Wednesday, September 9, 2009

England beats Croatia 5-1 and qualify to WC 2010

England qualified for next summer's FIFA World Cup finals after an empthatic 5-1 win against Croatia with both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard scoring twice.

The win maintained England's100 per cent record in Group 6 and went some way to vanquishing the memories of their painful defeat by the same opposition almost two years ago – a result which ended their hopes of competing at UEFA EURO 2008™. Lampard and Gerrard both struck either side of half-time and although Eduardo pulled one back, Wayne Rooney added a fifth with 12 minutes remaining.

The conditions contrasted markedly to those during Croatia's famous 3-2 win at Wembley in 2007 – a balmy late summer's evening as opposed to that sodden November night. Then, it was Croatia who took a two-goal lead, but England were quickest out of the blocks this time. Gerrard had already had a penalty claim turned down before Aaron Lennon burst off his flank and induced Josip Šimunić into an ungainly challenge. Lampard sent his seventh-minute spot-kick low and hard to the goalkeeper's right.

An unsighted Vedran Runje then did well to deny Barry, but England were two goals to the good by the 18th minute. The ball was swept out to Lennon who floated in a far-post cross which Gerrard, arriving late, nodded into the far corner. Lennon and Lampard both went close before Emile Heskey spurned two excellent opportunities just before the break.

Croatia enjoyed their best spell immediately after the restart, but any hope was soon extinguished by Lampard, who headed in Johnson's cut-back. Gerrard then powered in Wayne Rooney's cross before Eduardo side-footed in following a sprawling double save from Robert Green. Rooney then finished the scoring as England qualified for a World Cup with two games to spare for the first time. Croatia, meanwhile, are left to battle it out with Ukraine for the section's play-off place.

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