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Pick of European World Cup qualifying

Published: Wednesday 16 October 2013, 18.34CET
Bosnia and Herzegovina made history, Robin van Persie hit goalscoring highs and Jóhann Gudmundsson became a national hero. UEFA.com looks back at the qualifying group stage.

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Published: Wednesday 16 October 2013, 18.34CET

Pick of European World Cup qualifying

Bosnia and Herzegovina made history, Robin van Persie hit goalscoring highs and Jóhann Gudmundsson became a national hero. UEFA.com looks back at the qualifying group stage.

Team: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Four years ago Bosnia and Herzegovina reached their first play-off, losing 1-0 home and away to Portugal, and in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying the same nation beat them at the same stage after France had pipped Safet Sušić's side in their group. But this time, in a similarly tight race with Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina came out on top on goal difference after Tuesday's 1-0 win in Lithuania. Vedad Ibišević scored the second-half goal and said: "I hit it for victory, for Brazil, for our fans around the world, for our country."

Player: Robin van Persie (Netherlands)
The Manchester United FC striker spearheaded the Netherlands' successful Group D campaign with a qualifying-best tally of 11 goals, scoring in all but two of his nine appearances. Van Persie drew his first blank against Hungary in September 2012 but made amends in record-breaking fashion in the reverse fixture last Friday, registering a hat-trick by the 53rd minute in an 8-1 home win.

His treble-sealing strike was the 30-year-old's 41st goal for the Netherlands, taking him past Patrick Kluivert and to the summit of his country's all-time top-scorers' list. "Records are there to be broken," said Kluivert, now the Oranje's assistant coach. "This had to happen one day. I am extremely happy, in fact, because Robin and I work together every single game and aim for perfection."

Game: Germany 4-4 Sweden
When Mesut Özil made it 4-0 to the hosts after 56 minutes, Germany's 14th successive win in qualifying competition seemed rubber-stamped. What followed, though, left the Olympiastadion crowd in a state of disbelief as Sweden mounted a stunning comeback.

Having reduced their arrears to one with a quarter of an hour remaining though Zlatan Ibrahimović, Mikael Lustig and Johan Elmander, Rasmus Elm turned to volley past Manuel Neuer in added time. "I've been a coach for 30 years and never recovered from being 4-0 down," said Sweden's Erik Hamrén. "Now we've done it against one of the best teams in the world."

Those were the only points dropped by Germany in the group, and they exacted some revenge on Tuesday in Solna as the two teams again scored eight goals, but this time the visitors won 5-3.

©AFP/Getty Images

Goals: Jóhann Gudmundsson (Iceland)
"One of the most astonishing individual displays by an Iceland player ever," wrote national newspaper Visir after the AZ Alkmaar forward hit a stylish treble to snatch another sensational 4-4 draw in Switzerland. Gudmundsson's third-minute opener had paled into insignificance as Ottmar Hitzfeld's side replied with four unanswered goals before the hour.

However, after Kolbeinn Sigthórsson reduced the deficit, Gudmundsson fired in from close range and then saved the best until last – sumptuously caressing the ball into the far corner from the edge of the area a minute into added time.

Number: 320,000
Population of Iceland, who will be the smallest country ever to qualify for a World Cup if they win their play-off. They will learn their opponents for November's home and away tie on Monday.

Quote
"I am so proud to be part of this team, which goes down in Maltese football history. I am so proud to be Maltese and to have beaten a more storied team than we are away from home."
Goalkeeper Justin Haber tells UEFA.com of his delight following Malta's 1-0 victory in Armenia, the Mediterranean island's first competitive win on their travels since May 1993.

Ladies men: Noel King, Per-Mathias Høgmo, Pietro Ghedin
Norway and the Republic of Ireland appointed former senior national women's coaches towards the end of their respective campaigns. Høgmo succeeded Egil Olsen in time for the Nordic side's final Group E fixtures against Slovenia and Iceland. Noel King, at the helm of the Ireland women's squad for a decade until 2010, took charge on an interim basis last month following the departure of Giovanni Trapattoni.

Before embarking on the road to Brazil, Malta rehired Pietro Ghedin, who left part way through Italy's ultimately successful bid to qualify for UEFA Women's EURO 2013. His decision was rewarded when he oversaw the Group B minnows' abovementioned triumph in Armenia in June.  

©FIGC

Centurions
UEFA.com salutes the men who received a commemorative cap and medal from UEFA during the campaign to celebrate reaching a century of international appearances:
15 October 2013: Māris Verpakovskis (Latvia)
11 October 2013: Michael Mifsud (Malta)
11 September 2013: Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
7 February 2013: Steven Gerrard (England)
16 October 2012: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
12 October 2012: Rafael van der Vaart (Netherlands)

Also on Tuesday, Bastian Schweinsteiger made it to 100 Germany caps while Philipp Lahm drew level with Franz Beckenbauer on 103 games. Like England team-mate Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole passed 100 caps during the campaign while Iker Casillas is on to 150 for Spain, the 13th man and fourth European to make that landmark. In all, 131 European men have won 100 senior caps.

Last updated: 08/05/14 2.47CET

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