Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Euro 2012 qualifying groups : Italy, France stretch leads in Euro qualifying

Italy sneaked a 1-0 win in Slovenia and France beat Luxembourg 2-0 as the European heavyweights soothed bruised reputations by taking charge of their Euro 2012 qualifying groups on Friday.

The two teams who contested the 2006 World Cup final were not at their most convincing though and were given a lesson in how to stamp authority over weaker opposition by 2010 World Cup runners-up Netherlands who thrashed Hungary 4-0.

There were few witnesses to Serbia's resilience in a 2-1 comeback win over battling Northern Ireland in a match played behind closed doors in Belgrade while Belgium sprang a surprise in Austria as Axel Witsel struck twice in a 2-0 victory.

After miserable World Cup showings last year, France and Italy have been seeking to make amends and standing on top of Group D and C respectively the future is looking brighter.

France took their time to settle against a Luxembourg team ranked almost 100 places below them and despite dominating possession they had to wait until the 28th minute before defender Philippe Mexes headed in.

Les Bleus sealed the points 18 minutes from time when Yoann Gourcuff volleyed in after a Franck Ribery cross was deflected by a Luxembourg defender.

With much of the pre-match talk focusing on the return of World Cup rebels Ribery and Patrice Evra, the pair had a quiet game apart from being booed by 2,000 of their own fans who had travelled across the border.

Also having a quiet game were Serbia, serving a one-match crowd ban imposed because of a riot their fans caused in a qualifier in Italy last year.

Quiet stadium

The 265 Northern Ireland fans in the Belgrade stadium, the only supporters in an eerily quiet ground, were given something to cheer five minutes before the break when defender Gareth McAuley headed in a Chris Brunt cross.

However, two goals in nine minutes midway through the second half by Marko Pantelic and Zoran Tosic were deserved reward for dominant Serbia who leapfrogged the visitors into third place in Group C with seven points from five games.

Italy are the runaway leaders in the group with 13 points from five matches thanks to Thiago Motta's 73rd-minute strike against second-placed Slovenia.

The Azzurri had plenty of chances, with Giampaolo Pazzini striking the woodwork, but could have paid for failing to convert their opportunities as Slovenia substitute Zlatan Ljubijankic also went close.

Netherlands marched six points clear in Group E with a perfect 15 points from five matches after their demolition of second-placed Hungary in Budapest.

The visitors took an early lead thanks to Rafael van der Vaart's eighth-minute effort after he was set up by Wesley Sneijder before Ibrahim Afellay doubled the advantage with a powerful low drive on the stroke of halftime.

The Dutch then added goals from Dirk Kuyt and Robin van Persie to suggest they are likely to be even less forgiving when they host the Hungarians in Amsterdam on Tuesday.

Belgium's win in Austria propelled them into second place behind Germany in Group A.

World champions Spain were hosting Czech Republic later on Friday in a top-of-the-table clash in Group I.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...