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
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
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
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
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
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
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.