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Qualifying round-up

Jubilant Altintop books ticket to Euro 2008

After becoming the first nation to seal a qualifying berth at next summer’s Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, Germany’s final eliminator was a massive letdown as coach Joachim Löw’s men played out a dour goalless draw with a weakened Wales side in Frankfurt on Wednesday. The Germans finished second in their group behind the Czech Republic, 2-0 winners in Cyprus.

The 49,262 crowd saw Germany take the field with Bayern stars Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, but Löw’s men struggled to penetrate the inexperienced five-man Welsh rearguard and were unable to create adequate space or time on the ball.

Half-hearted tackling

Lahm made a number of his trademark thrusts down the left-hand side, but Podolski was unable to reproduce the scintillating left midfield display which won so many plaudits against the Cypriots four days earlier. Klose, again captaining his country, found chances hard to come by and only once came close to scoring, a 64th minute header just past the post.

“You can understand the fans’ reaction to a goalless draw at home to Wales,” a downcast Lahm commented. “We were very poor in the first half, we never got going and we shirked our tackles. You’ll never do well if that happens, even against the Welsh.“

Altintop shines

Hamit Altintop will return to Munich with emotions at the opposite end of the scale after Turkey defeated Bosnia Herzegovina by the only goal of the game in Istanbul, surviving the challenge of a do-or-die Group C fixture and successfully defending second place behind reigning continental champions Greece. Nihat Kahveci scored the vital winner on 43 minutes as Altintop turned in a dynamic and productive display, only being denied a place on the scoresheet by the width of a post from a second-half free-kick.

Group B rivals Franck Ribéry and Luca Toni entered the final round of qualifiers in relaxed mood, as both France and Italy booked their tickets to the Euro at the weekend. World champions Italy duly wrapped up the group win with a 3-1 success over the Faeroes.

Toni on target

Following a Fródi Benjaminsen own goal (11), Toni (36) and Giorgio Chiellini (41) handed the Italians a comfortable 3-0 half-time lead. The Azzurri eased back after the break and Rógvi Jacobsen claimed a consolation for the Nordic side seven minutes from time. Toni, the leading scorer in the Bundesliga this term, was substituted with a quarter of an hour to play.

Elsewhere, World Cup runners-up France and Franck Ribéry were held 2-2 in Ukraine. Former Leverkusen and Cologne striker Andrej Voronin opened on 14 minutes, but Thierry Henry (20) and Sidney Govou (34) put the visitors in front, only for Chelsea hitman Andriy Shevchenko (46) to haul his side level a minute after the interval. Ribéry played through until the 89th minute for the French, who finish the group second behind the Italians.

Consolation victory for Belgium

After a torrid qualifying campaign, Daniel van Buyten and Belgium garnered a little consolation in their final Group A fixture with a 1-0 success away to Azerbaijan to finish fifth in the section with five wins from 14 matches. Luigi Pieroni struck the only goal after 53 minutes as van Buyten completed the game for the Red Devils.

Over in South America, five-times World Cup winners Brazil took another step towards a place at the 2010 finals with a nervy 2-1 home win over Uruguay. The Brazilians and captain Lucio thus closed to within a point of Argentina, defeated 2-1 by Colombia the previous evening, although the Bayern centre-half was suspended for Wednesday’s match in front of a 65,000 sell-out crowd at the Morumbi stadium in São Paulo. The visitors were the livelier of the teams and took a deserved 8th minute lead through Sebastian Abreu, but Brazil centre-forward Luis Fabiano struck on 45 and 65 minutes to earn a somewhat fortunate victory.