Defending champs Spain qualifies for WCup
By Steve Douglas ,APDefending champion Spain and England qualified for the World Cup on Tuesday along with Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, which earned its first berth as an independent nation.
October 17, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
Chile and Ecuador earned the last two automatic spots from South America while Honduras qualified from the North and Central American and Caribbean region, forcing regional power Mexico into a further playoff.
Spain won Group I with a 2-0 victory over visiting Georgia. Alvaro Negredo scored in the 26th minute and Juan Mata doubled the lead in the 61st. Iker Casillas returned to starting lineup for Spain after being replaced by Victor Valdes against Belarus last week. The Spanish, who have won three straight major tournaments, including the 2008 and 2012 European Championships, will be aiming for a fourth at Brazil next year; their 10th straight World Cup.
“It may look practically routine, but it's important to remember how successful we've been at qualifying,” coach Vicente Del Bosque said. “This is not an easy competition.”
France was second in the group and will be in the playoffs despite defeating visiting Finland 3-0 with goals by Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema around Joona Toivio's own goal.
Wayne Rooney scored in the 41st minute and Steven Gerrard in the 88th to give England a 2-0 win over Poland at Wembley Stadium and first place in Group H by one point over Ukraine. The English qualified for their 14th World Cup and fifth in a row.
“We have a great togetherness, are there for each other and proved we can perform under pressure,” Gerrard said.
Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal, Greece, Ukraine, Romania and Iceland placed second in their groups, winding up in Monday's draw for the eight-team European playoffs next month along with Sweden and Croatia. The four playoff winners also will earn berths.
With a population of just over 300,000, Iceland would be the smallest nation to qualify for a World Cup.
The seedings for the playoffs will be determined by Thursday's FIFA rankings. Denmark had the worst record among the nine second-place teams and missed out on a playoff berth.
Bosnia won 1-0 at Lithuania on Vedad Ibisevic's 68th-minute goal to win Group G on goal difference over Greece. Bosnia-Herzegovina gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1992. Almost 10,000 fans jumped, cried and screamed “Vamos Bosnia” — or “Go Bosnia” — when Ibisevic scored in Kaunas.