Skip to main content

Mario Balotelli winner secures Italy's passage to World Cup finals

September 10, 2013 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Maria Balotelli celebrates after scoring his crucial penalty in the 2-1 win over the Czech Republic.
Maria Balotelli celebrates after scoring his crucial penalty in the 2-1 win over the Czech Republic.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Italy and Netherlands seal spots in World Cup finals in Brazil
  • Mario Balotelli scores the winner as Italy beat Czech Republic
  • Robin van Persie double in 2-0 win for the Dutch in Andorra
  • England hold Ukraine to a draw in vital Group H qualifier in Kiev

(CNN) -- Italy and the Netherlands sealed their places in the World Cup finals in Brazil next year while England survived an uncomfortable night in Kiev against Ukraine in key qualifying matches Tuesday.

Mario Balotelli scored the winner as Italy came from behind to beat the Czech Republic 2-1 to seal Group B, while the Dutch had a pair of Robin van Persie goals to thank for a 2-0 win in Andorra to wrap up Group D of European qualifying.

Roy Hodgson's England battled to a goalless draw to maintain their leadership of Group H, one point clear of Ukraine and Montenegro with two rounds of matches remaining.

It was an unconvincing performance and visiting goalkeeper Joe Hart was the busier goalkeeper in a match of few clear cut chances, but Frank Lampard, making his 100th appearance for England nearly grabbed the winner with a headed effort in injury time.

Balotelli: Racism makes me feel alone
Balotelli: I'm glad I left England
Soccer player gets $132 million paycheck

Italy fell behind to a 19th minute Libor Kozak volleyed strike in Turin, but the Azzurri struck back through Giorgio Chiellini in the 51st minute before Balotelli stepped up to hit the winner past Petr Cech from the spot three minutes later to set the four-time champions on the road to Brazil.

Milan's Balotelli had a mixed night, wasting several chances to put his side firmly in control, before winning the penalty as he was crudely fouled by Theodor Gebre Selassie.

Read: Balotelli does not regret leaving EPL

To complete an ultimately disappointing night for the Czechs, Daniel Kolar was given his marching orders near the end.

"We've qualified and we're really satisfied," said Italy coach Cesare Prandelli.

"Tonight there were spells in which we suffered physically but we also played some quality football. This squad has a lot of quality," he told AFP.

Fellow powerhouses Germany need just a single point from their final two matches to join them after a 3-0 win in the Faroe Islands, with Per Mertesacker, Arsenal new boy Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller scoring the goals.

Sweden still have a mathematical chance of overhauling the Group C leaders after Zlatan Ibrahimovic's first minute goal in the 1-0 win in Kazakhstan, but the Germans can seal qualification next month when they play the Republic of Ireland.

Switzerland are also all but assured of a finals place, five points clear of Iceland in Group E as a pair of Fabian Schar goals saw off Norway 2-0.

France revived their hopes by breaking a scoring drought which had lasted 526 minutes in a fighting 4-2 win in the Belarus.

Franck Ribery canceled out a Egor Filipenko opener for the hosts and then equalized for the second time after Timofei Kalachev's effort.

Samir Nasri and Paul Pogba grabbed vital late goals to clinch victory for the French, who draw level with world champions Spain on points in Group I.

Spain, who have played a game less, were salvaging a 2-2 draw with Chile in a friendly in Geneva, equalizing for the second time in added time through Jesus Navas.

Eduardo Vargas netted twice for the South Americans, with Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado canceling out his first effort.

Read: Real unveil Bale at Bernabeu

Wales' 3-0 home defeat to Serbia in Group A was notable for the appearance of Real Madrid's new world record signing Gareth Bale, who played for half an hour as a second half substitute and almost scored with a late free kick.

Bale has not played since a pre season friendly for his former side Tottenham, nursing a foot injury.

Earlier, Jordan won a marathon penalty shootout 9-8 with hosts Uzbekistan to qualify for an intercontinental playoff, with the winners reaching next year's finals.

They will play South America's fifth placed team after a topsy turvy contest in Tashkent.

The home side went ahead through Anzur Ismailov and dominated much of the first half, only for Saeed Murjan to level with a stunning half volley strike just before the interval.

Despite several chances for either side, the match went into extra time, which was delayed for 18 minutes by a floodlight failure.

The penalty drama was intense until the unfortunate Ismailov failed to convert his effort to leave the visitors celebrating.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Last season Jose Mourinho wrote off the title of hopes of his "little horse" -- but now he has a squad primed to dethrone Manchester City.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1858 GMT (0258 HKT)
Luis Suarez will have to wait until late October to make his competitive Barcelona debut his ban for biting an opponent was partially upheld.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
Can Louis van Gaal cut it at Manchester United? Will Bayern conquer all in Germany? Is this PSG's year to win the Champions League?
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 1012 GMT (1812 HKT)
It's been a difficult year for Barcelona on and off the pitch, and the signing of Luis Suarez has only increased the prospect of more controversy.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 1435 GMT (2235 HKT)
Germany striker Miroslav Klose, who scored a total of 16 goals at four World Cup finals, has announced his retirement from international football.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Cultural y Deportivo Leonesa line up in their tuxedo kit.
When celebrating an important anniversary, it's always good to look your best. At least that's theory for a Spanish football team's preseason tuxedo kit.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
While many top European clubs are targeting the U.S. market, French football is setting its sights on expanding into Asia -- with China playing a key role.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
Major League Soccer has snared another big name from England with former Chelsea star Frank Lampard committing his future to New York City FC.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1656 GMT (0056 HKT)
Europe's top clubs have booked a summer holiday to the U.S. -- but this is business not pleasure as they look to cash in on the World Cup afterglow.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Brazil's new coach Dunga won the World Cup as a player in 1994.
Former World Cup-winning captain Dunga is appointed coach of Brazil's national team for the second time, charged with restoring national pride.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1420 GMT (2220 HKT)
Colombia's World Cup star James Rodriguez continues Real Madrid's long tradition of signing "Galacticos."
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Germany's World Cup-winning captain Philipp Lahm has decided to go out at the top by announcing his retirement from international football.
ADVERTISEMENT