France halt Spain's 24-match winning run
By Rob Harris ,AP
October 18, 2012, 12:06 am TWN
LONDON -- Spain's run of 24 qualifying wins was halted by France on Tuesday, while Germany spectacularly collapsed to let Sweden come back from a four-goal deficit to draw 4-4 in the campaign to reach the 2014 World Cup.
It was also a frustrating night for Cristiano Ronaldo as his 100th Portugal appearance ended in a 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland.
England didn't even get a chance to play as a waterlogged pitch in Warsaw caused the match against Poland to be postponed to Wednesday.
World and European champion Spain led through Sergio Ramos' header, but Cesc Fabregas had a penalty saved before Olivier Giroud clinched a 1-1 draw for France in the last attack.
Germany had been rampant against Sweden, storming to a 4-0 lead by the 55th minute, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic began Sweden's comeback seven minutes later and Rasmus Elm netted an unexpected equalizer in stoppage time.
Italy, meanwhile, beat Denmark 3-1 despite playing most of the second half with 10 men, and the Netherlands maintained its perfect qualifying start with a 4-1 victory over Romania.
At Madrid, Spain was on the verge of closing out a 25th consecutive win in qualifying stretching back to 2007.
But in the fourth minute of stoppage time, Juanfran Torres gave away possession in midfield. Franck Ribery crossed to Giroud, who headed beyond goalkeeper Iker Casillas to cancel out Ramos' 25th-minute goal.
“If I had just kicked the ball off the field there, the game would have ended there,” Torres said.
Spain is now only ahead of France on goal difference in Group I, with Belarus three points behind after beating Georgia 2-0.
In Berlin, Sweden coach Erik Hamren was celebrating an “historical” comeback that had seemed implausible as Germany ripped through his team in the first half.
Miroslav Klose scored in the eighth and 15th minutes, Per Mertesacker added another in the 39th and Mesut Oezil made it 4-0 in the 56th.
Ibrahimovic triggered the comeback and Mikael Lustig and Johan Elmander scored in the second half before Elm secured a valuable competition point with a goal two minutes into injury time.
Italy defenders Federico Balzaretti, right, and Giorgio Chiellini, center, jump for the ball with Denmark forward Nicklas Bendtner during the World Cup Group B qualifying soccer match at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Tuesday, Oct. 16. (AP)