Cyprus hold Germany in Euro qualifying

Cyprus held three-time champions Germany to a 1-1 draw on Wednesday in European Championship qualifying, and Eduardo da Silva scored a hat-trick to give Croatia a 4-3 win over Israel.

Michael Ballack gave Germany the lead in the 16th minute at Cyprus, and it appeared that the Germans were on their way to a fourth victory in a row in Group D. But Yiannakis Okkas levelled for the Cypriots, who beat Ireland in a 5-2 victory a month ago.

”It’s a result that satisfies you because of the opponents’ name,” Cyprus coach Angelos Anastasiades said. ”We were an equal team with the Germans as long as we had strength.”

Despite dropping two unexpected points, Germany are tied with the Czech Republic, who drew 1-1 against Denmark in a friendly, for first place. Cyprus are tied for fourth with Ireland, who outplayed San Marino 5-0 in Dublin. Robbie Keane scored three goals for the Irish.

There were seven Euro 2008 qualifying matches and 17 friendlies on Wednesday, including England’s 1-1 draw against The Netherlands; Brazil’s 2-1 victory against Switzerland; World Cup champions Italy’s 1-1 draw against visiting Turkey; France’s 1-0 win over European champions Greece by a goal from Thierry Henry; and hosts Spain’s 1-0 loss to Romania.

Group E is building up to be a close fight with five teams all closely in contention for the two qualification spots.

Croatia moved to the top with a 4-3 victory at Israel, while Russia jumped three places to second by beating host Macedonia 2-0.

Croatia have 10 points, followed by Russia with eight and England, Macedonia and Israel with seven each.

Roberto Colautti scored the first of his two goals for Israel in the eighth minute before a penalty by Darijo Srna and two goals by Da Silva put the Croats in control in Tel Aviv. Yossi Benayoun hit back for Israel in the 68th minute, but Da Silva scored a third in the 72nd and Colautti’s second in the final minute came too late.

Russia’s victory in Macedonia was routine, Vladimir Bystrov and Andrei Arshavin scoring in the first 32 minutes. The match in Skopje was marred by clashes between Russian fans and Macedonian riot police, however.

”It was the best game since I became coach of the national team,” Russia coach Guus Hiddink said. ”We came here with a lot of respect, but without fear. We managed to control the game in the early stage and we successfully isolated their strikers.”

Finland edged Armenia 1-0 to take over first place in Group A. Mika Nurmela scored in the 10th minute in Helsinki.

In the other group games, Simao Sabrosa scored two goals in Portugal’s 3-0 victory over Kazakhstan and Poland beat hosts Belgium 1-0 with Radoslaw Matusiak scoring in the 19th minute.

Poland are a point behind the Finns and level with Serbia, who drew 1-1 with Norway in a friendly, while Portugal have recovered from a poor start and are now tied for fourth.

Wayne Rooney scored for the first time in eight internationals in England’s 1-1 draw at The Netherlands.

The Manchester United striker scored with right heel in the 37th minute at the Amsterdam Arena, but Rafael van der Vaart equalised in the 86th after England failed to clear Arjen Robben’s long throw in.

”His performance was back to Wayne Rooney as we know him,” England coach Steve McClaren said.

Luisao and Kaka scored first-half goals in Brazil’s 2-1 victory over the Swiss in Basel, one of the venues for Euro 2008, which is being co-hosted with Austria.

Italy coach Roberto Donadoni rested six of the World Cup-winning line-up, but his team still went ahead in the 38th in Bergamo when Antonio Di Natale scored.

Two minutes before half-time, Marco Materazzi turned a cross by Ibrahim Uzulmez into his own net for Turkey’s equaliser.

”It’s strange, but every now and then that happens in soccer,” Donadoni said. ”We faced a top-level opponent that made us struggle in certain situations. It was a good test.”

Henry headed in the only goal against Greece to go within two goals of Michel Platini’s French record of 41.

”We did the essentials,” France coach Raymond Domenech said.

”Winning is the most important thing. We were safe and we managed to create chances. That’s the basis of any good team.”

Ciprian Marica scored the only goal as Romania beat Spain in Cadiz.

It was Spain’s fourth loss in seven matches, putting more pressure on coach Luis Aragones, who signed a new two-year contract last month.

Milan Baros scored in injury time for the Czech Republic against the Danes. After Peter Loevenkrands had given Denmark a 28th-minute lead in Prague, Baros levelled with seconds to go.

After netting eight goals for Chelsea so far this season, Didier Drogba maintained his standout form with Côte d’Ivoire’s lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Sweden in Le Mans, France. — Sapa-AP

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