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Brazil beckons for Robben

Shaq on course, Alaba and Ribéry still in race

The Germans and their Bayern regulars took another big step towards the 2014 World Cup on Tuesday evening, but many other FCB stars also did their hopes of a place in Brazil no harm at all, while one player can already book his seat on the plane.

Alaba gives hope to Austria

The battle for second place in Group C behind Germany remains tough, as Austria’s hopes are very much alive. Against close rivals Ireland, the nation from the Alps came out victorious thanks to a late David Alaba winner (84th minute) to secure a 1-0 victory. The result leaves Austria in third, three points behind Sweden with two games to play, one of them against the Scandinavians.

In front of a crowd of 48,500 spectators in Ernst-Happel Stadium in Vienna, Alaba showed his strength as playmaker against the obdurate Irish. “Ireland put up a great fight, but at the end of the day we were victorious. The dream of the World Cup in Brazil lives on, and we’ll keep doing our best,” Alaba said.

Ribéry keeps France in the race

France fell behind twice against Belarus with Jegor Filipenko (32) and Timofej Kalachew (57) scoring, but Franck Ribéry, a doubtful starter due to a muscle injury, equalised twice (47 (pen), 64). In the closing stages, Samir Nasri (70) and Paul Pogba (73) secured the French a 4-2 victory.

“We’re extremely happy,” Ribéry said after a “long second half.” The 47th minute penalty tucked away by the best player on the pitch, who was substituted after 80 minutes, put an end to his team’s barren run of 526 minutes without scoring. This broke a record dating from 1925, where the French had failed to score for 500 minutes.

In Group I, Les Bleus are now equal on points with leaders Spain, who have a game in hand. If they had lost, France would have faced a showdown on the final matchday for second place, which guarantees a spot in the play-offs, against Finland. The victory leaves them with second place in the bag, and a with an outside chance of winning the group.

Shaqiri on course

Xherdan Shaqiri can start planning his trip to Brazil. Four days after a disappointing 4-4 draw against Iceland, the FCB pro celebrated a deserved 2-0 win over Norway. Leading Group E by five points with only two games to play, the Swiss are in pole position to make it to Brazil.

In Oslo, defender Fabian Schär from FC Basel scored two headers from set-pieces (12, 51). Shaqiri started for the dominant Swiss team, and nearly scored after 82 minutes. He was then substituted in final minute of the game.

Robben secures World Cup spot

Even though he was suspended and remained in Munich, Arjen Robben had plenty to celebrate. A 2-0 win over Andorra saw the Dutch become the first European national team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Louis van Gaal’s men are eight points ahead of Hungary with two to play, so the unbeaten Elftal cannot be knocked off pole position in Group D. Both goals in La Vella were scored by Robin van Persie (50, 54).