Italy survived a perilous journey to the Balkans to claim a valuable point from Croatia in last night's European Championship qualifier in Split. Despite having their goalkeeper sent off after only nine minutes, the Italians secured a brave 1-1 draw which should ensure that both sides qualify for next summer's finals in England.
It was a bad weekend for Italian goalkeepers. Angelo Peruzzi was injured in training on Saturday, so Luca Bucci was called up to play last night. His red card - for handling outside the area - meant Francesco Toldo came off the bench as a substitute for the forward, Gianfranco Zola.
Toldo gave away a penalty in the 47th minute for bringing down Alen Boksic. Davor Suker converted from the spot to cancel out Demetrio Albertini's 29th-minute goal for the Italians, who trail Croatia by three points in Group Four - a deficit which could be wiped out if Italy win their game in hand at home to Ukraine next month.
Germany could afford a missed penalty by Jurgen Klinsmann as they outclassed Moldova in Leverkusen last night. A 6-1 victory for Berti Vogts' side took them to within three points of the leaders, Bulgaria, who beat Albania 3-0 on Saturday, in Group Seven.
Andy Moller and Matthias Sammer each scored twice for the home side. A soft own goal from Moldova's captain, Sergei Stroenko, set the Germans on their way before Thomas Helmer and Sammer added further goals before the interval. Moller added his brace after the break, while Sammer's second was followed by Radu Rebeja's consolation for Moldova.
In Sofia on Saturday, Yordan Lechkov struck an early goal, but the Bulgarians were obliged to wait until the last 10 minutes, when Emil Kostadinov scored twice, for further success.
While Germany and Bulgaria are virtually sure to be at the finals next year, the same cannot be said for the Netherlands. The Czech Republic's 2-0 win over Belarus in Minsk makes them the clear favourites to join Norway as the top two finishers in Group Five.
The Czechs are two points behind the Norwegians and four ahead of the Dutch - who are likely to narrow the gap to one point when they play their game in hand in Malta on Wednesday. However, the Netherlands' final match next month is at home to Norway, while the Czechs entertain Luxembourg.
If the Dutch do miss out, their 1-0 defeat in Belarus in June will have played a big part in their downfall. The Czechs avoided a similar fate by scoring in each half, through Martin Frydek and Patrik Berger.
Belgium managed a 2-0 win over Armenia in Yerevan but are unlikely to qualify from Group Two. Luc Nilis scored both goals.Reuse content