Italy, Dutch, Argentina, US, Costa Rica at WCup
Italy and the Netherlands became the first European teams to qualify for next year’s World Cup, and the United States, Costa Rica and Argentina also grabbed spots in the field on Tuesday.
Giorgio Chiellini scored in the 51st minute and Mario Balotelli converted a penalty in the 54th, giving Italy a 2-1 come-from-behind win over the Czech Republic in Turin. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made his 136th international appearance, matching Fabio Cannavaro’s Italian record.
The Azzurri, a four-time World Cup-winner, clinched first place in Group B and will be appearing in football’s top tournament for the 14th straight time.
“Now we can celebrate everything. I’m even happier with my personal record after we’ve qualified,” Buffon said.
Libor Kozak had scored in the 19th minute for the Czechs. With little chance to qualify, Czech coach Michal Bilek resigned after the game.
Robin Van Persie’s goals in the 49th and 53rd minutes lifted the Netherlands to a 2-0 win at Andorra. The Oranje, a three-time World Cup runner up, won Group D.
They joined host Brazil and Asian nations Australia, Iran, Japan and South Korea in the 32-team field for the World Cup, which kicks off June 12.
Second-half goals by Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan lifted the United States to a 2-0 home victory over Mexico. The U.S. then secured its seventh straight World Cup appearance when Honduras drew 2-2 against Panama.
“We wanted to qualify for the World Cup. We’ve done that. Now we’ve got to make sure we do well in Brazil,” said Clint Dempsey.
The U.S. moved into first place in the CONCACAF qualifying group with 16 points from eight of 10 scheduled games, one ahead of Costa Rica, which was held to a 1-1 draw at last-placed Jamaica, but still wrapped up a spot for Brazil.
Two-time champion Argentina got in with a 5-2 victory over Paraguay, sealing its spot with two games to spare in South American qualifying.
Uruguay had a 2-0 home win over Colombia to move into fifth place, behind fourth-placed Ecuador on goal difference. The top four teams qualify directly for the World Cup while the fifth team reaches a further intercontinental playoff.
Colombia’s defeat prevented it from sealing its World Cup berth and it remains second, three points behind Argentina. Colombia is assured of finishing no lower than fifth, as is third-placed Chile, which did not play on Tuesday.
Venezuela won 3-2 at home over Peru, keeping alive its qualification hopes, sitting three points behind fifth-placed Uruguay.
In Europe, the nine group winners qualify, and eight second-place teams advance to playoffs in November that will determine four additional berths.
Three-time champion Germany won 3-0 at the Faeroe Islands through goals by Per Merteswacker and Thomas Mueller around Mesut Ozil’s penalty, getting in position to clinch Group C next month. Sweden is second after winning 1-0 at Kazakhstan, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring in the first minute.
England drew 0-0 at Ukraine as Frank Lampard made his 100th international appearance, leaving the Three Lions atop Group H with two games left, one point ahead of Montenegro and Ukraine.
Russia moved into the Group F lead ahead of Portugal by defeating visiting Israel 3-1 on goals by Vasiliy Berezutsky, Aleksandr Kokorin and Denis Glushakov.
France twice came from behind to win 4-2 at Belarus as Franck Ribery scored twice and Samir Nasri and Paul Pogba added goals. Defending champion Spain leads France on goal difference in Group I.
Switzerland won 2-0 at Norway on a pair of Fabian Schaer goals in Group E and can finish first by winning one of its last two games, at Albania and home against Slovenia.
Bosnia-Herzegovina leads Greece in Group C after beating Latvia 1-0 as the Greeks defeated Slovakia.
In the second leg of the Asian playoff, Jordan beat Uzbekistan 9-8 on penalties after a 1-1 draw left the aggregate 2-2.
Jordan will play South America’s fifth-place team in a two-leg playoff in November for berth.