Italy, Netherlands qualify for 2014 FIFA World Cup

Italy secured qualification for the 2014 World Cup with two matches to spare on Tuesday after coming from behind to beat the Czech Republic 2-1, and Netherlands also earned a spot with a 2-0 win over Andorra.

Germany inches closer to clinching berth in Brazil

Italy secures qualification for the 2014 World Cup. 0:54

Italy 2, Czech Republic 1

Italy secured qualification for the 2014 World Cup with two matches to spare on Tuesday after coming from behind to beat the Czech Republic 2-1.

Nerves were frayed after a first half in which Libor Kozak had given the visitors the lead and Mario Balotelli had missed two sitters as well as hitting the crossbar.

However, JuventuGermans defender Giorgio Chiellini headed in the equalizer at his home stadium seven minutes after the break before Balotelli — who has never missed a spot kick in his professional career — scored what was to prove the winner from the penalty spot after he was fouled by Theodor Gebre Selassie.

Italy tops Group B with 20 points, seven more than second-placed Bulgaria which beat Malta 2-1.

Netherlands 2, Andorra 0

Three-time World Cup runner-up the Netherlands qualified for the finals in Brazil next year after Robin van Persie broke down a stubborn Andorra defence with two second-half goals in a 2-0 win on Tuesday.

With Turkey beating second-place Romania 2-0 in Bucharest, the Netherlands can no longer be caught with two rounds to go in Group D. In the other group match, Hungary easily beat Estonia 5-1 in Budapest.

Even before the final whistle, a small group of Dutch fans in Andorra unfurled a large orange-flanked Brazil flag to celebrate the qualification.

The Netherlands dominated possession, but Andorra's aggressive defence restricted the Dutch to just a handful of attempts in the first half before Van Persie's second-half brace sealed the match and World Cup finals qualification.

Germany 3, Faeroe Islands 0

Germany edged another step closer to almost certain World Cup qualification with a 3-0 win over 10-man Faeroe Islands on Tuesday.

Per Mertesacker put the visitors ahead in the 22nd minute but Germany had to wait until Mesut Ozil's 74th-minute penalty before being sure of the points, despite dominating the game.

Faeroe Islands defender Atli Gregersen was sent off for conceding the spot kick, though TV replays showed Thomas Mueller made the most of a faint touch.

Mueller then wrapped up the scoring with a deflected shot in the 84th.

With two games remaining in Group C, Germany has 22 points, five ahead of Sweden which won 1-0 in Kazakhstan thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic's first-minute strike.

Austria defeated Ireland 1-0 in Vienna to stay three points behind Sweden.

France 4, Belarus 2

Franck Ribery scored twice to help France beat Belarus 4-2 in a 2014 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

Belarus defender Egor Filipenko headed in a corner from Timofei Kalachev in the 32nd minute before France levelled in the 47th with a penalty from Ribery.

Kalachev made it 2-1 with a long-range strike in the 57th but Ribery converted a cross from Mathieu Valbuena to equalize in the 64th.

Substitute Samir Nasri gave France the lead in the 70th and Paul Pogba scored from close range to seal the win in the 73rd.

France remains second in Group I before its final qualifier next month against Finland, and is level on 14 points with leader Spain, which has played one game less. The Finns are third on nine points.

England 0, Ukraine 0

England ground out a 0-0 draw against Ukraine on Tuesday to take a one-point lead in its 2014 World Cup qualifying group.

Both sides showed tenacity and quick tempo play in a match watched by a crowd of 70,000 where the chances came from set pieces in a balanced first half, while Ukraine increased the pressure in the second.

But England will return home from Kyiv's Olympic Stadium with a sense of satisfaction after taking 16 points from eight games in Group H. Second-place Ukraine and Montenegro have 15 ahead of the last two rounds of matches — which England will play at home against Montenegro and Poland respectively.

Ukraine carved out a chance in the 53rd minute with a dangerous cross from Andriy Yarmolenko, while Yevhen Konoplyanka flashed a free kick wide in the 71st. Three minutes later, Artem Fedetsky headed a cross straight at England goalkeeper Joe Hart.

England's best chance came in the 82nd when Theo Walcott failed to make the most of a pass from Kyle Walker. England coach Roy Hogdson predictably started with Rickie Lambert up front, while Ukraine coach Mykhailo Fomenko reshuffled his lineup by starting Oleksandr Kucher in place of mainstay defender Yaroslav Rakitsky, and putting Roman Zozulya in the sole attacking position.

"We played with a team that belongs in Europe. It's a strong team, they tried, we defended, we tried, they defended," Fomenko said. "England is a strong team who has many players playing in the Champions League, it was a tough fixture." England next hosts Montenegro on Oct. 11, while Ukraine will play Poland the same day.

