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On course for South Africa

Ribéry, Van Bommel and German trio march on

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A number of Bayern stars took a decisive step towards next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa with important victories in Wednesday evening’s round of qualifiers, although there were setbacks to report as well.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and Lukas Podolski continued their steady progress with Germany, Mark van Bommel and the Dutch are all but home and dry, and France superstar Franck Ribéry turned match-winner for the second time in five days. The situation looks less rosy for Daniel Van Buyten and Belgium, while Martin Demichelis and Argentina tumbled to a heavy defeat.

The Germans cemented their position at the head of European Group 4 with a workmanlike 2-0 victory away to Wales. Michael Ballack fired a 30-yard opener after 11 minutes, before Ashley Williams put through his own goal on 48 minutes to send the 26,000 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff home disappointed. Lahm covered the full 90 minutes, Podolski was substituted after 72 minutes, and Schweinsteiger left the field with a minor injury four minutes from time.

Van Bommel almost there

“It was an important win today,” Podolski commented, “it was hard work, but we’ve ended up winning with something to spare.” Coach Joachim Löw was equally satisfied: “We started well, but the game lost momentum after we went 2-0 up. The players knew they were in control and chose to let the pace drop. We’re in good shape in terms of qualifying.” With six out of ten matches played, the Germans continue to lead Russia by four points.