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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Poland Qualifies, Russia Loses 2-1

LONDON ? With 21 matches being played across Europe on Saturday, Poland became the first European team to qualify for next year's World Cup in Japan and South Korea by beating Norway 3-0.

Tiny Slovenia upset leaders Russia 2-1 thanks to a last minute penalty Saturday to remain the only undefeated team in World Cup qualifying European Group 1.

Slovenia's win was a boost to its chances of winning the group, as it closed to just one point from Russia.

After an even first half, the Slovenians took the lead in the 62nd minute when substitute Milan Osterc scored with a header from close range.

Egor Titov equalized with a strike from inside the area 10 minutes later, but just as a draw seemed likely, English referee Graham Poll awarded Slovenia a penalty after a foul on Zeljko Milinovic.

Milenko Acimovic stepped up to give his side an important victory with just two more games to come.

Russia should defeat the Faeroe Islands in the last round to win the group, while Yugoslavia and Slovenia look set to battle for second place in Belgrade next week.

Meanwhile, Poland's 3-0 win in Chorzow secured top spot in Group 5 and a finals berth for the first time since 1986.

The result means Poland topped the group with 20 points from eight matches. Ukraine won 2-0 at Belarus, meaning Poland cannot be overtaken.

The Dutch, semifinalists at the 1998 World Cup, are all but out of the running after being beaten 1-0 by Ireland ? reduced to 10 men ? at Dublin's Landsdowne Road.

Just 10 minutes after Gary Kelly was sent off, Jason McAteer took a cross from Steven Finnan in the penalty box in the 68th minute and half-volleyed the ball high into the net past goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar.

The Netherlands, third in Group 2, needed to win to stay in contention. Now the Dutch team's only chance of clinching second place ? and a spot in the playoffs ? is if Portugal collapses in its final two games against Cyprus and Estonia.

Nuno Gomes scored four goals as Portugal beat Andorra 7-1. The Portuguese remain the strong favorite to win the group with 18 points and two games to play. Ireland, with one game left, leads the group with 21 points and is guaranteed at least a place in the November playoffs.

The Netherlands, runner-up in 1974 and 1978, has not missed a World Cup since 1986.

In Kaunas, Lithuania spoiled Italy's hopes of early qualification by holding the "Azzurri" to a goalless draw in Group 8. The unbeaten Italians, with 17 points, still can take first place in the group and earn a direct qualifying berth by beating Hungary in its last qualifying match Oct. 6.

There was a big surprise in Reykjavik, where Iceland ? which has never qualified for a major championship ? beat the Czech Republic 3-1 to stay in contention in Group 3.

The result tightened the situation in Group 3, with Denmark, the Czechs, Bulgaria and Iceland all in contention for the top two places.

The battle at the top of Group 6 also drew tighter after Scotland and Croatia played to a scoreless draw in Glasgow, with each side gaining a point on group leader Belgium. Scotland travels to Belgium on Wednesday in a crucial match.

With 22 more games Wednesday, the qualifying situation will become much clearer.

The nine European group winners qualify directly, while the nine runners-up go into a playoff round to determine the other five qualifiers. The home-and-away playoffs are set for Nov. 10-11 and Nov. 14-15.

(Reuters, AP)