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England struggles against Poland
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 18 - 10 - 2012

WARSAW — England missed the chance to go three points clear at the top of World Cup qualifying Group H when it labored to a 1-1 draw with Poland Wednesday.
Wayne Rooney's header via his shoulder from a Steven Gerrard corner just after the half hour mark put the visitors ahead but defender Kamil Glik leveled for the Poles, also heading home a corner with 20 minutes remaining.
England, which stretched its unbeaten run against Poland to 15 matches since 1973, tops the group on eight points from four matches, with Montenegro second on seven having played a game less and Poland third on five from three.
The match had been scheduled for Tuesday but was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch when officials failed to close the national stadium's roof despite a heavy rainstorm.
On Tuesday, Germany squandered a four-goal lead to draw 4-4 with Sweden, while world champion Spain conceded in stoppage time to draw 1-1 with France as both teams lost 100 percent records in World Cup qualifying Tuesday.
Northern Ireland came within 11 minutes of ruining Cristiano Ronaldo's 100th appearance for Portugal before Helder Postiga equalized to earn a 1-1 draw in Porto, but the Portuguese lost ground on leader Russia in Group F.
The Russians beat Azerbaijan 1-0 in Moscow to maintain their perfect start under Italian coach Fabio Capello.
The Netherlands also won a fourth successive game, beating Romania 4-1 in Bucharest to end their opponents' three-match winning run.
In other notable matches, Bosnia stayed on course for what would be its first international tournament as an independent nation by beating Lithuania 3-0 at home and sta0ying top of Group G along with Greece, which beat Slovakia 1-0 in Bratislava.
Belgium and Croatia also moved ahead of the pack in Group A with both teams beating British opposition at home. Belgium, whose emerging young team has already been tipped by pundits as having the talent to reach the later stages at the tournament in Brazil in 2014, beat Scotland 2-0 in Brussels to all but end the Scots hopes of reaching the Finals.
Croatia stayed level on points with Belgium at the top of the standings with a 2-0 win over Wales in Osijek.
The most dramatic game on a night when most teams were playing their fourth qualifier, came in Berlin where Germany, 3-0 up at halftime, was coasting in its Group C match against the Swedes.
After powering into a 4-0 lead with a Miroslav Klose double and goals by Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil, Germany seemed certain of making it four wins from four to move six points clear of the pack before it collapsed.
Sweden struck back with two quick goals midway through the second half from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mikael Lustig before Johan Elmander made it 4-3 after 76 minutes.
The Swedes then went all out for an equalizer and it arrived in the fourth minute of stoppage time when Rasmus Elm scored.
The only consolation for Klose was that he took his international tally to 67 goals, one behind Gerd Mueller's long-established record for his country.
“I feel a lot of pride for what the players have done here,” Sweden coach Erik Hamren told the Kanal 5 television channel. “Did we believe we could get a result at 3-0 down at halftime? No, no, there was no one who thought that.”
Germany was dejected at the end of a game watched by a sell-out crowd of 72,369 on a damp and chilly evening. “If you lead 4-0 and it ends 4-4 then something has definitely gone wrong,” said captain Phillip Lahm. “After Sweden's first two goals everything collapsed. That should not happen to a top team.”
Spain also conceded a late goal just as it looked to have done enough to seal a 25th straight victory in European and World Cup qualifiers.
Sergio Ramos put Spain ahead after 25 minutes and it would have doubled its lead if Cesc Fabregas' penalty had not been saved by Hugo Lloris.
France, though, stayed level on points with Spain at the top of the Group I standings after Olivier Giroud, who had only been on for six minutes, headed a last-gasp equalizer.
Unlike Spain, the Netherlands did make it four wins out of four and ended Romania's perfect start after three goals in the first half set up a 4-1 win to give it control of Group D.
Jeremain Lens put the Dutch ahead after eight minutes with Bruno Martens scoring in the 28th and Rafael van der Vaart netting a penalty to make it 3-1 just before the break.
Ciprian Marica had scored for Romania after 39 minutes but Robin van Persie wrapped the game up five minutes from time. — Agencies

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