| England captain David Beckham beats Macedonian keeper Peter Milosevski form the spot as Vanco Trajanov watches during their Group VII Euro 2004 qualifier in Skopje on Saturday. (Reuters)
London: Europe’s most powerful soccer nations — except Germany — pulled rank over lesser opposition in their Euro 2004 qualifiers on Saturday with defending champions France leading the way with a 5-0 hammering of Cyprus.
Italy had a thrilling 4-0 win over Wales with an 11-minute second-half hattrick from Filippo Inzaghi, The Netherlands beat Austria 3-1 and Turkey overcame Liechtenstein 3-0.
England got past Macedonia 2-1 with a match-winning penalty from skipper David Beckham and a landmark goal for 17-year-old Wayne Rooney who became the nation’s youngest scorer.
But three-time European champions Germany played poorly and were held to a 0-0 draw by Iceland in Reykjavik.
Iceland remain top of the group for another four days at least and outplayed Germany for much of the game billed in Iceland as the biggest in their soccer history.
The other upset saw Bosnia beat Norway 1-0 in Group 2 with a late goal from Zlatan Bajramovic reviving the home side’s faint play-off hopes.
Romania beat Luxembourg 4-0 to pull level with Denmark at the top of the group.
France are all but there with a maximum 18 points from their six group 1 matches after a 5-0 win over Cyprus. David Trezeguet (2), Sylvain Wiltord (2) and Thierry Henry got the goals and France need just one point to make certain.
The only reason France have not qualified yet is because Slovenia could, theoretically at least, overtake them after moving on to 13 points from their six matches after a 3-1 win against Israel, who had two men sent off late in the game.
While France were seeing off Cyprus, Italy were involved in an astonishing match against Wales who arrived in Milan as group 9 leaders but left with a sound thrashing.
Italy had countless chances to score but could not break through a Welsh defence aided by both luck and judgement.
But after Italy took the lead through Inzaghi on 59 minutes, the rest swiftly followed. Alessandro Del Piero wrapped matters up with a late penalty that saw Italy replace Wales at the top.
The Netherlands secured at least a play-off spot in Rotterdam with a 3-1 win over Austria but, with the Czech Republic also winning 3-1 in their group 3 match in Belarus.
There will also be a close finish to group 7 after Turkey beat Liechtenstein 3-0 and England came from behind to beat Macedonia 2-1.
Turkey lead the group with 18 points, two points more than England. England would then travel to Turkey in October needing just a draw to qualify.
England skipper Beckham was on target with a 63rd-minute penalty to give his side their hard-fought 2-1 win in Macedonia — their seventh successive victory to equal their post-war record.
Earlier, Wayne Rooney equalised a first-half Macedonia goal to become England’s youngest scorer in a senior international at the age of 17 years 317 days. Greece also moved closer to qualifying for the finals for the first time since 1980 when they won 1-0 in Armenia.