INTERNATIONALS: ENGLAND AND SPAIN BOUND FOR BRAZIL; SCHURRLE HITS HAT-TRICK
Two nations with Chelsea players in their squad had the chance for automatic World Cup qualification ahead of Tuesday's final group games in Europe and both ended the night victorious.
England, needing a win, beat Poland 2-0 at Wembley while Spain, who only required a point, matched that score at home to Georgia with Juan Mata the scorer of the second goal.
Gary Cahill started for England with Frank Lampard on the bench, his place going to Michael Carrick, and Roy Hodgson's side looked capable of scoring throughout the first half, playing at a good tempo and creating a series of chances with Andros Townsend hitting the crossbar.
The breakthrough came shortly before half-time when Wayne Rooney headed in a Leighton Baines cross. Cahill was involved at both ends early in the second half, blocking a shot from Robert Lewandowski before having a header saved.
Lewandowski had spurned a couple of other chances but England's deserved win was assured when Steven Gerrard bundled the ball through the defence and into the net inside the final five minutes, Lampard having played the ball forward. The Chelsea midfielder came on for Carrick with 20 minutes remaining for his 100th international since becoming a Chelsea player.
Mata began on the bench for Spain, who took the lead on 26 minutes through Alvaro Negredo, but came on for Pedro just before the hour and scored three minutes later with a shot from inside the area after picking up a loose ball.
Spain and England join our Australian, Belgian and German representatives as definitely in the World Cup draw on 6 December. No Chelsea players will be involved in November's European play-offs between the second-place clubs.
Germany were already guaranteed top spot when they kicked off in Sweden. Andre Schurrle, a scorer on Friday against Ireland, retained his place and rewarded his manager Joachim Low by scoring a hat-trick as the visitors came back from being 2-0 down.
The Chelsea man made it 3-2 to Germany on 57 minutes with a shot into the bottom right-hand corner after poor defending. He then capitalised on another Swedish mistake on 66 minutes before hitting third of his own making, finding the top corner with a curler 10 minutes later. The final score was 5-3 to the Germans.
Belgium also had the luxury of finishing off their group knowing the qualification job was already done. Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku all started at home to Wales and it was De Bruyne who scored midway through the second-half when he was supplied by Lukaku, but Aaron Ramsey made the final score 1-1 with a late leveller. Eden Hazard came on with 58 minutes played.
Unfortunately, Branislav Ivanovic's hopes of playing in Brazil had already evaporated before the final matches but Serbia finished the group in style, beating Macedonia 5-1 at home. Ivanovic played the full match and was fouled for a penalty that led to the third goal. They finish third in their group behind Belgium and Croatia.
Playing away against Bulgaria, Czech Republic ended with a win and Petr Cech a clean sheet, the game decided by a single goal shortly after half-time. The Czechs finish third behind Italy and Denmark so will also play no part in the summer showpiece in South America.
In Africa, Ghana got off to a flier in their two-leg play-off for World Cup qualification by winning 6-1 at home against Egypt.
Michael Essien played the whole game and had a big part in the second goal, his surge with the ball to the edge of the six-yard area ending with a defender turning it into his own net.
Chelsea summer signing Christian Atsu completed the rout against the seven-times Africa Cup of Nations winners. Having come on in the 83rd-minute, the 21-year-old, who is on loan at Vitesse, finished a strong run by firing in off the post for an eye-catching goal.
Two former Premier League players were also among the goals, Sulley Muntari and Asamoah Gyan, the latter netting twice. The second leg is next month.
At Under-21 level, England followed up on last week's win over San Marino with another healthy victory, beating Lithuania 5-0 at Portman Road. Nathaniel Chalobah (pictured below) returned to the starting line up and played the full game, with the goals coming from Ravel Morrison and Saido Berahino who both scored twice and James Ward-Prowse. England are well placed in their qualification group for the 2015 Euro finals with 10 points from four games.
Andreas Christensen and Denmark Under-21s closed the gap to Russia at the top of their group by winning 2-0 away against their Russian counterparts. The Danes now trail by two points after four of the 10 group games played.
On Wednesday afternoon, there was success for England Under-19s as they qualified for the elite stage of the qualification process for the European Championships at their age level.
Needing a point from their final game in a four-team tournament, the young England side beat Switzerland 1-0 in Slovenia.
Chelsea goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney was one of the heroes, making two superb saves in the second half, the second in the dying seconds. Noel Blake's side took the lead in the first half after a succession of chances, Derby County's Mason Bennett the scorer, and then defended stoutly after the break.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and John Swift started in the midfield with Lewis Baker replacing Loftus-Cheek on the hour.
A friendly Under-20 tournament in the Netherlands, featuring Tomas Kalas in a Czech Republic side, ended with Germany top after a 1-1 draw in the final game against the Czechs, who were runners-up.
Kalas played the whole of that match having captained the side and scored in an opening win over the host nation, and come on after 74 minutes of a 0-0 draw with Turkey in the second match.