Spain, Germany, Italy win World Cup qualifiers
Portugal, England also earn victories
Jordi Alba and Alvaro Negredo both scored Friday to give Spain a 2-0 win over Finland in a World Cup qualifier, putting the defending champion a step closer to next year's tournament in Brazil.
Alba put Spain up in the 19th minute after a period of early domination, and Negredo sealed the win in the 86th, taking a cross from Jesus Navas to slot the ball past Niki Maenpaa in the Finnish goal.
The win leaves Spain in command of Group I with a three-point lead over France after its main rival was held to a 0-0 draw by Georgia in Tblisi. Finland plays Georgia away on Tuesday, while Spain's next match is at home against Belarus on Oct. 11.
Germany cruises past Austria
Miroslav Klose equaled Germany's all-time goal-scoring record Friday in a 3-0 win over Austria that leaves his side close to qualifying for the World Cup.
The 35-year-old Klose scored in the 33rd minute to finally join Gerd Mueller on 68 goals for Germany. Klose claimed his 67th in the 4-4 draw with Sweden in October 2012.
Toni Kroos scored with a curling strike inside the right post from outside the penalty area in the 51st, and Thomas Mueller wrapped up the win in the 88th.
With three games remaining in Group C, Germany is five points ahead of Sweden, which boosted its chances of a playoff place by coming from behind to defeat Ireland 2-1 in Dublin.
Austria and Ireland are three points behind Sweden ahead of their game Tuesday in Vienna.
Netherlands held to draw by Estonia
Robin van Persie scored an extra-time penalty to salvage a 2-2 draw Friday for the Netherlands against Estonia and keep the 2010 World Cup runner-up unbeaten in its quest to qualify for the finals in Brazil next year.
Arjen Robben gave the Netherlands the perfect start, by scoring in just the second minute, but midfielder Konstantin Vassiljev turned the match in Tallinn on its head with a goal in each half before Van Persie's last gasp spot kick salvaged a point for the Dutch.
Elsewhere in Group D, second-place Romania beat Hungary 3-0 in a match marred by crowd trouble before kickoff, while Umut Bulut scored a hat trick as Turkey thrashed Andorra 5-0.
Gilardino powers Italy past Bulgaria
Alberto Gilardino filled in well for the suspended Mario Balotelli as Italy beat Bulgaria 1-0 Friday to move within one win of qualifying for the World Cup with two matches to spare.
Gilardino put Italy ahead in the 38th minute with a header from close range following a delicately lifted cross from Antonio Candreva.
The Azzurri were also helped when Armenia stunned the Czech Republic 2-1 with a goal from Gevorg Ghazaryan in added time — handing the Czechs a major blow to their qualifying chances.
Also, Denmark won 2-1 at Malta with an own goal ending up being the decider.
Italy leads Group B with 17 points and Bulgaria is next with 10. Armenia, the Czech Republic and Denmark have nine points each while Malta is last with three.
England goes top
Two goals from Danny Welbeck helped England go top of World Cup qualifying Group H with a 4-0 victory over Moldova on Friday, with Montenegro toppled after drawing in Poland.
Welbeck struck either side of halftime at Wembley Stadium after captain Steven Gerrard scored his first England goal in three years and Rickie Lambert marked his second cap with a second goal.
But it was a bittersweet night for Welbeck, who was booked for shooting after the referee blew his whistle and he will miss the next qualifier in Kyiv on Tuesday.
Ukraine, third in Group H, warmed up for hosting Roy Hodgson's side by routing San Marino 9-0 with eight different scorers.
Montenegro's 1-1 draw against Poland saw the team fall behind England due to its inferior goal difference.
Ronaldo scores hat trick in Portugal's win
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick within 15 minutes to boost Portugal's hopes of qualifying directly for the World Cup with a 4-2 win at Northern Ireland.
Portugal went into the match as favourites and Bruno Alves put the visitors ahead after 21 minutes. But West Bromwich Albion defender Gareth McAuley equalized with a fine header before Helder Postiga was sent off for an apparent headbutt in the 43rd minute.
Portugal stumbled when Jamie Ward gave the home team a 2-1 lead in the 52nd but left-back Chris Brunt received a red card at the hour-mark.
The referee's decision boosted the Portuguese's spirits and Ronaldo levelled the score in the 68th, heading home a corner from Joao Moutinho past Roy Carroll. Left unmarked at the far post, Ronaldo doubled his tally with another header from close range and scored his 43rd international goal in the 83rd with a low free kick minutes after Kyle Lafferty was sent off for a late challenge.
Costa Rica tops U.S.
