France, Serbia-Montenegro qualify for World Cup

France, Serbia-Montenegro and Sweden joined the field yesterday, meaning 27 of the 32 berths are decided for next year's World Cup.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:52 IST
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The World Cup is almost set. France, Serbia-Montenegro and Sweden joined the field yesterday, meaning 27 of the 32 berths are decided for next year's month-long tournament in Germany. France, the 1998 World Cup champion, defeated Cyprus 4-0 to win European Group 4, and Serbia-Montenegro defeated neighbour Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 to take first in Group 7. Sweden advances Sweden won 3-1 at home over Iceland, which was good enough for second place in Group 8 behind group winner Croatia. Sweden advanced as one of the best two second-place teams. Poland was the other best second-place team after losing 2-1 at Group 6 winner England. "I'm satisfied and very happy that we qualified," said France coach Raymond Domenech, whose team could have been forced to a playoff yesterday--or even been eliminated. "We won the matches that we had to." Serbia defender Mladen Krstajic added, "It was an extremely tough game for us. It was not a nice match to watch, but the result is what matters." The Netherlands, Ukraine, Portugal and Italy are the other European group winners. Germany advances automatically as the host nation. Under European rules, the eight group winners and the top two second-place teams advance automatically. The other six second-place teams go into a playoff next month. Playoffs The five teams on Wednesday guaranteed playoff were: the Czech Republic, Turkey, Slovakia, Switzerland and Spain. Norway had already clinched its playoff place. The draw for the European playoffs is Friday in Zurich, Switzerland, with the possibility of the Czech Republic drawing Slovakia. The nations formed one country -- Czechoslovakia -- until they split in 1993. The two remaining slots also will be filled by playoffs. Bahrain will face Trinidad and Tobago. Bahrain advanced after a 0-0 draw against Uzbekistan. They drew 1-1 in their first playoff game, with Bahrain advancing on away goals. Trinidad rallied on a pair of goals by Stern John to beat Mexico 2-1 yesterday night and claim fourth place in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying. Australia will face Uruguay, which beat Argentina 1-0 in the other playoff. In addition to Europe's 14 places, Africa has qualified five, Asia and South America four each, and CONCACAF three. France wins 4-0 Threatened with elimination – or facing a playoff – France won 4-0 at the Stade de France with first-half goals from Zinedine Zidane, Sylvain Wiltord and Vikash Dhorasoo. Ludovic Giuly scored in the 84th. In the other key group game, Switzerland drew 0-0 at Ireland to claim a playoff spot. France finished with 20 points and Switzerland and Israel had 18. The Swiss advanced on the fourth tiebreaker - better total goal difference in the group. Ireland finished with 16 points. Serbia-Montenegro won Group 7 on Mateja Kezman's fifth-minute goal against Bosnia-Herzegovina to finish with 22 points. Spain, which hammered San Marino 6-0 with three goals from Fernando Torres, finished with 20 points to make the playoffs. Spain last missed the World Cup finals in 1974. Croatia on top of group In Group 8, Croatia took first place despite a 0-0 draw at Hungary. In the other crucial group game, Sweden beat visiting Iceland 3-1 with goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrik Larsson and Kim Kallstrom. Croatia and Sweden finished with the same number of points (24) but Croatia won the group because of two head-to-head wins against the Swedes. Croatia entered the game already guaranteed of qualifying. Turkey finished in second place in Group 2, beating Albania 1-0 on Tumer Metin's 57th-minute goal. Denmark and Greece both had chances to finish second, but were eliminated by the Turkish victory. Denmark won at Kazakhstan 2-1 behind early second-half goals from Michael Gravgaard and Jon Dahl Tomasson. Greece fails to qualify Playing at home, European champion Greece defeated Georgia 1-0 on Dimitris Papadopoulos' 17th-minute goal. Ukraine won the group with 25 points. Turkey has 23, Denmark 22 and Greece 21. Greece is one of only three defending European champions that failed to reach the subsequent World Cup. Denmark and Czechoslovakia are the others. "We're all terribly disappointed," Greece captain Theodoros Zagorakis said. "We're all to blame for this. It's not right to blame any one person." The Czech Republic won 3-0 at Finland to finish second in Group 1, getting goals from Tomas Jun, Tomas Rosicky and Marek Heinz. The Netherlands topped the group with 32 points. The Czechs finished with 27, while Romania has 25. The Romanians already had completed all their games. Slovakia in playoffs Slovakia earned a spot in the playoffs by holding Russia to a 0-0 draw in Group 3. Slovakia, which has never played in a major soccer competition since it gained independence in 1993, was second behind group winner Portugal. Slovakia gained the place over Russia on total goal difference in the group. Also in Europe yesterday, it was: Andorra 0, Armenia 3; Netherlands 0, Macedonia 0; Portugal 3, Latvia 0; Luxembourg 0, Estonia 2; Belarus 0, Norway 1; Italy 2, Moldova 1; Slovenia 0, Scotland 3; Wales 2, Azerbaijan 0; Austria 2, Northern Ireland 0; Lithuania 1, Belgium 1; and Malta 1, Bulgaria 1. In CONCACAF, the United States closed out its qualifying with a 2-0 victory to finish atop the regional standings. Guatemala beat Costa Rica 3-1. In South America, Brazil finished atop the table with a 3-0 victory over Venezuela. Elsewhere, it was Chile 0, Ecuador 0; Paraguay 0, Colombia 1; and Peru 4, Bolivia 1. (AP)