Italy and the Netherlands became the first European teams to qualify for next year’s World Cup, and the United States was among the teams in position to clinch later Wednesday night.
Giorgio Chiellini scored in the 51st minute and Mario Balotelli converted a penalty kick in the 54th, giving Italy a 2-1 come-from-behind win over the Czech Republic at Turin. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made his 136th international appearance, matching Fabio Cannavaro’s Italian record.
The Azzurri (6-0-2), a four-time world champion, clinched first in Group B and will be appearing in soccer’s top tournament for the 14th straight time.
“Now we can celebrate everything. I’m even happier with my personal record after we’ve qualified,” Buffon said.
Libor Kozak had scored in the 19th minute for the Czechs (2-3-3). With little chance to qualify, Czech coach Michal Bilek resigned after the game.
Robin Van Persie’s goals in the 49th and 53rd minutes lifted the Netherlands to a 2-0 win at Andorra. The Oranje (7-0-1), a three-time World Cup runner up, won Group D.
The newcomers joined host Brazil and Asian nations Australia, Iran, Japan and South Korea in the 32-team field for the World Cup, which kicks off June 12.
The U.S. would assure its seventh straight trip with a win over Mexico at Columbus, Ohio, and a Honduras victory or draw against Panama. Two-time champion Argentina and Colombia also had a chance to clinch later Wednesday.
In Europe, the nine group winners qualify and eight second-place teams advance to playoffs in November that will determine four additional berths.
Three-time champion Germany (7-0-1) won 3-0 at the Faeroe Islands on goals by Per Merteswacker and Thomas Mueller around Mesut Ozil’s penalty kick, getting in position to clinch Group C next month. Sweden (5-1-2) is second after winning 1-0 at Kazakhstan on Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s first-minute goal.
England tied 0-0 at Ukraine as Frank Lampard made his 100th international appearance, leaving the Three Lions (4-0-4) atop Group H with two games left, one point ahead of Montenegro and Ukraine (both 4-1-3).
Russia (6-2) moved into the Group F lead ahead of Portugal (5-1-2), defeating visiting Israel 3-1 on goals by Vasiliy Berezutsky, Aleksandr Kokorin and Denis Glushakov.
France twice came from behind to win 4-2 at Belarus 4-2 as Franck Ribery scored twice, included a penalty kick, and Samir Nasri and Paul Pogba added goals. Defending champion Spain (4-0-2) leads France (4-1-2) on goal difference in Group I.
Switzerland (5-3) won 2-0 at Norway on a pair of Fabian Schaer goals in Group E and can finish first by winning one of its last two games, at Albania and home against Slovenia.
Bosnia-Herzegovina leads Greece (both 6-1-1) in Group C after beating Latvia 1-0 as the Greeks defeated Slovakia.
In the second leg of the Asian playoff, Jordan beat Uzbekistan 9-8 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw left the aggregate 2-2.
Jordan will play South America’s fifth-place team in a two-leg playoff in November for berth.
In an exhibition, Spain came from behind twice for a 2-2 draw against Chile at Geneva. Roberto Soldado and Jesus Navas scored for Spain, and Eduardo Vargas had a pair of goals for Chile.
Brazil played Portugal in an exhibition at Foxborough, Mass.