Serbia 3, Wales 0

Gareth Bale made his first competitive appearance since his world-record move to Real Madrid but couldn't prevent Wales sinking to a 3-0 loss at home to Serbia in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Bale, who has been struggling with a groin injury, came on as a 58th-minute substitute nine days after sealing a 100 million euros ($132 million) transfer from Tottenham.

By that time, his team was already 3-0 down after first-half goals by Filip Djordevic and Aleksander Kolarov and a third by Lazar Markovic in the 55th.

Serbia stayed third in Group A, but can't qualify. Wales dropped to the bottom of the group below Scotland, which beat Macedonia 2-1 thanks to Shaun Maloney's 88th-minute winner from a free kick.

Belgium and Croatia, the top two, didn't play Tuesday.

Greece 1, Latvia 1; Bosnia 2, Slovakia 1

Dimitris Salpingidis found the net in the second half as Greece beat Latvia 1-0 to retain a share of the lead in World Cup qualifying Group G, level with Bosnia which came from behind with a pair of late goals to win 2-1 in Slovakia.

The Greeks hammered away at Latvia's slow defence, and eventually beat goalkeeper Aleksandrs Kolinko in the 58th. Georgios Samaras picked out Salpingidis who got the better of three defenders and calmly spun the ball into the left corner.

Greece and Bosnia both have 19 points from eight matches, but the Bosnians kept their goal advantage after Ermin Bicakcic and Izet Hajrovic turned the game with two goals in eight minutes at Zilina.

Lithuania won 2-0 at home against Liechtenstein in the other group match.

Switzerland took a big step toward reaching the World Cup in Brazil, winning 2-0 at its closest challenger Norway in qualifying Tuesday.

Fabian Schaer headed in two goals from free kicks delivered by Gokhan Inler to extend an excellent run of results away from home for the unbeaten Swiss.

The Basel defender struck in the 12th and 51st minutes, after also scoring last Friday against Iceland in a 4-4 draw when the Swiss let a three-goal lead slip at home.

"We wanted to show a reaction after the match against Iceland. It went better than we hoped," Schaer told Swiss broadcaster RTS.

Switzerland 2, Norway 0

Switzerland leads Group E by five points from Iceland, which beat Albania 2-1 in Reykjavik. Slovenia won 2-0 in Cyprus to rise to third place, six points behind the Swiss.

Switzerland has two matches remaining next month, away to Albania and at home to Slovenia, to seal its third straight World Cup qualification.

It was Switzerland's third 2-0 away win, and its defence has not conceded in four games on its travels.

Schaer did double duty in attack in Oslo, connecting in identical fashion from six meters (yards) with captain Inler's inswinging crosses. The second goal was directed downward through the legs of Norway goalkeeper Rune Jarstein.

Jarstein saved his team two minutes later when Swiss winger Valentin Stocker broke clear but delayed, allowing the 'keeper to smother the shot.

The 21-year-old Schaer has scored three goals in three international matches after making his debut in a 1-0 win against Brazil in Bern last month.

Including friendlies, Switzerland is unbeaten in 12 games since May 2012, and is unbeaten away in two years since losing 2-0 to Wales in a European Championship qualifier.

Russia 3, Israel 1

A flurry of second-half goals earned Russia a 3-1 victory over Israel and top spot in World Cup qualifying Group F on Tuesday.

Also in Group F, Luxembourg scored the first victory of its qualifying campaign by coming back to beat Northern Ireland 3-2.

Goals from defender Vasiliy Berezutsky, striker Aleksandr Kokorin and midfielder Denis Glushakov turned the game Russia's way, while Eran Zahavi nodded in a consolation goal for Israel in injury time.

Russia dominated the first half but could not penetrate a well-organized Israel defence. Zenit St. Petersburg striker Alexander Kerzhakov came closest to scoring one minute before the break, but his shot from a narrow angle was blocked by Dudu Aouate.

Russia coach Fabio Capello made two substitutions at halftime and the home side soon made the breakthrough.

Jordan 1, Uzbekistan 1

Jordan beat Uzbekistan 9-8 in a penalty shootout on Tuesday to reach an intercontinental playoff for a place at the 2014 World Cup.

After a 1-1 draw last Friday in the first leg of the Asian zone playoff, the second leg also finished 1-1 after 90 minutes and extra time — during which a power failure forced a brief suspension of the game.

Jordan will now take on the fifth-place team in South American qualifying for a place in next year's finals in Brazil. The playoff will be staged over two legs in November.