Germany and Spain held as rain beats England
Germany squandered a four-goal lead to draw 4-4 with Sweden while world champions Spain conceded in stoppage time to draw 1-1 with France as both teams lost 100 per cent records in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.
Northern Ireland came within 11 minutes of ruining Cristiano Ronaldo’s 100th appearance for Portugal before Helder Postiga equalised to earn a 1-1 draw in Porto, but the Portuguese lost ground on leaders Russia in Group F.
The Russians beat Azerbaijan 1-0 in Moscow to maintain their perfect start under Italian coach Fabio Capello.
The Netherlands also won a fourth successive game, beating Romania 4-1 in Bucharest to end their opponents’ three-match winning run.
However, Poland’s Group H match with England at Warsaw’s National Stadium was called off after the stadium roof was left open despite a downpour which left the pitch waterlogged.
The game will now go ahead on Wednesday at 3pm (local time).
In other notable matches, Bosnia stayed on course for what would be their first international tournament as an independent nation by beating Lithuania 3-0 at home and staying top of Group G along with Greece who beat Slovakia 1-0 in Bratislava.
Belgium and Croatia also moved ahead of the pack in Group A with both teams beating British opposition at home.
Belgium, whose emerging young team have already been tipped by pundits as having the talent to reach the later stages at the tournament in Brazil in 2014, beat Scotland 2-0 in Brussels to all but end the Scots hopes of reaching the finals.
Croatia stayed level on points with Belgium at the top of the standings with a 2-0 win over Wales in Osijek.
The most dramatic game on a night when most teams were playing their fourth qualifier, came in Berlin where Germany, 3-0 up at halftime, were coasting in their Group C match against the Swedes.
After powering into a 4-0 lead with a Miroslav Klose double and goals by Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil, Germany seemed certain of making it four wins from four to move six points clear of the pack before they collapsed.
Sweden struck back with two quick goals midway through the second half from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mikael Lustig before Johan Elmander made it 4-3 after 76 minutes.
The Swedes then went all out for an equaliser and it arrived in the fourth minute of stoppage time when Rasmus Elm scored.
The only consolation for Klose was that he took his international tally to 67 goals, one behind Gerd Mueller’s long-established record for his country.
“I feel a lot of pride for what the players have done here,” Sweden coach Erik Hamren told the Kanal 5 television channel.
“Did we believe we could get a result at 3-0 down at halftime? No, no, there was no one who thought that.”
Germany were dejected at the end of a game watched by a sell-out crowd of 72,369 on a damp and chilly evening.
“If you lead 4-0 and it ends 4-4 then something has definitely gone wrong,” said captain Phillip Lahm.
“After Sweden’s first two goals everything collapsed. That should not happen to a top team.
Spain also conceded a late goal just as they looked to have done enough to seal a 25th straight victory in European and World Cup qualifiers.
Sergio Ramos put Spain ahead after 25 minutes and they would have doubled their lead if Cesc Fabregas’s penalty had not been saved by Hugo Lloris.
France, though, stayed level on points with Spain at the top of the Group I standings after Olivier Giroud, who had only been on for six minutes, headed a last-gasp equaliser.
Unlike Spain, the Netherlands did make it four wins out of four and ended Romania’s perfect start after three goals in the first half set up a 4-1 win to give them control of Group D.
Jeremain Lens put the Dutch ahead after eight minutes with Bruno Martens scoring in the 28th and Rafael van der Vaart netting a penalty to make it 3-1 just before the break.
Ciprian Marica had scored for Romania after 39 minutes but Robin van Persie wrapped the game up five minutes from time.
A Polish FA spokeswoman was left to explain the debacle that prevented any action in Warsaw, saying neither of the team representatives nor the FIFA delegate wanted to make the decision to close the roof - something England officials denied.
“None of the sides wanted such a solution,” said Agnieszka Olejkowska. “We knew there would be heavy rain but we could not 100 per cent predict the downpour.”
Another explanation from the Polish side was that the roof could not be closed while it was raining or if it was too windy or the temperature fell below zero.
England FA official Adrian Bevington was quoted by the BBC as saying England asked for the roof to be shut when it seemed the game was in danger of not going ahead.