Germany wins to close in on Euro 2012 finals

Germany swept to the brink of a place in the 2012 European

Championship with a seventh straight qualifying win Tuesday, while

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s hat trick in a 5-0 rout of Finland kept Sweden

in the hunt for top spot in its group.

Real Madrid playmaker Mesut Oezil scored one goal and set up

another as Germany beat Azerbaijan 3-1 in Baku, leaving Joachim

Loew’s side needing two points from its last three Group A games to

guarantee a spot in next year’s tournament in Poland and

Ukraine.

Ibrahimovic inspired Sweden to a fifth win in six Group E

matches, the AC Milan striker coming off the bench to score three

times in 22 minutes to help lift his country three points behind

the Netherlands.

World and European champion Spain followed up a 4-0 thrashing of

the United States on Saturday with a 3-0 win against Venezuela, but

fellow European heavyweight Italy was upset 2-0 by Ireland in

Liege, Belgium, in another friendly.

In other Euro 2012 qualifiers, Hungary stayed three points

behind Sweden thanks to a 3-0 win in San Marino, Belarus beat

Luxembourg 2-0 to close to within a point of Group D leader France,

and there were also wins for Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Faeroe

Islands.

Germany, one of three countries with perfect records in

qualifying along with Spain and the Netherlands, moved 10 points

clear of second-place Belgium. Only Turkey – a point further back

but with a game in hand – can stop Loew’s men finishing top.

”It was important to win and to end the season with the seventh

win. It was a perfect season,” Germany captain Philipp Lahm

said.

Oezil crashed an angled shot into the net off the post in the

30th minute to open the scoring before setting up striker Mario

Gomez for the second goal 11 minutes later.

Murad Huseynov scored for Azerbaijan, which is managed by former

Germany coach Berti Vogts, in the 89th, but Andre Schuerrle sealed

victory for the visitors in injury time.

Ibrahimovic was a substitute after only recently recovering from

an ankle injury but came on in the 25th as a replacement for the

injured Ola Toivonen, with Sweden already 1-0 up through Kim

Kallstrom’s goal in the 12th.

After taking the captain’s armband, Ibrahimovic slotted a low

finish into the bottom corner in the 31st following a slide-rule

pass from Kallstrom. He then stroked the ball into an empty net

four minutes later after Sebastian Larsson’s cutback.

The former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker clinched his hat

trick with a free header at the back post from Kallstrom’s

inswinging 53rd-minute free kick, before setting up Emir Bajrami

for Sweden’s fifth in the 82nd.

Fresh from scoring for Barcelona in a 3-1 victory over

Manchester United in the Champions League final 10 days ago,

strikers David Villa and Pedro Rodriguez set an understrength Spain

on its way to a convincing win in Venezuela with first-half

goals.

Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso added the third on the stroke

of halftime as Spain coach Vicente del Bosque set a record for wins

at the helm of the national team, his 39th surpassing the total

achieved by predecessor Luis Aragones.

Keith Andrews and Simon Cox scored either side of halftime for

Ireland, whose coach Giovanni Trapattoni got one over Italy

counterpart Cesare Prandelli, who he used to manage when in charge

of Juventus in the early 1980s.

In other friendlies, Norway defeated Lithuania 1-0 and Austria

won 3-1 against Latvia, which ended the match with eight men after

three late sending-offs.

The other four Euro 2012 qualifiers on Tuesday featured teams

with only outside chances of gaining automatic qualification as

group winners, although second-half goals from Sergei Kornilenko

and Anton Putilo eased Belarus to a win over Luxembourg that kept

the pressure on France, which has a game in hand over its closest

rival.

Bosnia-Herzegovina, a 2-0 winner at home to Albania thanks to

goals by Haris Medunjanin and Darko Maletic, is two points further

back in Group D and has played six games like France.

Zoltan Liptak, Imre Szabics and Vladimir Koman were the scorers

for Hungary against San Marino, which remains without a point or a

goal in qualifying.

Faeroe Islands earned a maiden victory in Group C and a first

three-point haul since 2009, beating Estonia 2-0 through goals from

Frodi Benjaminsen and Arnbjorn Hansen.