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UEFA World Cup Qualifying: Home favorites including England, Germany dominate

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It was a good day to be on home soil as home teams won eight of the nine UEFA World Cup qualifiers on Monday afternoon. Most teams were expected to win handily, and that they did, with two four-goal margins of victory, two three-goal margins, and one six-goal margin.

England 2-1 Slovakia

Marcus Rashford shook off a poor start to score a fabulous winning goal, bursting into the attacking third and finishing expertly into the top corner as England moved five points clear at the top of Group F with a big 2-1 victory over 2nd place Slovakia.

The home side went down in just the third minute, as Rashford inadvisably tried to dribble out of his own half, instead dispossessed, and a wonderful ball over the top saw Stanislav Lobotka score around a poor Joe Hart. England fought back, however, as they would level things up before halftime with Eric Dier heading in a corner from a tight angle. Then Rashford’s goal on the hour mark signaled the winning touch.

[ MORE: US prepares for must-win in Honduras ]

Germany 6-0 Norway

The defending World Cup champions rolled from start to finish as they trounced Norway to move closer to mathematical qualification. Timo Werner scored twice and goals from Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler, Leon Goretzka, and Mario Gomez rounded out the match.

The win keeps Germany five points clear of Northern Ireland, with everyone else in the group eliminated.

Northern Ireland 2-0 Czech Republic

Northern Ireland kept its automatic qualification hopes alive with a smooth 2-0 win over the Czech Republic. Jonny Evans scored a diving header from a tight angle to start things off, and Chris Brunt dispatched a bouncing free-kick just before halftime. The win is the fifth in a row for Northern Ireland in UEFA qualification.

Poland 3-0 Kazakhstan

A trio of strikes from Arkadiusz Milik, Kamil Glik, and Robert Lewandowski saw Poland ease by Group E minnows Kazakhstan. Milik hit a diving header similar to Evans’ 11 minutes in, and as Poland pummeled David Loria’s net all game, they would eventually grab a second in the 74th minute with Glik delivering a powerful header off a corner. Lewandowski finished things off from the spot with four minutes remaining.

Poland’s position is still in question as they sit just three points above both Montenegro and Denmark in Group E.

Scotland 2-0 Malta

Christophe Berra and Leigh Griffiths gave Scotland a comprehensive win over point-less Malta. The win keeps Scotland alive in crowded Group F, even on points with Slovenia at 14 and a point back of 2nd place Slovakia.

Armenia 1-4 Denmark

Denmark got a quick scare as lowly Armenia scored just six minutes in, but they righted the ship not long later and cruised to a 4-1 victory. After Ruslan Koryan’s opener, Thomas Delaney scored not 10 minutes later with his head to level things back up, with the assist coming from a deep Henrik Dalsgaard cross. Christian Eriksen provided the eventual winner in the 29th minute via a free-kick, but the day was Delaney’s. He scored his second on an impressive left-footed drive from outside the box, and picked up his hat-trick in stoppage time heading in off a corner.

Just Friday, Delaney had picked up his first goal for Denmark in his 18th cap, and the hat-trick makes this a memorable international break for the Werder Bremen midfielder.

Montenegro 1-0 Romania

Stevan Jovetic grabbed the game’s only goal in the 75th minute as Montenegro picked up all three points to keep pace with Denmark. The former Manchester City man headed in a cross from Lazio winger Adam Marusic to secure the vital win. The game featured plenty of wastefulness from both sides, with the teams combining for 27 shots, but just five of them on target.

Slovenia 4-0 Lithuania

Slovenia kept in stride with Slovakia as they downed eliminated Lithuania on a pair from Atalanta attacker Josip Ilicic, plus late goals from Benjamin Verbic and Valter Birsa. The brace doubled Ilicic’s international goal tally in his 45th cap, and keeps Slovenia even with Scotland on points and just one back of Slovakia, with all three countries trailing England in Group F.

Azerbaijan 5-1 San Marino

Azerbaijan may be eliminated, but they showed strength as they brushed aside Group C minnows San Marino. Afran Ismayilov hit twice while Araz Abdullayev and Rasad Sadiqov each added to the goal tally which was rounded off by an own-goal.

Group F gets messy as Slovakia and Scotland grab wins

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England is in control at the top of Group F, but below them things are beginning to get complicated.

Despite the absence of Marek Hamsik due to a last-minute injury, Slovakia defeated Malta 3-1. They took the lead just 97 seconds in as Vladimir Weiss put the visitors in front with a beautiful curling strike from outside the box. Malta struck back through domestic striker Jean Paul Farrugia in the 14th minute, but that was all Malta could muster.

Slovakia would go ahead just before halftime as FC Copenhagen midfielder Jan Gregus put them in front in the 41st minute. The speculative shot from Gregus came from a great distance out, and as it skipped across the ground, it appeared Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg saw it late, as his dive was poor and it skipped off his hands and in.

