Bosnia join Spain, England and Russia at World Cup
By Sonia Oxley
(Reuters) - First-timers Bosnia joined holders Spain, England and Russia in grabbing Europe's remaining automatic spots for the 2014 World Cup finals on Tuesday as the last round of group matches ended in joy, despair and shattered nerves.
Fireworks lit the skies across Bosnia whose fans celebrated qualifying for their first major tournament as an independent nation, while bigger European names like France, Portugal and Greece were consigned to the playoffs.
There was heartbreak for Denmark, who pummeled Malta 6-0 to finish second behind Italy in Group B but were the unlucky team to miss out on the playoff spots available for the eight best runners-up from the nine European groups.
Iceland kept alive their hopes of reaching their first finals when a 1-1 draw in Norway ensured they finished second behind Group E winners Switzerland to put them in the hat for Monday's draw for November's two-legged ties.
The other countries who also get another chance to snap up a ticket to Brazil are Romania, Ukraine, Sweden and Croatia.
World and European champions Spain secured top spot in Group I with a 2-0 win at home to Georgia thanks to goals from Alvaro Negredo and Juan Mata, finishing three points ahead of the French who beat Finland 3-0.
The victory in Albacete meant the Spanish finished with 20 points from eight matches and, like six other group winners, ended their campaign unbeaten as they seek to become only the third nation to successfully defend the world title.
Negredo, who had scored in their penultimate qualifier last week, shone again for Spain while the man who set up his 26th-minute opener, Andres Iniesta, was delighted to have helped put them through in a city close to where he comes from. Continued...