Italy held to tie in Euro 2008 qualifying
By ROBERT MILLWARD, AP Soccer Writer
September 2, 2006
World Cup champion Italy was held to a 1-1 tie by Lithuania on Saturday during qualifying for the 2008 European Championship while Germany, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands struggled to beat underdog opponents.
The World Cup trophy was paraded around the field in Naples before Italy's first official game since winning the title.
Lithuania captain Tomas Danilevicius gave his team the lead in the 21st minute. The hosts, who won the World Cup less than two months ago, needed Filippo Inzaghi's 30th-minute goal to salvage a point in Group B.
A deflected shot from Lukas Podolski enabled Germany to edge Ireland 1-0 in Stuttgart. The Czech Republic needed a last-minute winner for a 2-1 victory over Wales, and a goal by Joris Mathijsen helped the Netherlands down Luxembourg 1-0.
Italy's surprising tie means it's in fourth place in behind Scotland, Georgia and France, who all have three points.
There were no scares for World Cup runner-up France, England or Spain while defending champion Greece began with a 1-0 victory at Moldova.
The French cruised to a 3-0 victory at Georgia while England outplayed Andorra 5-0, with Peter Crouch taking his scoring record to 10 goals in his last nine games. Spain brushed aside Liechtenstein 4-0 behind David Villa's two goals.
The games were among 19 qualifiers for Euro 2008, which takes place in Austria and Switzerland in two years. Two teams advance from each of the eight groups.
England's comfortable victory was another positive step for coach Steve McClaren, who took over from Sven-Goran Eriksson after the country's disappointing World Cup performance. England beat Greece 4-0 in an exhibition game last month and now has nine goals in two shutouts.
"You play Andorra and you do what you have to do, and the players did that," McClaren said.
France coach Raymond Domenech feared the World Cup runners-up might falter in Tblisi against Georgia. But after Florent Malouda and Louis Saha had put his team ahead 1-0 in the first 16 minutes, Domenech had no need to worry. An own-goal by Malkhaz Asatiani in the 46th completed the victory.
"We did not take this match lightly," Domenech said. "The fact we played well in the first half shows how much we respected the team in front of us."
Also in Group B, Kris Boyd scored two goals to help Scotland to a 5-0 lead by the 38th minute on the way to a 6-0 victory over the Faeroe Islands.
Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given was unlucky when Podolski's shot following a free kick took a wild deflection off Robbie Keane and flew inside the opposite post for the only goal.
The Czech Republic was struggling against Wales in Teplice until substitute David Lafata came on with 15 minutes to go and scored within a minute. Wales tied it with an own-goal by Martin Jiranek in the 85th, but Lafata struck again with a minute to go.
Serbia beat Azerbaijan 1-0 in its first official game as a nation since its political split from Montenegro. The game was played without spectators at Red Star stadium in Belgrade because of a one-game UEFA ban for fan riots during Serbia's World Cup qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina last year.
In other results, it was: Finland 3, Poland 1; Norway 4, Hungary 1; Bosnia-Herzegovina 5, Malta 2; Slovakia 6, Cyprus 1; Israel 1, Estonia 0; Sweden 1, Latvia 0; Iceland 3, Northern Ireland 0; Belarus 2, Albania 2; and Romania 2, Bulgaria 2.