored and would win Group F with a tie Tuesday at Azerbaijan. Portugal (5-1-3) allowed Eden Ben Basat's 85th-minute goal in a 1-1 tie against visiting Israel and trails by three points but is assured at least second place.
Bosnia-Herzegovina (7-1-1) defeating visiting Liechtenstein 4-1 as Edin Dzeko scored twice and Zvjezdan Misimovic and Vedad Ibisevic had one goal each, putting itself in position to clinch Tuesday with a win at Lithuania. Greece also has 22 points but with a vastly inferior goal difference after beating visiting Slovakia on Martin Skrtel's own goal in the 44th minute.
Defending champion Spain (5-0-2) beat Belarus 2-1 on second-half goals by Xavi Hernandez and Alvaro Negredo and opened a three-point lead in Group I over idle France (4-1-2). Spain closes at home Tuesday against Georgia.
Robin van Persie scored three goals as the Netherlands routed Hungary 4-1. He became the Dutch career leader with 41 international goals, one more than Patrick Kluivert.
Sweden clinched a berth in the playoffs, ensuring second place in Group C by beating visiting Austria 2-1 on Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 86th-minute goal.