x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

World Cup 2014 qualifying round-up: Sweden claim dramatic 4-4 draw with Germany

Zlatan Ibrahimovic inspired an incredible comeback in Berlin as Sweden came back from 4-0 down with 30 minutes to play, while injury-hit Spain were left frustrated after a late equaliser by France.

Sweden's Rasmus Elm celebrates his late equaliser against Germany with teammates
Sweden's Rasmus Elm celebrates his late equaliser against Germany with teammates

Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced a captain's performance to inspire Sweden to a dramatic comeback from four goals down against Germany.

Sweden were 4-0 down in Berlin with an hour gone before the Paris Saint Germain forward headed home to start an incredible comeback capped by Rasmus Elm's 93rd minute equaliser.

"(Ibrahimovic) is our captain and our best player, his goal was fantastic, but so was the pass he received," said Erik Hamren, the Sweden coach, after the match.

"We needed it to get some energy and he showed the way for the rest of the team.

"When we got some momentum, the players lifted around him and gave him some more support.

"He put in a really good talk in the half-time break and he showed his class to me, he coached the other players as a good captain should do."

Germany, fresh from their 6-1 thrashing of the Republic of Ireland on Friday, looked set for another big win as a brace from Miroslav Klose and further goals from Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil saw the hosts 4-0 up inside an hour.

However, Joachim Loew's hopes of a fourth successive win in Group C began to crumble as Sweden, who had won both their opening qualifiers, pulled three goals back in a 14-minute spell through Zlatan Ibrahimovic (62), Mikael Lustig (64) and Johan Elmander (76), before Elm's right-foot shot in stoppage time.

"Honestly, shortly after the game I can find no explanation as to how we let a 4-0 lead slip out of our hands," said Loew.

"It's deathly quiet in the changing room: players are laid out on the benches and are totally speechless.

"Had we won the game, we would have been in control of the group, now things are wide open."

There was a similar story in Madrid where reigning world and European champions Spain conceded a stoppage-time equaliser against France.

Spain looked on course to move three points clear of the French at the top of Group I thanks to Sergio Ramos' 25th-minute opener, with even Cesc Fabregas' penalty miss just before half-time not looking set to cost Vicente del Bosque's side dear.

But, with four minutes of injury time played, France snatched a 1-1 draw when Olivier Giroud, who had replaced Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema late on, headed in Franck Ribery's cross.

Spain lost David Silva and Alvaro Arbeloa to injury during the game, which del Bosque believed was a factor in the outcome of the game

"The injuries were an immediate misfortune because it prevented us from managing the changes," Del Bosque said.

"There haven't been any muscular injuries in my four years here and so to have two I am sorry about."

Holland assumed control of Group D with a thumping 4-1 win of Romania in their top-of-the-table clash in Bucharest.

Romania had not conceded a goal in their opening three wins, but their perfect record was in ruins within the opening 45 minutes as Jeremain Lens, Bruno Martins Indi and Rafael van der Vaart all found the target.

Robin van Persie then completed the rout four minutes from the end with Romania's consolation coming from a fine Ciprian Marica goal when they were 2-0 down.

Italy continue to set the pace in Group B with a 3-1 home win over Denmark.

Goals from Riccardo Montolivo (33) and Daniele De Rossi (37) put Italy in charge but a home win looked in question when Denmark pulled a goal back through William Kvist Jorgensen (45) and the Azzurri lost Pablo Osvaldo to a straight red card 18 seconds into the second half for violent conduct.

However, Italy were not made to pay for that dismissal as Mario Balotelli made it 3-1 in the 54th minute to complete the scoring.

Italy's lead in Group B now stands at four points after their two nearest challengers Bulgaria and Czech Republic drew 0-0 in Prague.

In Group C, Austria claimed a deserved 4-0 win over Kazakhstan with goals from Marc Janko (two), David Alaba and Martin Harnik while Ireland bounced back from their mauling by Germany with a 4-1 win over Faroe Islands.

All five goals came in the second half with Ireland notching through Marc Wilson, Jon Walters, a Pol Justinussen own goal and Darren O'Dea, while the Faroes responded through Hallur Hansson.

Three points behind Holland in Group D are Hungary, who went behind to Mevlut Erdinc goal against Turkey but hit back to claim a 3-1 win thanks to efforts from Vladimir Koman, Adam Szalai and a Zoltan Gera penalty.

In the other group match, a 57th-minute Andres Oper header saw Estonia beat fellow strugglers Andorra 1-0.

Switzerland defeated Iceland 2-0 away from home with second-half goals from Tranquillo Barnetta and Mario Gavranovic and they remain three points clear of Norway at the top of Group E.

Norway trailed to a 42nd-minute Efstathios Aloneftis goal against Cyprus but recovered to win 3-1 with Brede Hangeland (45), Tarik Elyounoussi (81, penalty) and Joshua King (83) on the scoresheet.

Albania are in third place on six points after a Odise Roshi goal gave them a home victory over Slovenia.

Group F leaders Russia continued their 100 per cent start with a 1-0 victory over Azerbaijan, although they needed an 84th-minute Roman Shirokov penalty to claim a fourth win out of four.

Israel are level with Portugal after beating bottom nation Luxembourg 3-0, Tomer Hemed netting a brace either side of an Eden Ben Basat goal.

Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece lead Group G with 10 points.

Bosnia-Herzegovina beat Lithuania 3-0 with goals from Vedad Ibisevic, Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic while Greece ended Slovakia's unbeaten start thanks to a Dimitris Salpingidis goal.

Also, Latvia beat 10-man Liechtenstein 2-0 at home with goals from Vladimir Kamess and Edgars Gauracs.

The other matches in England's group saw Montenegro join Roy Hodgson's men on seven points after beating Ukraine with Dejan Damjanovic netting the only goal, while second-half goals from Serghei Dadu and Alexandru Epureanu gave Moldova a 2-0 win at San Marino.

In the Spain-France group, Belarus beat Georgia 2-0 with Renan Bressan and Stanislav Dragun on the scoresheet.

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