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World Cup qualifying

Progress and setbacks in mixed bag for FCB men

Nine months before kick-off at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the European qualifying competition has entered a decisive phase. On Saturday, six FCB men pulled on national colours in search of vital points towards a berth at the finals, but by the end of the evening, the overall situation had hardly become clearer. Some Bayern stars moved closer to places in South Africa, but others still have work to do.

Qualifying has become a knife-edge affair for Franck Ribéry and France, who were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Romania in Paris. The French dominated the game, but created far too little by way of genuine chances against stubborn opponents. Thierry Henry opened for the home side three minutes after the restart, but Julien Escude put through his own goal on 56 minutes to level the scores. Ribéry, who had said beforehand he was not yet fit enough for the full 90 minutes, came on shortly after the equaliser.

France are now four points behind Group 7 leaders Serbia. The top two meet in Belgrade on Wednesday, a game the French must win to retain any hope of topping the section. The group winners qualify directly for the World Cup finals, with the eight runners-up meting in play-offs to determine four further contenders.