International roundup: Spain downs Italy; Germany squeaks by Chile; Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay held

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All 32 team that qualified for the 2014 World Cup are in action on Wednesday – the last official FIFA international match day before the end of the 2013-14 season. Though cakes in North and Central America will kick off later tonight, here are how the day’s European kickoffs unfolded (teams ordered by FIFA world ranking):

1. Spain – Pedro Rodríguez’s early second half score gave the world champions a 1-0 lead on Italy, an advantage la Roja were able to carry through full-time with relative ease after giving up some early opportunities.

2. Germany – An early goal from Bayern Munich’s Mario Götze hinted at an easy day for Joachim Löw’s team, but held off the scoreboard by Chile for the next 74 minutes, Germany were left to settle for a 1-0 victory over Jorge Sampaoli’s team in Stuttgart.

3. Argentina – A lackluster performance from a full strength Albiceleste saw Romania hold earn a 0-0 draw in Bucharest.

4. Portugal – An early goal from Cristiano Ronaldo saw the Seleccao captain pass Pauleta for first place on his country’s all-time scoring list. Vincent Aboubaker’s goal, however, allowed the visiting Cameroonians to equalize minutes before halftime. Second half goals from Raul Meireles, Fabio Coentrao, Edinho, and a second from Ronaldo left Cameroon routed at full-time, Paulo Bento’s team posting a 5-1 win in Leiria.

5. Colombia – An early goal from James Rodríguez gave the Cafeteros an early lead in Barcelona, but Wahbi Kahzri’s response in the 35th minute provided the equalizer for Tunisia, who held on for a 1-1 draw.

6. Switzerland – A duel between Josip Drmic (goals in the 33rd, 41st minutes) and Ivica Olic (39th, 54th) left the two World Cup qualifiers drawn at the final whistle, with Croatia’s visit to the AFG Arena producing a 2-2 result.

7. Uruguay – Marc Janko’s 14th minute opener put Austria up early, but substitute Álvaro Perreira’s equalizer in the 66th minute salvaged a 1-1 draw for la Celeste.

8. Italy  – See Spain.

9. Brazil – Three goals from Neymar were complemented by scores from Chelsea’s Oscar and Manchester City’s Fernandinho as the Seleçao routed South Africa, 5-0.

(MORE: Neymar hat trick runs international goal total to 30 in Brazil’s 5-0 rout of South Africa)

10. Netherlands – With a disappointing performance in Paris, Louis Van Gaal’s team gave up first half goals to Karim Benzema and Blaise Matuidi en route to a 2-0 loss to France.

11. Belgium – Marouane Fellaini’s return to health produced a 17th minute goal for the Manchester United midfielder, with an early second half score from Radja Nainggolan giving Marc Wilmots’ team to a 2-2 lead over visiting Cote d’Ivoire. Thanks to goals from substitutes Didier Drogba and, in stoppage time, Max Gradel, the Ivorian were able to earn a 2-2 result in Brussels

12. Greece – A much stronger South Korea team than the one that lost in Carson, Calif., last month went up early through Park Chu-Young, with a giving 10 minutes into the second half from Son Heung-Min giving the visitors an impressive 2-0 win.

(MORE: Ukraine 2-0 USA: Disjointed U.S. display sees fired up Ukraine prevail)

Elsewhere: Asian champions Japan got two goals from Shinji Okazaki in a 4-2 win over New Zealand; World Cup-qualifiers Iran were upset at home by Guinea, 2-1; Two first half goals saw Russia trot past Armenia, 2-0; Scores from El Arbi Soudani and Saphir Taider gave Algeria a 2-0 win over Slovenia; Ghana conceded a first minute penalty in a 1-0 loss to Montenegro; Gedo and Mohamed Salah led Egypt to a 2-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina; Daniel Sturridge’s 82nd minute goal give England a 1-0 win over visiting Denmark; Two goals from Tim Cahill couldn’t prevent Australia from giving up a three-goal lead to Ecuador following Mitchell Langerak’s 58th minute red card. With goals from Fidel Martínez, Segundo Castillo, Enner Valencia, and Edison Méndez (90+2′), Ecuador claimed the comeback victory.

Later: Mexico hosts Nigeria in Atlanta; Honduras takes on Venezuela in San Pedro Sula; while Costa Rica welcomes Paraguay to San José.

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

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Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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