Italy through, England close in

Italy through, England close in

Italy became the second country to qualify for next year's Euro finals with a 1-0 win at home against Slovenia on Tuesday, dpa reported.

Giampaolo Pazzini scored a late, lucky goal for the Azzurri to take them to 22 points from eight games in Group C. Serbia, who beat Faroe Island 3-1, are on 14 points.

Italian coach Cesare Prandelli said that he was satisfied with his side's performance. "We had courage, we were good and had supremacy in midfield. In this period it is hard to find speed. They stayed closed (in their midfield) and we had little chances to make our game."

The other group game saw Estonia thrash Northern Ireland 4-1.

Kevin Strootman and Luuk de Jong scored twice for the Netherlands to give their side an important 2-0 victory against a ten-man Finland side in Reykjavik.

PSV Eindhoven midfielder Strootman scored in the 29th minute to give his side the lead at the half-way break.

Italian-based Perparim Hetemaj was sent off on the hour for the home side, making any hopes of getting a result from the match all but impossible against the top-ranked side in the world, who added a second through substitute de Jong three minutes into injury time.

The Oranjes lead Group E with a maximum 24 points from their eight games, while Finland have nine, Hungary, who beat Moldova 2-0 and Sweden who won 5-0 in San Marino are on 18 points.

England have also all-but qualified from Group G after beating Wales 1-0 through Ashley Young's goal. The Three Lions have 17 points from seven games, while Montenegro are on 11 points from six matches.

Switzerland beat Bulgaria 3-1 to keep alive their hope of qualifying for the play-offs.

Denmark joined Norway and Portugal on 13 points in Group H after beating Norway 2-0. The Portuguese and Danes have played six games, while Norway have played a game more.

Iceland beat Cyprus 1-0 in the other game in the group.

Croatia moved to the top of Group F with a 3-1 come-back victory at home against Israel. Tomer Hemed gave the visitors the lead shortly before the break, but Luka Modric equalized for the Croats in the 47th minute.

Brazilian-born substitute Eduardo, who came on at the break, then scored twice within the space of two minutes in the 55th and 57th minute, shortly after defender Tal Ben Haim had been shown a straight red card.

Croatia are on 19 points from their eight games, while Greece, who drew 1-1 in Latvia, dropped to second with 17 points. The other group game saw Malta draw 1-1 with Georgia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina kept alive their hopes of advancing from Group D with a hard-fought 1-0 win at home against Belarus.

The visitors, who were just a point behind the Bosnians, were holding the visitors to a goalless draw, even though they were playing with just ten men since the 34th minute after Timofei Kalachev had been sent off for a second bookable offence.

Five minutes from the end Aleksandr Martynovich was also sent for an early shower and just two minutes later substitute Zvjezdan Misimovic found the winner Bosnia.

Luxembourg scored a rare victory with a 2-1 against Albania in another group game.

France, who played to a goalless draw in Romania, top the group with 17 points, while Bosnia are on 16 points.

In Group B, Russia remained top of the group with a goalless draw at home against Ireland.

The Russians have 17 points from their eight games, while the Irish remain in the hunt with 15 points from eight games. Ireland benefited from a Slovakian slip-up at home, as the Slovaks lost 4-0 against Armenia to remain on 14 points from their eight games.

They slipped to fourth in the standings behind the Armenians, who also have 14 points.

Also in that group Macedonia struggled in their 1-0 victory at home against footballing minnows Andorra.

In a Group A game, that has no bearing on the outcome of the two top places in the group, Azerbaijan came from behind to beat Kazakhstan 3-2.

In Vienna Turkey missed a penalty in the last minute against Austria in their goalless draw. The Turks stay in second place on 14 points - ten minutes behind Germany.

In Group I Scotland beat Lithuania to move to eight points, far behind Spain, who will qualify later Tuesday if they beat Liechtenstein.

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