Poland's home tie with England delayed 24 hours by waterlogged pitch
Germany let slip a four-goal lead at home as Sweden net late on to claim dramatic 4-4 draw
Spain's remarkable run of 24 successive qualifying wins ends when held by France in Madrid
Ronaldo's 100th cap overshadowed as Portugal salvage 1-1 draw at home to Northern Ireland
Polish football officials were left red-faced on Tuesday after their World Cup qualifier against England was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch – despite Warsaw’s national stadium boasting a retractable roof.
A heavy downpour started more than four hours before the match but the roof on the stadium was never closed, so allowing the pitch to become unplayable.
“It’s up to the people whose responsibility it is to run the stadium for them to decide when the roof needs to be on, or if it needs to be on,” England manager Roy Hodgson said.
“No one will be more disappointed than them that the roof hadn’t gone on and the pitch was playable.”
World governing body FIFA delayed kick-off to see if conditions improved but the referee called the game off 45 minutes after it should have started, rescheduling the match for Wednesday afternoon.
The 58,000-capacity stadium was specifically built for the 2012 European Championship, at a cost of nearly $650 million, which Poland co-hosted in June along with neighbors Ukraine.
Polish organizers later stated that they were unable to take a unilateral decision to open or close a roof since they needed clearance from FIFA to do so.
“It takes 15 minutes to close the roof. However, this cannot happen in a temperature below zero, with very strong wind, and rain deposited on the folded roof,” added Daria Kuklinska, a spokeswoman for the stadium operator.
It was a mixed night for England, whose Under-21 side qualified for next year’s European Championship when beating Serbia in a game in Krusevac that ended with ugly scenes and the visitors reporting “a number of incidents of racism” to European governing body UEFA.
“The FA condemns both the scenes of racism and the confrontation at the final whistle during which time our players and staff were under extreme provocation,” said the English FA in a statement.
Among the World Cup qualifiers that were played on Tuesday, Germany were held 4-4 at home by Sweden despite leading by four goals with an hour gone.
A brace from Miroslav Klose had helped Germany assume a seemingly unassailable lead in Berlin only for Sweden to take advantage of an uncharacteristic lack of German resilience, as Rasmus Elm dramatically earned a point deep in the 93rd minute.
Another team to be denied in the last minute were Spain, whose remarkable run of 24 consecutive wins in qualifying games – which stretched back to 2007 – was ended when drawing 1-1 at home to 1998 World Cup winners France in Madrid.
Sergio Ramos gave the world and European champions an early lead which Cesc Fabregas failed to double when his first-half penalty was saved – leaving the visitors to earn a deserved point when Olivier Giroud headed home deep in stoppage time.
Elsewhere, an historic night for Cristiano Ronaldo – who was winning his 100th cap for Portugal – was upstaged by visitors Northern Ireland, who led for large parts of the game in Porto before Helder Postiga earned a 1-1 draw just ten minutes from time.
Ronaldo had started the night in high spirits as he was presented with a special cap to mark the occasion but after the match, the Real Madrid star left the pitch in pouring rain sporting a face like thunder.
In other games, Russia needed a fortuitous 84th minute penalty to defeat Azerbaijan 1-0 in Moscow, Belgium continued their impressive form when beating Scotland 2-0 at home while Italy made light of losing Pablo Osvaldo to a red card after 46 minutes as they won 3-1 in Milan against Denmark.
In South America, Uruguay – who finished third at the World Cup two years ago – were humbled in La Paz where Bolivia won 4-1, with Luis Suarez scoring a consolation goal for the visitors late on.