Johnny Acosta and Celso Borges scored as Costa Rica burst ahead in the first 9 minutes, and Joel Campbell added a goal on a late counterattack as the Ticos beat the visiting United States 3-1 at San Jose.
Clint Dempsey, making his 100th international appearance, converted a penalty kick in the 43rd minute and nearly tied the score with a 20-yard shot off a post in the 60th minute.
Costa Rica (4-1-2), avenging a March loss to the U.S. in a Colorado snow storm, ended the Americans' team-record 12-game winning streak.
Russia earns key win
Striker Alexander Kokorin scored a brace as Russia routed Luxembourg 4-1 in a World Cup qualifier to move provisionally to the top of Group F.
Fabio Capello's team recovered from its surprise 1-0 defeat in Northern Ireland last month to move one point clear of Portugal, having both played seven games. Portugal was playing in Belfast later Friday.
The Russians scored inside 20 seconds when Kokorin lobbed Luxembourg goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert after collecting a pass from Alexander Kerzhakov.
Kokorin doubled his team's lead in the 35th minute with a header into the bottom-left corner. Kerzhakov and Alexander Samedov scored Russia's other goals and Aurelien Joachim pulled one back for Luxembourg.
Russia will next face Israel at home before finishing its qualifying campaign at Luxembourg and Azerbaijan.
Switzerland, Iceland settle for draw
Iceland winger Johann Gudmundsson completed a stunning hat trick in stoppage time to slow Switzerland's apparent march toward the World Cup by securing a 4-4 draw on Friday.
Switzerland was coasting when Blerim Dzemaili's 54th-minute penalty made the score 4-1, cancelling out Gudmundsson's sharply taken third-minute strike.
But Iceland fought back through Kolbeinn Sigthorsson in the 56th and another crisp, left-foot shot by Gudmundsson in the 68th.
The 22-year-old Gudmundsson saved his best for last, curling a third left-foot shot high past Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.
Switzerland still leads the group by four points with three matches remaining because Albania lost 1-0 in Slovenia.
Norway moved into second place by beating Cyprus 2-0 in Oslo.
Switzerland plays away to Norway on Tuesday.
Greece edges Liechtenstein
Costas Mitroglou scored a late winner as Greece beat Liechtenstein 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier Friday to go level on points with Group G leader Bosnia.
Mitroglou missed a string of chances in Vaduz, but finally defeated in-form goalkeeper Peter Jehle, tapping in a cross from Vassilis Torosidis in the 72nd minute. Both teams ended the match with 10 men, after Greece's Jose Holebas and David Hasler of Liechtenstein were both booked twice in the second half.
Bosnia suffered its first defeat in qualifying, losing 1-0 at home to Slovakia.
Slovak midfielder Viktor Pecovsky scored with a powerful shot from outside the area in the 77th minute.
Greece and Bosnia both have 16 points from seven matches, with Bosnia ahead on goal difference.
Macedonia upsets Wales
Substitute Aleksandar Trajkovski scored a late winner as Macedonia upset Wales 2-1 Friday in a World Cup qualifier to leapfrog their opponents in Group A, with Gareth Bale staying on the bench for the entire game.
Both countries have given up hope to qualify for the finals in a group dominated by Belgium and Croatia. Macedonia stands in fourth place with seven points, one more than Wales.
Belgium was playing away to Scotland later Friday while their main rivals travelled to Serbia in a Balkan derby.
Trajkovski struck the winner in the 80th minute from the edge of the area after Aaron Ramsey equalized from the penalty spot. Ivan Trickovski had opened the scoring for the home side.
Bale, the world's most expensive footballer since his transfer to Real Madrid, has yet to play this season.
Paraguay dumps Bolivia
Paraguay hammered Bolivia 4-0 on Friday to keep alive faint hopes of World Cup qualification while effectively ending the campaign of its rival.
Jonathan Fabbro, Roque Santa Cruz, Richard Ortiz and Gustavo Gomez scored for Paraguay, which improved to 11 points, five short of Uruguay in the fifth and last spot to progress, with three games to play.
Bolivia is a point further back, but with only two games left and cannot qualify.
Chile bests Venezuela
Chile closed in on qualification for next year's World Cup by recording a 3-0 home win over Venezula.
Eduardo Vargas scored the opener in the 10th minute and Marcus Gonzalez doubled the hosts' advantage in the 30th before Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal sealed the result in the 85th.
The win moved Chile to 24 points — two behind joint leaders Argentina and Colombia — and has two games to play. It is eight points clear of Uruguay — which has two games in hand — in fifth place which is the highest spot that does not yield an automatic place at Brazil 2014.
Venezuela is level with Uruguay on 16 points but only has two games left.