Belgium advances to World Cup in Brazil

Belgium's Jan Vertonghen and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois celebrate after their World Cup qualifying...

Belgium's Jan Vertonghen and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois celebrate after their World Cup qualifying match against Croatia at Maksimir stadium in Zagreb October 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Antonio Bronic)

REUTERS

, Last Updated: 7:48 PM ET

Two-goal Romelu Lukaku fired Belgium into next year's World Cup finals and they were joined by Germany and Switzerland in sealing tickets on Friday to the Brazil extravaganza.

Belgium, boasting one of the most talented squads in Europe, will return to the global showpiece for the first time since 2002 after a 2-1 win in Croatia guaranteed top spot in Group A.

Germany's 3-0 home win over Ireland, with goals from Sami Khedira, Andre Schuerrle and Mesut Ozil, put them through from Group C while the Swiss won 2-1 in Albania to wrap up Group E.

The Netherlands and Italy had already sealed their passage to the finals before the penultimate round of qualifiers.

Group F leaders Russia are on the verge of qualifying thanks to a 4-0 victory in Luxembourg while Wayne Rooney was among the scorers in England's 4-1 win over Montenegro at Wembley which kept Roy Hodgson's side top of Group H heading into Tuesday's final round of matches.

England are a point ahead of Ukraine who kept up the pressure by beating Poland 1-0.

Bosnia, seeking to reach their first major tournament as an independent nation, and Greece remain neck-and-neck on 22 points at the top of Group G after home wins on Friday.

Bosnia, with Edin Dzeko scoring twice, thumped Liechtenstein 4-1 while a Martin Skrtel own goal handed Greece a 1-0 success at home to Slovakia.

Robin van Persie hit a hat-trick in the 8-1 demolition of Hungary to become all-time leading Dutch scorer, taking his tally to 41 international goals and surpassing the 40 scored by Patrick Kluivert.

Nicklas Bendtner made a sensational return from a six-month ban by netting both goals in Denmark's 2-2 draw at home to Italy. The striker was suspended by the Danish FA after being arrested for drink-driving but his international return was spoiled by Alberto Aquilani's stoppage-time equaliser.


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