World Cup lineup decided as last six spots taken

Last Updated: Thursday, November 19, 2009 - 10:26

London: The final lineup of teams for next year`s World Cup in South Africa was settled on Wednesday after six drama-charged playoffs on three different continents.

France, with a controversial extra-time goal, joined Slovenia, Greece and Portugal as the last four qualifiers from Europe.

Algeria snatched the last African spot while the World Cup`s inaugural champions Uruguay grabbed the 32nd and final berth.

France squeezed into the finals after a contentious late goal from William Gallas despite failing to beat Ireland in Paris.

France progressed after a 1-1 draw with Ireland gave the 2006 finalists a 2-1 aggregate victory but they needed Gallas`s close-range goal -- after a blatant Thierry Henry handball in the build-up -- to win the tie.

France fell behind to a battling Irish side who scored through skipper Robbie Keane after 33 minutes.

They only equalised 13 minutes into extra time when Gallas scored, helped by Henry controlling the ball with his hand in the penalty area and then crossing for the defender to bundle home.

"The ball bounced off my hand, the referee did not see it and I played on," Henry told reporters. "It doesn`t change anything to the fact that I`m happy we have qualified."

Russia Punished

Unlike Ireland, Slovenia managed to clinch an upset by knocking out Russia who paid a heavy price for not wrapping up the first leg on Saturday when they allowed Slovenia a late goal in a 2-1 win.

Russia`s late lapse proved costly in Maribor as Zlatko Dedic scored the only goal just before the break.

That was enough to give Slovenia a 1-0 win and the tie on the away goals rule as they reached the World Cup finals for the second time since joining FIFA as an independent nation in 1992.

Russia finished with nine men after substitute Alexander Kerzhakov and Yuri Zhirkov were sent off.

The defeat also denied Russia`s Dutch coach Guus Hiddink a fourth appearance in the finals after coaching his native Netherlands in the 1998 World Cup, then South Korea in 2002 and Australia in 2006.

Greece, held to a 0-0 draw by Ukraine in Athens on Saturday, went to Donetsk as underdogs, but stunned the home team by winning 1-0 with a first-half goal from Dimitris Salpigidis.

Striker Giorgos Samaras supplied the pass in the 32nd minute for Salpigidis who sent Greece to the World Cup for only the second time after their debut appearance in the US in 1994.

Coach Otto Rehhagel, who took charge of Greece in 2001 and steered them to the 2004 European title, will be involved in the World Cup for the first time in his 50-year career.

Portugal Through

Portugal clinched their place 2-0 on aggregate, following up Saturday`s 1-0 home win over Bosnia with another 1-0 win thanks to midfielder Raul Meireles who silenced a raucous 15,000 home fans in a cauldron of the Bilino Polje stadium after 56 minutes.

Algeria booked their place after beating arch rivals Egypt 1-0 in neutral Sudan to win a tense sudden-death playoff, defender Antar Yahia scoring five minutes before halftime with a stunning half-volley.

The match was littered with fouls, but despite the high stakes, it was completed without major incident. A heavy police presence around the stadium and on the streets of Khartoum also ensured little crowd trouble afterwards.

Uruguay advanced 2-1 on aggregate after their 1-1 home draw to Costa Rica in the second leg of the South American/CONCACAF playoff.

Substitute striker Sebastian Abreu gave the South Americans the lead with 20 minutes to go at the Centenario, where they won their first World Cup in 1930, before Costa Rica captain Walter Centeno equalised three minutes later.

The draw was enough for Uruguay to advance.

The draw for the finals takes place in Cape Town on Dec. 4.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, November 19, 2009 - 10:26

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