Giovanni Trapattoni, the Republic of Ireland coach, was able to look forward to their next World Cup qualifier against his native Italy in confident mood after a late Robbie Keane goal earned his side a 2-1 victory over Cyprus on Saturday.
The away win keeps alive Ireland's hopes of topping Group Eight and Trapattoni said: "With that result, after this evening, we can think about Italy in Dublin. Italy is strong, experienced. I know all the players, I know they are great, but 90 minutes is 90 minutes."
Kevin Doyle had put the Irish ahead in the fifth minute but Marios Elia equalised after half an hour only for Keane's near-post header in the 83rd minute to gain some revenge for their 5-2 defeat in Nicosia three years ago. They next face Italy, who won 2-0 in Georgia on Saturday thanks to two Kakha Kaladze own goals, at Croke Park on 10 October. When asked about the chances of beating the world champions, Trapattoni replied: "I am not presumptuous, but why not? It is possible. Football is like that. Never say never."
Northern Ireland earned a 1-1 draw with Poland in Chorzow but came away disappointed after conceding a Mariusz Lewandowski equaliser with 10 minutes to go. "Everyone to a man was fantastic," said manager Nigel Worthington. "We have got a very good point and the other game [in Group Three] has finished in a draw as well. So I think it makes our point even better."
Kyle Lafferty had given Worthington's side the lead eight minutes before half-time and despite growing Polish pressure it looked as though the visitors would hold out until Lewandowski struck. They next face group leaders Slovakia, who drew 2-2 with the Czech Republic, in Belfast on Wednesday.
Elsewhere, France's hopes of winning Group Seven were hit by being held to a 1-1 draw at home by Romania, Julien Escude's own goal cancelling out Thierry Henry's close-range finish. The French, who started with Franck Ribéry on the bench, travel to face group leaders Serbia on Wednesday trailing them by four points.
Liedson's 87-minute header earned struggling Portugal a 1-1 draw against Denmark, for whom Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner scored just before half-time. European Champions Spain thrashed Belgium 5-0 in La Coruña to maintain their 100 per cent record in Group Five, David Villa and David Silva both scoring twice. Russia kept up the pressure on Group Four leaders Germany by beating Liechtenstein 3-0, Tottenham's Roman Pavlyuchenko scoring twice from the penalty spot.