Soccer: Scotland stun Croatia in World Cup qualifier

Scotland's Alan Hutton celebrates his team's victory over Croatia in their group A World Cup qualifying soccer match in Zagreb, Croatia, Friday, June 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Scotland's Alan Hutton celebrates his team's victory over Croatia in their group A World Cup qualifying soccer match in Zagreb, Croatia, Friday, June 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Scotland caused the upset of the latest round of World Cup qualifiers in Europe with a 1-0 victory away to Croatia overnight (NZT).

But it was still errant Italy forward Mario Balotelli who stole the headlines as he was sent off in his team's 0-0 draw in the Czech Republic.

The hosts dominated but were kept at bay by a Juventus-dominated Italian rear-guard.

But 18 minutes from time, AC Milan striker Balotelli picked up his second booking within three minutes to earn a red card.

That sent the troubled 22-year-old into an angry fit as he lashed out at anything within range once he'd left the pitch, as Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told him to sit down on the bench and stay calm.

Despite the draw, the Azzurri push out their lead over second-placed Bulgaria in Group B to three points, with the Czechs two points further back.

In Zagreb, Robert Snodgrass notched the only goal as Gordon Strachan's Scotland earned their first win of the qualifying campaign, ending Croatia's unbeaten Group A record.

Snodgrass volleyed home on the stretch after a mazy run from Wigan's Shaun Maloney ended with the ball breaking kindly to his teammate off a home defender.

"It's amazing what you can do when you get a group of players who play for each other and who play from the heart," said a defiant Strachan after his first win as national team boss.

World No.4 ranked Croatia drop three points off Belgium, who maintained their unbeaten start downing Serbia 2-1. Serbia are out of contention as they trail the group leaders by 12 points.

Portugal gave themselves a Group F lifeline as Helder Postiga's ninth-minute winner gave them a 1-0 success against previously-unbeaten Russia.

Portugal are top of the group, two points above Russia, who have two games in hand.

Ukraine ensured Group H remained very congested with a stunning 4-0 success away to group leaders Montenegro.

That result played into England's hands. England are second, two points behind Montenegro but with a game in hand.

Ukraine are third, a further point back, and also with a game in hand, meaning the top three could be separated by just a point if the two chasers win their games in hand.

Robbie Keane scored a hat-trick as the Republic of Ireland beat minnows Faroe Islands 3-0 in Dublin to remain level on points with second-placed Austria in Group C where Germany are five points clear. Austria defeated Sweden 2-1.

Bosnia and Herzegovina maintained their unbeaten record and three-point lead over Greece at the top of Group G with a 5-0 win in Latvia. Greece won 1-0 away to Lithuania.

Group E, Iceland lost 4-2 at home to Slovenia, who moved off the bottom.

-AAP

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