WRAPUP-1-Soccer-Cyprus hold Germany, wins for Croatia, Finland

@tvbp1985 (999)
November 15, 2006 6:50pm CST
Cyprus caused another major surprise on Wednesday when they held Germany to a 1-1 draw in a tense Euro 2008 qualifier in Nicosia. In other action on a night of just seven qualifiers around the continent, there were wins for Croatia, Russia, Ireland, Poland, Finland and Portugal. Cyprus, who stunned Ireland 5-2 last month for their most impressive ever international win, were not expected to get anything from their Group D match against the three-time world champions, even though the Germans were missing a number of injured key players. Michael Ballack looked to have put Germany on their way to a fourth successive win in the group, marking his 75th appearance for his country with his 35th international goal after 15 minutes, but the gritty home side fought back with Yiannakis Okkas equalising just before halftime with a volley to complete the scoring. In the other match played in the group, Ireland beat San Marino 5-0 in the last match to be played at Lansdowne Road before it is redeveloped with skipper Robbie Keane scoring a hat-trick for the home side. The victory was Ireland's first in the group to lift them to four points, the same as Cyprus, but six points behind leaders Germany and the Czech Republic. CROATIA TOP Croatia also had a night to savour by becoming the first visiting team for seven years to beat Israel in Tel Aviv winning a thrilling match 4-3. The victory lifted Croatia to the top of Group E with 10 points from their four matches, two more than Russia who won 2-0 in Macedonia. Brazilian-born striker Eduardo da Silva was Croatia's hero with a hat-trick as the visitors recovered after conceding a soft early goal. They came back to lead 3-1 early in the second half, but Israel fought back to trail 3-2, then 4-2 -- before finally being beaten for the first time after 13 successive World and European qualifiers without loss since 2003. Russia's goals in the victory over Macedonia came from Vladimir Bystrov and Andrei Arshavin in the first half to lift them into second place above England in the group. Finland, who have never qualified for the World Cup or European finals, moved to the top of Group A with a 1-0 win over Armenia while Poland moved above Belgium after beating them 1-0 in Brussels. Portugal beat Kazakhstan 3-0 in a later match in the same group to move on to seven points. Mika Nurmela headed the only goal after 10 minutes to give Finland victory and take them top with 11 points from five matches, although they have played one more match than second-placed Serbia who have 10 points. Poland won a crucial game in Brussels by the same slender scoreline with Radoslaw Matusiak scoring the only goal after 19 minutes to move the Poles into third place, also on 10 points. Belgium were booed off by their own fans at the end. The top two teams in each group qualify for the finals in Austria and Switzerland in 2008. After the winter break, the qualifiers resume in late March. ITALY HELD Apart from the qualifiers, there were a number of high profile friendly matches played with Italy ending the year they became world champions with a 1-1 draw by Turkey in Bergamo. Italian defender Marco Materazzi, who was famously head-butted by Zinedine Zidane in the World Cup final, put through his own goal to put Turkey level in the 42nd minute, just two minutes after Antonio Di Natale had given Italy the lead. The Netherlands and England friendly also ended 1-1 in Amsterdam where Wayne Rooney put England ahead after 37 minutes and Rafael van der Vaart salvaged a draw for the Dutch with an 86th-minute equaliser. Brazil, deposed as world champions in Germany, ended the year with a 2-1 win over Switzerland in Basel, while France, the beaten World Cup finalists beat European champions Greece 1-0 in Paris with Thierry Henry scoring the only goal.
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