September 9, 2009

England clinches World Cup berth

England, Spain and Paraguay clinched spots in next year's World Cup Wednesday and Bahrain moved closer to a first ever trip to soccer's biggest tournament.

Eleven countries have qualified for the 32-nation World Cup, which will be played in South Africa beginning June 11.

England clinched Group 6 in European qualifying Wednesday, running its record to 8-0 with a 5-1 whipping of Croatia. Spain wrapped up Group 5 by defeating Estonia 3-0. The Netherlands has also earned a berth in the tournament.

The other six European groups are being led by Denmark, Switzerland, Slovakia, Germany, Serbia and Italy. Serbia played France to a 1-1 tie Wednesday and maintained a four-point lead over the French in their group.

If Serbia wins one of its two remaining qualifying matches, it will wrap up a World Cup berth and France will be left to compete for one of the four European spots that go to countries that finish second in their group.

Paraguay clinched one of the four automatic spots from South America with a 1-0 win over Argentina, which is in danger of missing out on the World Cup.

Bahrain, meanwhile, earned a fifth-place finish in the Asian Zone and thus will take part in a two-match playoff with New Zealand. The winner of that playoff will go to South Africa.

The other countries to have clinched World Cup berths are Ghana, Australia, South Korea, North Korea, Japan, Brazil. South Africa, as the host nation, is the only team to have received an automatic bid.