Italy reversed an early one-goal deficit against the Czech Republic on Tuesday to book its ticket to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. Meanwhile, Robin van Persie scored twice for the Netherlands in an easy win over Andorra that did the same.
Libor Kozák scored in the 19th minute for the Czechs in Turin, but Giorgio Chiellini and Mario Balotelli scored in quick succession early in the second half for Italy. In Andorra, Manchester United striker Robin van Persie also scored twice early in the second half.
Italy won Group B with 20 points, seven more than Bulgaria has in second place, with two matches remaining. The Netherlands got a little help from Turkey, which defeated Romania, ensuring that the Dutch can no longer be caught at the top of Group D.
Italy and the Netherlands are the first two European nations to book their safe passage to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. Seven more teams will qualify automatically by winning their groups, while four more will advance via playoffs.
Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.
The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).
Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.
Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.
On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).
Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.
The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.
“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.
“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”
Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.