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European Field Is Taking Shape

September 11, 2003|Jim Barrero | Times Staff Writer

In the next-to-last round of qualifying for next summer's European Championship, things finally began to sort themselves out all over the continent Wednesday.

Four teams clinched their places to join host Portugal for the June 12-July 4 tournament.

That leaves six groups up for grabs and a number of second-place finishers -- teams that will advance to a playoff -- to be determined. The final day of group qualifying is Oct. 11.

Following are the day's biggest winners, losers and teams still in limbo:

They're In

France, Sweden, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic all won spots with victories.

Defending champion France remained the only perfect team (7-0) after a 2-0 Group One victory over Slovenia at Ljubljana on goals from David Trezeguet and Olivier Dacourt.

At Chorzow, visiting Sweden gave itself breathing room with a game left as it clinched Group Four with a 2-0 victory over Poland on goals from Mikael Nilsson and Olof Mellberg.

Bulgaria also was impressive on the road, winning, 3-0, at Andorra and later clinching first place in Group Eight when Belgium knocked off Croatia, 2-1.

In Group Three, the Czech Republic got goals from Jan Koller, Karel Poborsky and Milan Baros in a 3-1 victory over the Netherlands at Prague, sending the Dutch to a second-place playoff.

Almost There

In another high-profile game, Germany stood up to the barrage of criticism it had received over the last few months for its poor play with a 2-1 victory over visiting Scotland at Dortmund to take over the lead in Group Five.

Fredi Bobic and Michael Ballack scored the goals to put the Germans two points ahead of idle Iceland. To clinch second place, Scotland must defeat Lithuania and hope Germany defeats Iceland.

In Group Seven, England's 2-0 victory over visiting Liechtenstein on goals by Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney at Old Tratford set the stage for a winner-take-all match against Turkey in Istanbul. The loser goes to the playoff.

In Group Nine, Wales clinched at least second place after a 1-1 tie that eliminated Finland. Italy's 1-1 tie against Serbia and Montenegro put it one point ahead of Wales, with the Italians needing a victory over Azerbaijan to clinch first.

Greece and Spain are in a similar scenario in Group Six. Spain eliminated Ukraine and clinched at least a playoff spot after a 2-1 victory on goals from Raul Gonzalez. Greece, which did not play Wednesday, can clinch the group with a victory over last-place Northern Ireland.

Too Close to Call

In Group Four, Latvia moved into second place after a 3-1 victory over Hungary. But a Latvia loss to Sweden next month would give Poland or Hungary a chance to clinch second.

Denmark had a chance to clinch Group Two but instead had to salvage a 2-2 tie against Romania at Copenhagen, leaving the teams tied with 14 points. Romania does not play again.

Denmark needs at least a tie against Bosnia-Herzegovina to clinch first. Romania needs losses by Bosnia-Herzegovina and Norway to stay in second.

Switzerland leads Group 10 with 12 points but missed a chance to clinch first after a 4-1 loss to Russia on Dmitry Bulykin's three goals at Moscow.

Russia and Ireland are tied for second, with all three teams in position to either win the group, finish second or be eliminated.

South American Qualifiers

Bolivia and Paraguay bounced back from big losses last weekend to earn their first points in South American World Cup qualifying.

Behind three goals from Joaquin Botero and a penalty kick by Julio Baldivieso, Bolivia used the thin air of La Paz (elevation 11,700 feet) to its advantage in a 4-0 rout over winless Colombia. Bolivia had lost, 5-0, on the road to Uruguay on Sunday.

Paraguay, a 4-1 road loser to Peru in its opener, turned the tables on visiting Uruguay with its own 4-1 victory, getting three goals from Jose Cardozo and another from Carlos Paredes at Asuncion.

World Cup champion Brazil became the only team of South America's 10 to win its first two games with a 1-0 victory over visiting Ecuador at Manaos.

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