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Southampton (A) Sat 20 Dec 2014, 15:00, Barclays Premier League

Lukaku Fires Belgium To Brazil

by Daniel Alston @efc_danalston

Two Everton players helped their country secure World Cup qualification on Friday evening - but the fates of England’s Blues remained firmly in the balance.

Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku join Tim Howard and Bryan Oviedo in booking their places at next summer’s tournament in Brazil after Belgium defeated Croatia 2-1 in Zagreb.

And it was the red-hot Lukaku who clinched the decisive three points with a first-half brace before being withdrawn on 68 minutes. Mirallas, meanwhile, earned 25 minutes from the bench while Croat Nikica Jelavic was an unused substitute.

By contrast, England know they needed victories across both of their final group games, especially with Ukraine winning 1-0 against Poland in the earlier kick-off.

The 4-1 final scoreline at Wembley may put a comfortable spin on proceedings against Montenegro, and despite tense spells at 0-0 and 2-1, it was a relatively trouble-free night for Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka at the back.

Goals from Wayne Rooney, debutant Andros Townsend, Daniel Sturridge and a Baskovic own goal sealed victory for the Three Lions, for whom Ross Barkley remained on the bench.

It means Tuesday’s game against Poland can grant England’s World Cup berth providing they equal or better Ukraine’s result.

Elsewhere, in Cologne, Seamus Coleman capped his 25th birthday by receiving the armband for the Republic of Ireland’s clash with Germany.

The Blues right-back was joined in the starting line-up by James McCarthy and Darron Gibson, who made his first international appearance since before Euro 2012.

The trio played the full 90 minutes but were unable to stop the Germans running out 3-0 winners en route to qualifying for Brazil themselves.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Howard held the United States armband during a 2-0 win over Jamaica in Kansas City, while Oviedo was unused as Costa Rica fell to a 1-0 defeat in Honduras.

Also on Friday, Shane Duffy captained Republic of Ireland Under-21s to a 0-0 draw in Romania. The two sides will meet in a second European Championship qualifier in Sligo on Tuesday.

In the same tournament, John Stones played the full 90 minutes for England Under-21s as they enjoyed a 4-0 triumph in San Marino on Thursday.

Gerard Deulofeu came off the bench on 66 minutes to help Spain Under-21s to a 3-2 win over Bosnia and Herzegovinia, while Apostolos Vellios was an 87th-minute sub for Greece Under-21s, but his late appearance couldn’t prevent a 1-0 loss to Turkey.

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