Giorgos Karagounis scored a fine free-kick as Greece defeated Liechtenstein 2-0 on Tuesday, but it proved to be in vain as Bosnia-Herzegovina scraped a narrow victory over Lithuania to top Group G on goal difference.
For a while, the Greeks were planning their flights to Brazil next summer following Dimitris Salpingidis’ early goal, as they had to better Bosnia’s result to top the group. Karagounis and his colleagues did what was asked of them, with the captain – who played the full 90 minutes – bending an excellent free-kick into the back of the net via the post in the 81st minute, only for them to later learn that they would need to navigate the Play-Offs following Bosnia’s hard-fought 1-0 win.
Another Fulham man was on the scoresheet for his country, too, as Alexander Kačaniklić played his part in a second consecutive eight-goal thriller between Sweden and Germany. In the reverse fixture in Berlin, Sweden had come back from four goals down to draw, but this time it was the Scandinavian side who took control of the tie.
Tobias Hysen got the home nation off the mark with a composed finish after just six minutes, and Kačaniklić doubled the advantage three minutes before the break. The Fulham winger latched onto a delightful throughball before hitting a powerful first-time shot that had too much venom for Manuel Neuer as it flew into the corner of the net after brushing the German stopper’s fingertips.
Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil pulled one back just before half-time and then Germany ran riot after re-emerging from the dressing room with three goals in 14 minutes as Mario Gotze and Andre Schurrle (2) put them 4-2 up. Hysen nabbed his second in the 69th minute to reduce the deficit – with Kačaniklić withdrawn shortly afterwards – but Chelsea’s Schurrle secured his hat-trick to conclude a remarkable tie that finished 5-3.
Pajtim Kasami made his debut for the full Switzerland national side as a 71st-minute substitute in their 1-0 victory over Slovenia. Fulham teammate Philippe Senderos played the full 90 and within three minutes of Kasami’s introduction his side had taken the lead when Granit Xhaka crashed the ball in from 20 yards. The result meant the Swiss finished an impressive seven points clear at the top of Group E, whilst simultaneously ending Slovenia’s hopes of a Play-Off spot.
In the same group, Brede Hangeland played the entirety of Norway’s 1-1 draw with Iceland in Oslo as the visitors – who are looking to qualify for their first-ever major tournament – bagged a place in the Play-Offs. Kolbeinn Sigthorsson collected Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson’s pass in the 12th minute and slotted home from inside the area, but Daniel Braaten’s effort on the half-hour mark ensured the points were shared.
Elsad Zverotić played 90 minutes as Montenegro’s campaign finished on a dour note as they were humbled 5-2 at home by Moldova. Alexandr Antoniuc gave the visitors the lead just before the half-hour mark, with Manchester City forward Stevan Jovetic netting the equaliser from the penalty spot 11 minutes after half-time. But goals from Igor Armas, Eugen Sidorenco, Artur Ionita and another from Antoniuc put Moldova firmly in control of the game, with a stoppage-time strike from Jovetic proving little consolation for the hosts.
Bryan Ruiz scored a sublime goal as Costa Rica ended their qualifying campaign in style with a 2-1 victory over Mexico in San Jose. The captain latched onto a chipped ball over the top and showed brilliant initiative to flick a reverse header back in the opposite direction – bamboozling two Mexican defenders in the process – before meeting the ball with a thumping volley that left the goalkeeper with no chance whatsoever.
Oribe Peralta equalised for the visitors four minutes later but a second-half strike from Alvaro Saborio – who came on as a substitute for Ruiz in the 49th minute – ensured Los Ticos finished qualifying with an impressive 18 points from their 10 matches played.
Away from the World Cup, Iran defeated Thailand 2-1 in their AFC Asian Cup 2015 Qualifier, with Ashkan Dejagah seeing 65 minutes of action. Jalal Hosseini and Reza Ghoochannejhad struck within minutes of each other to hand the home side a commanding lead in Tehran, although an 80th-minute effort from Thailand’s Teerasil Dangda ensured a nervy finale. Iran held on, though, and now top Group B by two points.
Neil Etheridge was in goal as the Philippines retained the Peace Cup title following their 3-1 victory over Pakistan. Kallem Ullah had given Pakistan the lead, but strikes from Patrick Reichelt, Chris Greatwich and Stephan Schrock ensured the Azkals topped the three-team table on goal difference.
In Under-21 action, Jesse Joronen was in goal for Finland’s 1-0 defeat by Moldova, while Lasse Vigen Christensen played the full 90 minutes of Denmark’s impressive 2-0 triumph in Russia. Josh Pritchard was an unused substitute for Wales’ 4-0 win over San Marino.
Republic of Ireland Under-19s emerged from their initial European Championship qualifying group unbeaten following a 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina, with Dean O’Halloran playing the entire match and Noe Baba coming on at half-time. In the same group, Muamer Tankovic played 83 minutes of Sweden’s 5-1 win over Azerbaijan as they secured second spot.