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Saturday 08 June 2013

Premier League stars shine on World Cup trail

Numerous players from English top-flight involved in Friday night qualifiers including 10 Belgians

  • Marouane Fellaini, of Everton, heads in the decisive goal for Belgium against Serbia

  • Fulham's Bryan Ruiz in action during Costa Rica's World Cup qualfying win over Honduras

  • Norwich City midfielder Robert Snodgrass found the winner for Scotland against Croatia

  • Sergio Aguero of Manchester City helps Argentina share a goalless draw with Colombia

A number of Premier League players were on international duty on Friday night as a series of FIFA World Cup qualifiers took place around the world.

Europe

Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov was on target for Serbia but neither he nor Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic could prevent their side losing 2-1 to a Belgium side featuring seven players from the Barclays Premier League in their line-up.

Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne started alongside Man City captain Vincent Kompany, Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen, Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke and Everton pair Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas, while Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, both of Chelsea, and Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele all came off the bench. Goals in either half by De Bruyne and Fellaini settled the match in favour of the 'Diables Rouges', who are now three points clear at the Group A summit after Croatia suffered a surprise home defeat by Scotland.

Norwich City midfielder Robert Snodgrass proved Scotland’s match-winner as his solitary goal earned Gordan Strachan’s team a shock victory in Zagreb. Snodgrass’s club-mates Russell Martin and Steven Whittaker also started the encounter with West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison and Aston Villa’s Barry Bannan involved in a victory that lifted the visitors off the foot of the group.

Dzeko strike

Man City striker Edin Dzeko scored the final goal as Bosnia-Herzegovina moved top of Group E with a 5-0 victory over Latvia in which Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic kept a clean sheet. Greece, who were captained by Fulham midfielder Georgios Karagounis, stayed in touch with a 1-0 defeat of Lithuania and remain three points behind in second place.

Chelsea’s goalkeeper Petr Cech was also unbeaten as a Czech Republic side including Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky shared a goalless draw with Italy, who remain four points clear at the top of Group B.

It was a bad night for the Swedish trio of West Brom's Jonas Olsson, Fulham’s Alexander Kacaniklic and Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson, who all started in a 2-1 defeat by Austria in Vienna. Austria, for whom Aston Villa forward Andreas Weimann came on at half-time, moved second in Group C, level on points with the Republic of Ireland, who overcame the Faroe Islands 3-0, with Sweden back in fourth place. Stoke trio Jonathan Walters, Glen Whelan and Marc Wilson all started for Giovanni Trapattoni’s team with Everton full-back Seamus Coleman, Sunderland captain John O’Shea and Norwich’s Wes Hoolahan also in the first XI.

Fulham defender Brede Hangeland helped Norway earn a 1-1 draw with Albania, while Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc started for Poland who shared the same scoreline with Moldova.

North, Central America and Caribbean

Costa Rica and the United States moved to the top of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying alongside Mexico after respective victories on Friday.

Fulham playmaker Bryan Ruiz played 69 minutes of Costa Rica’s 1-0 success over Honduras, while Tottenham forward Clint Dempsey and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard started for the United States in their 2-1 victory over Jamaica. Stoke’s Geoff Cameron made a substitute’s appearance in a triumph that came courtesy of a last-minute winner.

Mexico are level on 11 points after a goalless draw with Panama in which Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez was unable to break the deadlock.

South America

Man City duo Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta turned out for Argentina, whose 0-0 draw with Colombia kept the Albiceleste five points clear of their second-placed opponents at the top of their qualifying group. Ecuador are level in third place with 20 points but they missed the chance to move second after a side featuring Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia lost 1-0 to Peru.

Africa

In African qualifying West Brom midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu captained DR Congo to a 0-0 draw against Libya which keeps his side a point behind the North African outfit and Cameroon in their Group I qualifier.

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Key Points

  • Numerous Premier League players in FIFA World Cup qualifying action on Friday
  • Marouane Fellaini, Robert Snodgrass and Edin Dzeko among the goalscorers
  • Chelsea goalkeepers Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois both keep clean sheets