UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap: Belgium, Croatia victorious
By Football News
Belgium and Croatia continue to fight tooth and nail for World Cup qualification with both enjoying wins in Group A on Tuesday.
Belgium top the standings after their 1-0 triumph over Macedonia in Brussels.
A goal just after the hour-mark from Chelsea star Eden Hazard was all that separated the two sides at the Stade Roi Baudouin, and the win saw Marc Wilmots' team stay top of the group on goal difference with 16 points.
Croatia kept pace with the Belgians thanks to their gritty 2-1 away win over Wales in Swansea.
Gareth Bale gave the home side the lead with a penalty at the 21-minute mark, but a late stunner from Dejan Lovren and an Eduardo goal ensured Croatia's hopes of automatic qualification stayed strong.
In Group A's other match, Serbia kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 2-0 win over Scotland in Novi Sad, with two second-half goals from Filip Duricic doing the damage.
Serbia are in third place in Group A on seven points, nine behind the leaders, with Wales a point behind in fourth place.
Denmark's hopes of qualification suffered a blow when they could only manage a 1-1 draw in Bulgaria in Group B.
The Danes are in fourth place in Group B on six points, two behind the third-placed Czech Republic, who trounced Armenia 3-0 away from home.
Bulgaria are second, three points behind leaders Italy, who enjoyed a 2-0 away win over Malta.
Poland gave their playoff hopes a shot in the arm thanks to a 5-0 rout of San Marino in Warsaw in Group H, powered by a Robert Lewandowski brace.
Ukraine, who defeated Moldova 2-1 at home, are level on eight points with third-placed Poland.
Montenegro top the standings on 14 points after their 1-1 draw with England, two ahead of Roy Hodgson's team, with both Ukraine and Poland having a game in hand on the top two.
Portugal and Israel kept the pressure on Group F leaders Russia with 2-0 wins away from home, over Azerbaijan and Northern Ireland respectively.
Those results saw both Portugal and Israel close to just one point of Russia, who have two games in hand.
Hungary remain in the box seat for a playoff berth in Group D after their 1-1 draw in Turkey.
That result saw them move a point clear of third-placed Romania, who were thumped 4-0 by runaway leaders the Netherlands in Amsterdam, with Robin van Persie bagging a brace.
Estonia are still in the running for a playoff spot after their 2-0 home win over Andorra.
Ireland are well in the hunt for a playoff spot from Group C after their 2-2 draw against Austria in Dublin.
Giovanni Trapattoni's men are locked on eight points with Austria and Sweden in the chase for second place, although Sweden have a game in hand.
Germany moved eight points clear on top of the group with their 4-1 mauling of Kazakhstan.
And Spain overhauled France at the top of Group I, with a goal from Pedro just before the hour-mark seeing them to a 1-0 win in Paris.