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World Cup Qualifying in 20 Pictures

Matt CheethamCorrespondent IOctober 11, 2013

World Cup Qualifying in 20 Pictures

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    The bright lights and samba beats of the 2014 World Cup draw ever nearer, as the qualifying campaign nears its conclusion. 

    With numerous countries still battling hard to reach next summer's extravaganza, the penultimate round of matches has seen its fair share of drama and excitement.

    Here's a look at some of the best camerawork, taken from the marquee European games on Friday night's schedule.

Early Nerves for England...

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Starting with England, it was a nervy beginning for Roy Hodgson's men.

    Montenegro frustrated the Wembley crowd, and news of a Ukrainian lead against Poland bumped the Three Lions down to a playoff spot.

Calmed by Rooney Strike

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    That was, until Wayne Rooney notched his 37th goal in an England shirt, reacting first to tuck home a rebound.

And a Townsend Thunderbolt

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    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    Having extended England's lead with an own goal, Montenegro then halved the deficit through Dejan Damjanovic, causing a ripple of nerves to permeate the Wembley crowd.

    That was, until Andros Townsend marked an impressive debut with a thumping drive, beating Vukasin Poleksic at his near post.

...Meaning Three Lions Are Almost There

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    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    One point clear, with one game to play, England haven't always looked convincing, but have their fate in their own hands heading into a final bout against Poland.

A Night off for Pirlo in Denmark

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    An already qualified Italy travelled to Denmark, with the hosts desperate for a win following Bulgaria's surprise defeat in Armenia.

    That Armenian shock breathed fresh life into the Danish campaign, and the fact that prominent namessuch as Andrea Pirlowere rested only further boosted their resolve.

Bendtner Returns with a Double...

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Nicklas Bendtner emerged from the wilderness to star for his country, planting two powerful headers past Gianluigi Buffon and sending the home crowd into hysteria.

    His stunning brace and excellent overall performance saw up Denmark 2-1 with seconds remaining.

...Only for Danish Heartbreak and Revenge for 2004

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    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    However, Italy struck a cruel blow to Denmark's temporarily rejuvenated hopes, as Alberto Aquilani pounced late on to earn a 2-2 draw.

    It was, ironically, the same scoreline that controversially saw the Italians eliminated from Euro 2004at the hands of Denmark and Sweden.

Belarus Frustrate Spain...

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Belarus produced a stubborn, rearguard effort to keep Spain frustrated for long periods of their Group I clash.

...Until Class Shines Through

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    The Spanish superiority eventually told, as first Xavi and then Alvaro Negredo scored to give the home side the points, although a late strike from Sergei Kornilenko gave Belarus a respectable 2-1 defeat.

Elsewhere, Dutch Feast on Hungary

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    The Netherlands, already home and dry in their group, put on a sparkling show in front of their home support.

    A win for Hungary would have put them in the box seat for a playoff berth. However, the visitors struggled to maintain their intensity once those early hopes faded, ultimately capitulating to an 8-1 trouncing.

...As Van Persie Bags Three and a Record

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Robin van Persie was in typically lethal form, hitting a 53-minute hat-trick that included his 41st goal for his county—making him the Netherland's all time top scorer at international level.

Lukaku Enters Beast Mode

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    via Uefa.com
    via Uefa.com

    Romelu Lukaku completely pulverised the Croatian defence with two stunning strikes that helped Belgium pick up a 2-1 win. Both strikes followed powerful runs that displayed all of his strength, guile and considerable athleticism.

    It meant the Belgians officially qualify and, after a fast start at Everton, that's now five goals in three games for Lukaku. No Christian Benteke? No worries.

Yet More Zlatan Magic

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    via Eurosport
    via Eurosport

    With Sweden teetering on the edge of what could have been two crucial dropped points against Austria, cometh the hour, cometh the man: Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

    Once again Sweden's main man delivered on the big stage with a last-gasp effort, sparking jubilant celebrations.

Germans March on

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    via Eurosport
    via Eurosport

    Germany strolled to a comfortable 3-0 win over Ireland, moving to 25 points from a possible 27 in Group C.

    Sami Khedira, Andre Schurrle and Mesut Ozil scored the goals as the Irish failed to mount much of a resistance.

Russia Hit Luxembourg for Four

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Russia earned an important victory in Luxembourg, racking up a 4-0 scoreline with goals from Aleksandr Samedov, Viktor Fayzulin, Denis Glushakov and Alexander Kerzhakov. 

    Thanks to Portugal's latest slip-up against Israel, Fabio Capello's men are all but booked on the plane to Brazil.

Greece Keep Pressure on Bosnia

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    via Uefa.com
    via Uefa.com

    A calamitous own-goal by Liverpool's Martin Skrtel kept Greece right on the toes of Bosnia in Group G.

    The 1-0 win puts the Greeks second, but level with the Bosnians on 22 points, with all to be decided during the final round of action.

Swiss Book Their Place

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    via Sky Sports
    via Sky Sports

    Switzerland were all but assured a place at World Cup 2014, but a 2-1 win in Albania confirmed their spot and rounded off an impressive qualifying campaign for an underrated team.

Azerbaijan Stun Northern Ireland

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    via Uefa.com
    via Uefa.com

    Azerbaijan secured a momentous first win of this qualifying campaign, scoring a 2-0 victory over Northern Ireland.

    The three points catapult them above both the Irish and Luxembourg and into the dizzy heights of fourth place.

Turkey Still Alive

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    via Uefa.com
    via Uefa.com

    A 2-0 win for Turkey in Estonia kept them firmly in the race for a playoff berth.

    Level on points with Romania, who face Estonia at home, Fatih Terim's side must match the Romanians' result when they host the Netherlands.

And, Bellamy Bids Farewell to Wales

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Finally, Craig Bellamy waved goodbye to his home crowd for the last time, having announced his retirement from international football.

    His Welsh side earned a 1-0 win against Macedonia, although Bellamy still has a trip to Belgium before he finally hangs up his national team boots.

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