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Euro 2008 qualifying

Mixed fortunes for international stars

Despite fielding a severely weakened line-up, Germany comfortably beat Wales 2-0 in Cardiff on Saturday evening to maintain their imperious progress towards a place at the Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland. The Germans, on 22 points out of a possible 24, lead qualifying Group D from the Czech Republic (17 points/3-0 winners in San Marino) and Ireland (14 points/2-2 draw in Slovakia).

Bayern striker Miroslav Klose took his international tally to 35 goals in 70 appearances for his country, and also captained his national team for the first time, as he struck after five minutes and again on the hour at the Millennium Stadium, thus ending a 368-day goalless drought on the world stage.

Praise from coach Löw

“It was vital to take the three points. We’re well clear in the table, and have to keep going in the same vein. We’re in good shape,“ Klose declared after a fine individual display. “There are no doubts as to his class, he’s taken both goals superbly,“ Germany supremo Joachim Löw enthused.

Bayern also supplied the 2006 World Cup hosts with Bastian Schweinsteiger in a stand-in central midfield role, and Marcell Jansen on the left flank, initially in midfield and then at left-back after the break. Both Munich men were active contributors to an ultimately easy win against an inexperienced and utterly toothless Welsh XI, although the visitors will be slightly dismayed at the number of promising situations in front of goal which came to nothing.

Comeback for Podolski

“I think we played well, but we should have scored a second a lot earlier,” commented Schweinsteiger, unlucky to see a firm drive from the edge of the box bounce off the top of the goal frame in the second half. “Games like that are always tough, you have to be constantly alert and focused,“ Jansen added.

The introduction of Lukas Podolski as a replacement for Kevin Kuranyi midway through the second period took the Bayern contingent up to four, as Poldi returned to the international stage for the first time since March. The Germans now travel to face the Irish on 13 October knowing that victory would see them through to next summer’s finals with three games to spare.

Injury foils Toni v Ribéry showdown

World Cup runners-up France also stayed well on course for Austria and Switzerland after the biggest game of the night, the Group B showdown with world champions Italy at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium in Milan, ended in a goalless draw. Euro 2000 winners France top the standings with 19 points ahead of Scotland (18) and Italy (17).

Disappointingly from a Munich point of view, the eagerly awaited head-to-head between summer signings Luca Toni and Franck Ribéry never took place, as injury deprived Toni of a place in his country’s squad. However, Ribéry started for the French and performed busily until his substitution shortly before the end.

Turks thwarted by Malta

Hamit Altintop and Turkey’s Euro 2008 prospects were dealt an unexpected blow when the side which finished third at the 2002 World Cup was held 2-2 away from home by minnows Malta. The Turks lie third in Group C on 14 points, four off leaders Greece (no fixture) and two behind Norway, 1-0 victors in Moldova.

Hamit’s twin brother Halil (45) and Servet Cetin (79) each struck equalisers after the buoyant Maltese had twice taken the lead through Said (41) and Schembri (76). Hamit covered the full 90 minutes but was unable to stamp his authority on an occasionally turbulent encounter.

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