World Cup round-up: Minute of madness leaves Northern Ireland reeling

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The Independent Online

Northern Ireland were left stunned after two goals from Slovenia in the space of a minute stole three points at Windsor Park. Their seconddefeat in three World Cup qualifying games in Group Three leaves them second from bottom with one point, ahead only of San Marina.

Milivoje Novakovic made the breakthrough in the 84th minute and then the substitute Zlatan Ljubijankic added a second after theNorthern Ireland defence broke down. Until the Slovenian breakthrough Nigel Worthington's side had played with passion and discipline, though by the end of the match the referee had got his card out on nine occasions.

Croatia's poor start to World Cup qualifying continued as they were held to a 0-0 draw against Ukraine in Kharkiv yesterday. The result leaves Croatia five points behind the Group Six leaders England after three games. Croatia have four points, while Ukraine are second with seven.

Ukraine dominated possession in the first half, and Milan forward Andriy Shevchenko was denied on a number of occasions by the Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa. Shevchenko also blasted a free kick wide from 20 meters just before halftime, after Oleksandr Aliyev was brought down by Niko Kovac. Croatia improved in the second half, and Ivica Olic hit the crossbar with a 50th-minute header from a corner. Luka Modric had a chance for a winner in the 81st, but was foiled by Andriy Pyatov's fingertip save. Croatia host Andorra on Wednesday. Ukraine, which earlier beatBelarus and Kazakhstan, no not have another game until it they travel to England in April.

Holland went to the top of Scotland's group (nine) following a 2-0 victory over Iceland in Rotterdam with goals – both set up by Rafael van der Vaart – from Joris Mathijsen and Klaas Huntelaar.

Germany beat Russia 2-1 in Dortmund thanks to first-half goals from Lukas Podolski and captain Michael Ballack. Andrei Arshavin scored with a tap in in the 51st minute but Germany held on go top of the group above Wales.

France recovered from 2-0 down in Romania to salvage a 2-2 draw in Group Seven with goals from Franck Ribéry and Yoann Gourcuff. Florentin Petre and Dorin Goian put Romania ahead after just 17 minutes as France's weak defence was again exposed. The draw may not be enough to save the France coach Raymond Domenech's job. The French football federation is expected to decide whether he stays on over the next few days

In Group Eight Italy were held to a goalless draw by Bulgaria in Sofia but remain top of the table on seven points. The Republic of Ireland can match that on Wednesday if they beat Cyprus.

Spain's domination of Group Five continued as they beat Estonia 3-0. The European Champions continued their superb form with a goals from Juanito, David Villa and Carles Puyol.

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