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Sweden get unlikely draw in WC qualifying

LONDON — Spain’s run of 24 consecutive qualifying wins was halted by France on Tuesday, while Germany spectacularly collapsed to let Sweden fight back from four goals down to draw 4-4 in the campaign to reach the 2014 World Cup.

It was also a frustrating night for Cristiano Ronaldo as his 100th Portugal appearance ended in a 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland.

England didn’t even get a chance to play as a waterlogged pitch in Warsaw led to the match against Poland being postponed to Wednesday afternoon.

World and European champion Spain led through Sergio Ramos’ header, but Cesc Fabregas had a penalty saved and Olivier Giroud clinched a 1-1 draw for France in the final attack.

Germany had been rampant against Sweden, storming 4-0 in front by the 55th minute, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic began Sweden’s comeback seven minutes later and Rasmus Elm netted an unexpected equalizer in stoppage time.

Italy, though, beat Denmark 3-1 despite playing most of the second half with 10 men, while the Netherlands maintained its perfect qualifying start with a 4-1 victory over Romania.

In Madrid, Spain had looked like closing out a 25th consecutive win in qualifying stretching back to 2007.

But in the fourth minute of stoppage time, Juanfran Torres gave away possession in midfield. Franck Ribery then crossed to Giroud, who headed beyond goalkeeper Iker Casillas to cancel out Ramos’ 25th-minute goal.

Spain is now only ahead of France on goal difference in Group I, with Belarus three points behind after beating Georgia 2-0.

In Berlin, Sweden coach Erik Hamren was celebrating an “historical” comeback that seemed implausible as Germany ripped through his team in the first half.

Miroslav Klose scored in the eighth and in the 15th minute, Per Mertesacker added another in the 39th and Mesut Oezil made it 4-0 in the 56th. But Ibrahimovic, Mikael Lustig, and Johan Elmander scored in the second half, before Elm snatched the point with a goal two minutes into injury time.

Germany still leads Sweden by three points in Group C but its rival has played a game less.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said. “Normally, we would not waste a four-goal lead. The problem seems to have been mental after 60 minutes. We became sloppy and lost our discipline.”

In Bucharest, Jeremaine Lens headed the Netherlands in front in the ninth after goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu punched a ball to him, while Bruno Martins added a second from close range.

Ciprian Marica pulled one back for Romania after dribbling past three players, but Rafael van der Vaart netted from the penalty spot before half time and Robin van Persie added a late fourth.

The Dutch have a three-point lead in Group D over Romania and Hungary, which beat Turkey 3-1. Estonia claimed its first points by beating bottom-place Andorra 1-0.

In Milan, Mario Balotelli returned to the Italy side for the first time since Euro 2012 as he set up Riccardo Montolivo’s opener and scored the third goal against Romania.

Denmark had threatened to make a comeback when William Kvist made it 2-1 in first-half stoppage time after Daniele De Rossi’s second for Italy.

Italy forward Pablo Osvaldo was sent off 16 seconds into the second half for a reckless elbow into Denmark midfielder Nicolai Stokholm’s face, but Balotelli made sure of the win that gave Italy a 4-point lead over Bulgaria in Group B.

Bulgaria was held to a 0-0 draw at the Czech Republic.

It’s tight at the top of Group A, with Belgium only ahead of Croatia on goal difference. Christian Benteke and Vincent Kompany scored twice in three minutes to give Belgium a 2-0 victory over Scotland, while Croatia beat Wales by the same score through goals from Mario Mandzukic and Eduardo.

In Group H, after the deluge in Warsaw forced Poland’s game against England back a day, Montenegro joined the English on seven points at the top by winning 1-0 in Ukraine.



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