World Cup

Sweden's World Cup hopes take hit

Sweden's Oscar Wendt (C) fights for the ball with Austria's Martin Harnik (L) and Andreas Weimann
Sweden's Oscar Wendt (C) fights for the ball with Austria's Martin Harnik (L).
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Check out all the best action shots from FIFA's World Cup qualifying.

First-half goals by David Alaba and Marc Janko helped Austria beat Sweden 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier Friday, leaving the fight for second place behind Group C favorite Germany wide open.

Sweden looked in control of the match for the opening 25 minutes before conceding two goals within six minutes.

Alaba scored from the penalty spot after Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson brought down Martin Harnik following a mistake by defender Jonas Olsson, who failed to clear the ball.

In the 31st, Harnik's cross from the right found Janko, who beat Isaksson at the first post with a diving header.

Johan Elmander reduced Sweden's deficit after being set up by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 81st.

''I am really disappointed. We started the game really well and I think there were one or two penalty situations,'' said Sweden coach Erik Hamren, who criticized his defenders for giving away two goals.

''I was not pleased with our defending. I was really angry at halftime,'' Hamren said. ''The last 15, 20 minutes (of the first half), I didn't like what I saw. We made too many mistakes. We need to show we are winners with the right attitude but we didn't do that.''

Sweden started pressing again from the 55th minute, but found its master in Austria goalkeeper Robert Almer, who saved a 15-yard volley and later a fierce header by Ibrahimovic, and stopped a shot from close range by Sebastian Larsson in the 73rd.

Austria created danger with counterattacking but failed to score again without main striker Janko, who had left the pitch with a thigh injury at halftime.


Check out the full standings as teams from Europe aim to secure a spot in next year's FIFA World Cup.

''It's fantastic, the players gave everything they had,'' said Austria coach Marcel Koller, who had picked five players who are not regular starters with their club teams, including Janko and Almer.

''That was a bit risky but it paid off,'' Koller said. ''We had some troubles because of nerves in the first 20 minutes. It was obvious we wouldn't be able to dictate a game against Sweden over 90 minutes. This was an important win, but we will see from match to match what happens.''

Austria now has 11 points from six matches, Sweden eight from five. Leader Germany has 16. Ireland also has 11 from six after beating Faeroe Islands 3-0. On Tuesday, Sweden plays Faeroe Islands in the group's only game that day.

Austria hosted the European Championship in 2008 but hasn't qualified for a major event since the 1998 World Cup, when it beat Sweden twice in qualifying.

Sweden and Austria meet again Oct. 11 in both team's second-to-last qualifying match.

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