Another round of 2014 World Cup qualifiers produced plenty of thrills to go around, with two dramatic draws headlining this matchday’s results as perfect comebacks conspired to ruin Spain and Germany’s perfect records. THT recaps Tuesday’s night’s action in Madrid and Berlin.
Spain 1-1 France
France ended Spain’s 24-match winning streak with a last-gasp equalizer in their Group I qualifier at the Vincente Calderón on Tuesday. It was the first time since 2007 that the reigning European and World Champions failed to win a qualifying match.
Injury haunted Vicente del Bosque’s side, as midfielder David Silva was forced to leave the pitch after just 10 minutes, before being joined in the second half by Real Madrid’s Álvaro Arbeloa. Second-choice goalkeeper Pepe Reina also picked up a knock while warming up.
Nevertheless, Spain went into the halftime break with a 1-0 lead thanks to Sergio Ramos. They had a chance to double that lead at 41 minutes, but Hugo Lloris saved a weak penalty from Cesc Fabregas to keep the difference at just one goal.
The momentum turned for the visitors in the second half, and Spain looked increasingly unsettled but managed to hold off France’s attack for 48 minutes more. The Vincente Calderón was ringing with Spanish supporters calling for the final whistle when Juanfran Torres gave away the ball in midfield to release Franck Ribéry, whose cross found Olivier Giroud’s head for an equalizer in the dying seconds of injury time.
The 1-1 draw left Spain rueful, and none more so than the Atlético Madrid player. “If I had just kicked the ball off the field there, the game would have ended there,” said Torres after the final whistle.
“The injuries were an immediate misfortune because it prevented us from managing the changes,” Del Bosque said. “It would appear [the return game against France in March] already will be important, but we can’t take anything for granted with the other teams in the group as they will all aspire to be first.”
Didier Deschamps felt that his side deserved at least a point from their performance. “I have always believed in the quality of my side and our ability to achieve the objective of getting to the finals in Brazil,” said the French manager. “We are a young team. We haven’t done everything well, but we have character and a lot of margin to improve.”
Spain and France are now tied at the top of Group I with seven points each after three games, with Spain holding the superior goal difference.
Germany 4-4 Sweden
Spectators at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin witnessed a historic event on Tuesday. For the first time in the DFB’s history, the national team wasted a four-goal lead yesterday as Germany drew 4-4 against Sweden in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
Germany were looking for a fourth straight win to bolster their qualifying campaign, and for the first hour everything was going the hosts’ way. Miroslav Klose scored two goals within the first 15 minutes, before Per Mertesacker knocked in a third just before the break. Mesut Özil extended that lead to 4-0 after play resumed, and Sweden looked dead and buried with 30 minutes left on the clock.
Erik Hamren’s men were not ready to give up just yet, however. Captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic spurred his teammates on as he pulled one back at 62 minutes. Mikael Lustig quickly made it two, before Johan Elmander added another for 4-3. Rasmus Elms snatched the equalizer at the death, three minutes into stoppage time, to complete a dramatic comeback for the Swedes.
“To come to Germany and get a point against one of the best teams in the world is incredible,” said Hamren after the match. “It is something historical, I am very proud of my team and the way they reacted.”
Germany’s manager Joachim Löw was fuming on the sidelines in the final minutes, visibly frustrated by his team’s late collapse. “Shortly after the game, I can find no explanation as to how we let a 4-0 lead slip out of our hands,” Löw said. “It’s deathly quiet in the changing room. Players are laid out on the benches and are totally speechless.”
Germany remain atop Group C with 10 points. But Sweden now move into second place with seven points, and a game in hand.
World Cup Qualifying Results: Italy 3-1 Denmark, Portugal 1-1 Northern Ireland, Netherlands 4-1 Romania, Belgium 2-0 Scotland, Greece 1-0 Slovakia, Bulgaria 0-0 Czech Republic, Hungary 3-1 Turkey, Montenegro 1-0 Ukraine.