Two more European qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup finals were confirmed last night, Switzerland and Slovakia booking their places in South Africa, while Portugal, despite being without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, reached the play-offs with a 4-0 win over Malta.
The man brought into the Portuguese side in place of Ronaldo, his former Manchester United team-mate Nani, answered his many critics by putting Carlos Queiroz's side ahead in the 13th minute in Guimaraes. Simao made it two on the stroke of half-time and further goals from Miguel Veloso and Edinho saw Portugal coast home.
Slovakia will make their first appearances in a major championship next year after winning Group Two with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Poland in Chorzow. The Slovaks were handed the lead in the fourth minute through a Seweryn Gancarczyk own goal and held out to ensure Slovenia, 3-0 winners in San Marino, had to be content with a play-off place.
Switzerland confirmed their place in South Africa with a nervous 0-0 draw against 10-man Israel in Basle. The point for Ottmar Hitzfeld's side was enough to clinch first place in Group Two over Greece, who beat Luxembourg 2-1.
In England's group, Croatia were eliminated despite a 2-1 victory in Kazakhstan with Spurs' Niko Kranjcar heading their late winner. Instead Ukraine finished second after their 6-0 win over Andorra and go into the play-offs, whose draw takes place on Monday.
Spain, the European champions and many people's tip to triumph next year, joined a select group of teams to finish with a perfect World Cup qualifying record, making it 10 wins out of 10 with an impressive 5-2 win in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Seville striker Alvaro Negredo scoring twice on his full debut.
Like England, two of the fancied teams who had already qualified produced undistinguished performances last night. Germany were booed off in Hamburg after requiring an injury-time equaliser from Lukas Podolski to salvage a 1-1 draw with Finland.
Meanwhile, the world champions Italy had to come from 2-0 down against Cyprus to win 3-2 in Parma, Alberto Gilardino, who scored their late equaliser against the Republic of Ireland on Saturday, hitting a hat-trick in the last 12 minutes.
Wales finished a disappointing qualifying campaign on a positive note by beating Liechtenstein 2-0 in Vaduz, David Vaughan and Aaron Ramsey getting their goals. Northern Ireland earned a creditable 0-0 draw with the Czech Republic in Prague which killed off any hopes the Czechs had of a play-off spot.
Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov scored a first-half hat-trick as Bulgaria won 6-2 in Georgia.
Road to South Africa: What happens now?
Qualified Australia, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, England, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, North Korea, Paraguay, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, US.
European play-offs (14 & 18 Nov): Bosnia, France, Greece, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Russia, Slovenia, Ukraine.
American play-off (14 & 18 Nov): Argentina/Uruguay/Ecuador/Venezuela v Costa Rica/Honduras.
Asia/Oceania play-off (14 Nov): New Zealand (0) v Bahrain (0).