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Moldova Moves Up to Big Time : Soccer: Upset of Wales highlights qualifying for European Championship.

October 13, 1994|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Defending champion Denmark scored a convincing 3-1 victory over its toughest rival, Belgium, on Wednesday night, and Switzerland was equally impressive in defeating Sweden, 4-2, but it was unheralded Moldova that captured the big headlines in Europe.

On a night when 34 nations were involved in qualifying play for the 1996 European Championship, Moldova scored a 3-2 upset over Wales at Chisinau.

The loss dealt a blow to Wales' hopes of finishing at least second in Group 7 behind favored Germany and boosted the fortunes of Bulgaria, which beat Georgia, 2-0, with both goals coming from Emil Kostadinov off passes from balding World Cup hero Yordan Letchkov.

Although the Welsh played without injured stars Ian Rush, Ryan Giggs, Mark Hughes and Dean Saunders, they appeared en route to a 2-2 tie, but Valery Pogorelov scored the winner for Moldova in the 79th minute.

There were no upsets in the three major encounters of the night. At Copenhagen, the Danes fell behind, 1-0, when Marc DeGryse scored for Belgium, but goals by 1992 European Championship stars Kim Vilfort and John Jensen erased that advantage. Mark Strudhal scored Denmark's third goal late in the game.

At Oslo, the Netherlands and Norway played to a 1-1 tie. The Norwegians yielded a first-half goal to Dutch winger Bryan Roy but regrouped to salvage a tie on Kjetil Rekdal's shot in the 52nd minute.

Sweden, which finished a strong third in World Cup '94, was taken apart by the Swiss at Berne. It was Switzerland's third consecutive victory over the Swedes.

The game was barely five minutes old when Kennet Andersson put Sweden ahead, and the Swiss had to wait half an hour before getting back on level terms on Christophe Ohrel's goal.

The Swedes regained the lead in the 61st minute when Martin Dahlin found the net, only to give it up again minutes later on an own goal by Jesper Blomqvist. Ciri Sforza scored the game-winner in the 81st minute and Kubilay Turkyilmaz scored Switzerland's fourth.

There was good news for both Irish teams. Northern Ireland traveled to Vienna, where it beat Austria, 2-1, behind goals by Keith Gillespie and Phil Gray. Jack Charlton's Ireland stayed home and defeated Liechtenstein, 4-0, in Dublin, on two goals apiece from Tommy Coyne and Niall Quinn.

Greece, on the rebound after a disastrous World Cup campaign, scored another impressive victory under new Coach Costas Polyhroniou. Wednesday's 4-0 drubbing of Finland at Salonika followed a 5-1 victory over the Faroe Islands in September and left the Greeks in first place in Group 8.

"This is a new team formed after the World Cup," Polyhroniou said. "They play fast and simple, and this is the secret to success."

Scotland kept pace by trouncing the Faroes, 5-1, at Glasgow.

The Scots were ahead, 3-0, at the half, thanks to goals from John McGinlay, Scott Booth and John Collins. Billy McGinlay made it 4-0 in the 61st minute and Collins got his second goal 11 minutes later. Jan Muller scored a consolation goal for Faroe Islands 15 minutes from the end.

In Tel Aviv, Israel gave up two goals in the first 16 minutes to Slovakia, then fought back to earn a 2-2 tie on goals by Ronen Harazi and Tal Banin.

There were fireworks at Valletta, where tiny Malta stole a point off the Czech Republic, the team that had beaten it, 6-1, at Ostrava last month. This time, the Maltese defense held firm and, even though Czech striker Jan Suchoparek hit the post with a penalty kick, Malta deserved a scoreless tie.

In other results, Poland defeated Azerbaijan, 1-0, with a goal by 1992 Olympic silver medalist Andrzej Juskowiak; Turkey trounced Iceland, 5-0; Ukraine and Slovenia played to a scoreless tie; Belarus beat Luxembourg, 2-0; Russia crushed San Marino, 4-0; and Spain moved to the top of Group 2 by defeating Macedonia, 2-0, at Skopje, with both goals coming from Julio Salinas.

Forty-seven nations are involved in qualifying play that continues through November 1995. Fifteen teams will join host England in the finals in June 1996.

In two friendly games Wednesday, Germany was held to a 0-0 tie by Hungary at Budapest, and Romania earned a 1-1 tie with England at Wembley.

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