Both teams ended with 10 men on the field, as Farrugia was sent off with 16 minutes to go for a second yellow, and Adam Nemec saw the same fate in injury time, but before he was sent off, Nemec was there to kill the game off in the 84th minute.

That put Slovakia up to nine points, and it moved them into second place thanks to late drama in Glasgow. Chris Martin gave Scotland all three points with an 88th minute strike as the home side won 1-0 over Slovenia, who dropped from second to third with the loss. The Fulham striker got a beautiful feed through the back line from Stuart Armstrong, and while his shot wasn’t terribly accurate, it was enough to win the game as Slovenia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik gave it a poor effort.

The win for Scotland pulls them above Lithuania and into fourth, a point back of Slovenia in third.

Ceferin named new UEFA president

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Aleksander Ceferin has been named the new president of UEFA.

Ceferin, 48, was named as Michel Platini’s predecessor in Athens on Wednesday as the President of the Slovenian FA has promised to clean up the act of European soccer’s governing body.

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Winning by a margin of 42-13 against the head of the Dutch FA Michael van Praag, Ceferin has a background as a lawyer

Speaking after his election at the UEFA congress, Ceferin was aware of how big of a job he has on his hands.

“It is a great honor, but also a great responsibility,” Ceferin said. “It means a lot to me. My small and beautiful Slovenia is very proud of it, and I hope that one day you will also be proud of me.”

Ceferin will be in office until 2019 as he succeeds Platini, the former head of UEFA who has been banned from all soccer activity for four years after FIFA’s ethics committee found him guilty of accepting a $1.9 million payment in 2011 from former FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Platini has pleaded his innocence but his case is still under review by the Swiss authorities.

Speaking before the election, Ceferin was particularly upset about UEFA’s new rules for the Champions League which will see four teams from each of the to four ranked nations guaranteed places in the group stage in the next cycle of the tournament.

He has previously stated his main aims will be to kick out match-fixing in European soccer and to help develop the smaller to medium sized nations in UEFA.

EURO 2016 qualifying: Sweden, Ukraine book tickets to the final

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The field for EURO 2016 is officially set, as Sweden and Ukraine became the final two teams to book a trip to France next summer. The groups will be drawn in December, with the tournament being held over a month from June 10-July 10.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO coverage ]

Denmark 2-2 Sweden
(Sweden advances 4-3 on aggregate)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic had never scored against Denmark before these play-offs, but that all changed pretty quickly. After scoring a penalty kick in the first leg, Zlatan scored both goals today to lead Sweden into EURO 2016. His first goal came in the 19th minute, running onto a corner kick from Kim Kallstrom to give Sweden a 3-1 aggregate lead. His second came in the 76th minute, bending a brilliant free kick over the wall and into the top corner, sealing a spot in the final. Denmark rallied late, with Yussuf Poulsen and Janik Vestergaard scoring in the final ten minutes to try and force extra-time, but they could not overcome the deficit as Sweden advances 4-3 on aggregate.

Slovenia 1-1 Ukraine (Ukraine advances 3-1 on aggregate)

Slovenia needed two goals and got off to a quick start, grabbing a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute. Former West Bromwich defender Bostjan Cesar was able to flick one home after a scramble in the box, giving life to his Slovenian side. However, Ukraine caught Slovenia on the counter as Andriy Yarmolenko sealed the deal with a goal deep into stoppage time, advancing to EURO 2016, 3-1 on aggregate.

EURO 2016 qualifying: Sweden, Ukraine earn home wins

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In the first match of their EURO qualifying playoffs, both Sweden and Ukraine earned big home victories to take control heading into the second leg, which will be held on Tuesday, November 17.

Sweden 2-1 Denmark

In a battle between Scandinavian rivals, Sweden held on through heavy pressure to earn a 2-1 win over Denmark.

The Swedes took a lead just before halftime, as Mikael Lustig took a clever back-heel down the right wing. Lustig’s cross found Emil Forsberg, who buried his shot into the side netting. Zlatan nearly doubled the lead in stoppage time with a shot headed for the top corner, but Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel made a brilliant save to keep it a one-goal game. Zlatan would get some revenge just five minutes into the second half, finishing off a penalty kick to put Sweden ahead 2-0.

However, Denmark scored an all-important away goal in the 80th minute through Nicolai Jorgensen, which could prove massive in the second leg.

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Ukraine 2-0 Slovenia

Ukraine extended their unbeaten streak in Lviv to 14 games, keeping a clean sheet against Slovenia in a 2-0 win. It was a dominant performance by the Ukrainians, as Slovenia didn’t manage a single attempt on target. Andriy Yarmolenko continued his stellar season for both club and country, opening the scoring in the 23rd minute. Yevhen Seleznyov would double the lead ten minutes into the second half, as Ukraine holds a big advantage heading into the second leg.