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Oct 15, 2013

Spain, England qualify for World Cup

Spain, England and Russia sealed spots in next year's World Cup finals in Brazil on Tuesday while Bosnia-Herzegovina also topped their group to reach a major tournament for the first time as an independent nation.

Later Tuesday, Ecuador and Chile both qualified from South America, and Honduras qualified from CONCACAF.

Defending champions Spain secured their place at the 2014 World Cup by beating Georgia 2-0 to automatically advance as winner of Group I in European qualifying.

Andres Iniesta marked the match played near his hometown by feeding Alvaro Negredo for Spain's first-half opener, and substitute Juan Mata doubled Spain's advantage after the break.

"It may look practically routine, but it's important to remember how successful we've been at qualifying," coach Vicente Del Bosque said. "This is not an easy competition."

Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard booked England's place at the World Cup, clinching a 2-0 victory over Poland.

Rooney netted his seventh goal in his past six qualifiers, meeting Leighton Baines' cross just before half-time. Gerrard bundled the ball into the net in the 88th minute to secure top spot in Group H for unbeaten England.

"We have a great togetherness, are there for each other and proved we can perform under pressure," Gerrard said.

Bosnia beat Lithuania 1-0 thanks to Vedad Ibisevic's 68th-minute goal to top Group G and qualify for the World Cup for the first time as an independent nation.

"What an excellent night," Bosnia coach Safet Susic said. "The players believed they could do it, I believed in them, and we made it."

Wild celebrations broke loose in the central square in Sarajevo after Bosnia qualified for their first World Cup as an independent nation. Bosnia-Herzegovina was granted independence from Yugoslavia in 1992.

Almost 10,000 delirious fans jumped, cried and screamed "Vamos Bosnia" when Ibisevic scored in Kaunas.

For many Bosnians, football success has been a rare cause for celebration since the country descended into nearly four years of war two decades ago. The conflict killed over 100,000 people and left a legacy of poverty, high unemployment and never-ending political strife.

Fans headed to the airport after the game to wait for their team to arrive in the middle of the night and join the party.

Russia only needed a point to guarantee first place in Group F, and drew 1-1 at Azerbaijan. Portugal's 3-0 win over Luxembourg was in vain, leaving Cristiano Ronaldo's side a point behind, and it must go through the playoffs to reach a major tournament for the third straight time.

It was still a nervy finish for Russia, which opened the scoring through Roman Shirokov in the 15th and was further boosted when Maksim Medvedev was dismissed for Azerbaijan in the 75th. However, the hosts equalized when Vagif Javadov headed home in the 90th but Russia, coached by former England manager Fabio Capello, held on for the point to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since the 2002 tournament.

"I'm satisfied with this qualifying campaign," Capello said. "With such a strong opponent as Portugal in our group, we grabbed the top place."

Tuesday's qualifiers join Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany as European countries in the World Cup.

The final four European spots will be decided by a series of two-legged playoffs in November. The teams in the playoffs are France, Portugal, Iceland, Greece, Ukraine, Romania, Sweden, and Croatia. Denmark had the worst record of the nine group runners-up and missed out.

The draw for the European playoffs is set for Monday.

Chile beat Ecuador 2-1, but it was enough for both teams to qualify. Ecuador finished fourth in the CONMEBOL standings, just ahead of Uruguay, whose 3-2 win against Argentina was not enough for them to take over Ecuador on goal difference.

Alexis Sanchez scored for Chile in the 35th minute and Gary Medel added another three minutes later. Felipe Caicedo scored for Ecuador in the 66th.

Uruguay, despite a 3-2 victory against Argentina on Tuesday in Montevideo, finished fifth and goes into a two-match playoff against Jordan for another spot in Brazil. Uruguay and Ecuador both finished with 25 points from 16 matches/

Edinson Cavani scored the winner for Uruguay in the 50th, following two first-half goals by Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez and one each from Cristian Rodriguez and Luis Suarez, who scored from a penalty.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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