Italy struggle as England have smooth passage

BALL GAME: Eduardo da Silva of Croatia, right, challeges Urmas Rooba of Estonia in Zagreb on Saturday. Pic. Filip Horvat. 08/09/07. © AP.
BALL GAME: Eduardo da Silva of Croatia, right, challeges Urmas Rooba of Estonia in Zagreb on Saturday. Pic. Filip Horvat. 08/09/07. © AP.

LONDON - Italy made its bid to qualify for next year's European Championships a lot more difficult on Saturday, and England made it much more likely.

LONDON - Italy made its bid to qualify for next year's European Championships a lot more difficult on Saturday, and England made it much more likely.

The World Cup champions, playing France for the second time since beating Les Bleus on penalties last year in Germany, were held to a 0-0 draw, dropping them into third place in Group B with four matches to go.

England successfully completed the first step of their six-point plan by beating Israel 3-0. The other three points in the plan could come on Wednesday when England host Russia in a key Group E match.

Russia beat Macedonia 3-0 to stay one point ahead of England with four matches to go. Croatia, which leads the group with 20 points after beating Estonia 2-0, and Israel are also in position to claim one of the two qualifying spots from the group.

There were 20 Euro 2008 qualifying matches on Saturday, with Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic also registering wins. Later, Portugal hosted Poland and Spain played Iceland.

Malta produced the biggest surprise of the day, holding 2002 World Cup semifinalists Turkey to a 2-2 draw. Brian Said and Andre Schembri gave Malta the lead, but Halil Altintop equalised first for Turkey and Servet Cetin in the 78th. - Sapa-AP

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