With the 2014 World Cup just a year away, the qualifying matches have taken even greater importance as teams head towards the finish line.
Here we take a look at how the European sides of Group C got on this past week:
Republic of Ireland 3-0 Faroe Islands
The Republic of Ireland secured a routine win over the Faroe Islands, keeping themselves in contention for a spot at the World Cup finals in Brazil next summer. The man of the match was definitely hat-trick hero Robbie Keane, putting in a classy performance on the evening he surpassed Shay Given as the most capped player in the history of the national team of the Republic of Ireland with 126 appearances.
Austria 2-1 Sweden
Austria went into the match needing a win if they wanted to keep up with Sweden and Ireland. After a few solid chances on both ends, Andreas Isaksson brought down Martin Harnik in the area before Alaba converted the penalty. Marko Arnautovic doubled the lead with a header 32 minutes in. The goal was set up by Harnik. Then after a few more goal attempts, Sweden managed to pull one back nine minutes from time. Elmander was the scorer, taking the match into a nervy finish. However, Austria managed to hold on, securing a vital win over their Group C rivals.
Sweden 2-0 Faroe Islands
Having lost to Austria four days earlier, Sweden needed a win to get on par with the Republic of Ireland and Marcel Koller’s men. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the hero for the Swedes, scoring twice to keep his team’s hopes alive. The first goal was scored after a counter-attack in the 32nd minute. The second came shortly after Sweden were reduced to ten men, following Andreas Granqvist’s sending-off. Ibrahimovic was fouled in the box after which he converted the penalty, putting the match beyond doubt.
It would be a miracle for Germany not to finish top of the group, leaving Austria, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland to fight it out for the remaining spot. With so little separating these three teams, every point is vital. It wouldn’t be a surprise if it went down to goal difference, either.
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