Order was restored in Europe, but South
American leaders Brazil and Argentina couldn't find the net Wednesday as
both were held to 0-0 draws in World Cup qualifying.
Defending champion Brazil was stopped at home by Colombia, but the
five-time champion still maintained its one-point lead over archrival
Argentina, which suffered the same result at Chile.
Europe drew most of the attention as Italy, France, the Netherlands and
Portugal rebounded from last weekend's disappointing results to put
themselves back in contention for spots in the 2006 World Cup finals.
Italy, which lost to Slovenia on Saturday, got two goals from Francesco
Totti to edge Belarus 4-3.
The other three teams all came back from surprising draws to win
Wednesday, with the Dutch erasing a one-goal deficit to beat Finland
3-1, France blanking Cyprus 2-0 and European Championship runner-up
Portugal crushing Russia 7-1.
England also won, nipping Azerbaijan 1-0 on a goal from Michael Owen,
while tiny Liechtenstein got its fourth point in five days by trouncing
Luxembourg 4-0. On Saturday, Liechtenstein held Portugal to a 2-2 draw.
The one surprise in Europe involved perennial underachiever Spain, which
was held to a 0-0 draw by Lithuania.
In other European matches, it was: Armenia 0, Czech Republic 3; Andorra
1, Macedonia 0; Denmark 1, Turkey 1; Kazakhstan 0, Albania 1; Ukraine 2,
Georgia 0; Latvia 2, Estonia 2; Ireland 2, Faeroe Islands 0; Norway 3,
Slovenia 0; Moldova 1, Scotland 1; Northern Ireland 3, Austria 3; Wales
2, Poland 3; Serbia-Montenegro 5, San Marino 0; Bulgaria 4, Malta 1; and
Iceland 1, Sweden 4.
Thirteen European teams will join host Germany in the final tournament.
In another South American qualifier, Nolberto Solano scored the
equalizer on a penalty kick as Peru held Paraguay to a 1-1 draw.
Paraguay, which played in the last World Cup finals, stays third in the
group with 16 points.
Brazil leads the group with 20 points, followed by Argentina with 19.
The top four teams in the group will play in the World Cup finals, with
the fifth-place team facing the Oceania champion for another berth.
In the CONCACAF region, Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson carried the
United States into the final qualifying round in emphatic fashion,
combining to score five goals in a 6-0 rout of Panama.
Mexico and Guatemala also reached the next phase of the competition.
Mexico blanked Trinidad and Tobago 3-0, and Guatemala beat Honduras 1-0.
Also, it was: Jamaica 0, El Salvador 0; St. Kitts and Nevis 0, St.
Vincent and the Grenadines 3; and Canada 1, Costa Rica 3.
CONCACAF will send three teams to the final tournament in Germany. A
fourth could qualify in a playoff with an Asian country.
In Asia, four more teams clinched spots in the final qualifying round --
North Korea, Bahrain, Japan and Uzbekistan. Saudi Arabia qualified on
North Korea, which has not appeared in the World Cup finals since it
reached the quarterfinals in 1966, beat Yemen 2-1.
Only three places remain in the final qualifying round, which will send
four teams straight to the World Cup finals. A fifth team will play for
another spot against the fourth-place CONCACAF team.
In other Asian matches, it was: Laos 2, Jordan 3; Qatar 2, Iran 3; Iraq
1, Uzbekistan 2; Singapore 2, India 0; Oman 0, Japan 1; Hong Kong 2,
Malaysia 0; Kuwait 1, China 0; Thailand 3, United Arab Emirates 0;
Tajikistan 2, Kyrgyzstan 1; Syria 2, Bahrain 2; Maldives 3, Vietnam 0;
and Lebanon 1, South Korea 1.