Scotland surprises France, 1-0
A stunning soccer victory by Scotland in Paris on Wednesday has jeopardized former world champion France’s chance of qualifying for next summer’s European Championship.
A 64th-minute goal on a searing 25-yard shot by James McFadden gave the Scots a 1-0 win at the Parc des Princes Stadium to the immense delight of the thousands of traveling Scottish fans on hand.
The victory, the first for the Scots in France in 57 years, moved Scotland into first place in its qualifying group. World champion Italy, which defeated Ukraine, 2-1, in Kiev behind two Antonio Di Natale goals, moved up to second place and France fell to third.
Only the top two teams in each of seven groups join co-hosts Austria and Switzerland in the June 7-29 tournament.
“It’s the best result in modern times for Scotland,” Coach Alex McLeish told Britain’s Sky Sports network. “Nobody gave us a prayer.”
Only two points separate the top three teams. Scotland’s remaining three matches are at home against Italy and Ukraine and an away game in Georgia. France has to play the Faroe Islands and Ukraine away and Lithuania at home. Italy closes at home against Georgia and the Faroe Islands and a road game in Scotland.
“The next three matches will be decisive,” said France Coach Raymond Domenech. “To qualify for the Euro finals, you have to fight, and the players know that very well.”
In another key result Wednesday, England shut out Russia, 3-0, in London on two first-half goals by Michael Owen and a third by Rio Ferdinand off an Owen pass to move ahead of Russia into second place in its group. David Beckham did not play for England because of a knee injury. Croatia, which routed Andorra, 6-0, leads the group, while previously unbeaten Russia dropped to third place.
Poland, which leads its group, tied second-place Finland, 0-0, in Helsinki, but third-place Portugal was unable to take advantage because it was held to a 1-1 tie by Serbia in Lisbon.
Meanwhile, Spain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic moved closer to securing their places at Euro 2008 with victories Wednesday.
The Spanish got goals from Xavi and Fernando Torres to defeat Latvia, 2-0, in Oviedo and move level with Sweden at the head of their group.
The Czechs managed a 1-0 victory over Ireland in Prague on a goal by Marek Jankulovski and are comfortably secure in second place in their group behind leader Germany. “It’s in our hands now,” said Czech Coach Karel Bruckner.
The Dutch had to struggle a bit harder but overcame Albania, 1-0, on a stoppage time goal by striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy on the road in Tirana. The Netherlands and Romania are equal on points at the head of their group, with Bulgaria, which beat Luxembourg, 3-0, in pursuit.
Defending European champion Greece and Norway remained the teams to beat in their group after they played to a 2-2 tie in Oslo. Turkey remained in contention after rolling over Hungary, 3-0, in Istanbul.
“If the European qualifying rounds were a 400-meters race, we’d be close to the last turn,” said Greece’s German coach, Otto Rehhagel. “But if you run out of breath, the opponent can still catch you. This is not over yet.”
Jones reported from Los Angeles.