| Italy’s Christian Panucci heads wide past Wales goalkeeper Paul Jones in a Euro 2004 qualifier at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff Wednesday. Italy lost 1-2
London: Wales pulled off one of the greatest results in their history on Wednesday when they beat Italy 2-1 in a Euro 2004 qualifier, while England were held to an embarrassing 2-2 home draw by Macedonia.
Three-time champions Germany also struggled, edging past the Faroe Islands by a narrow 2-1 scoreline in Hannover, as the minnows showed their teeth on a busy night of action across the continent.
However, there were no such problems for reigning champions France, who thrashed Malta 4-0 away, in-form Turkey, who showed how to deal with an outsider by thrashing Liechtenstein 5-0, or The Netherlands, 3-0 winners in Austria.
Wales, enjoying their best spell for years under the guidance of manager Mark Hughes have now gone eight games unbeaten and have beaten Germany and Italy at home this year and drawn with Argentina.
They were deserved winners against Italy, the runners-up in the 2000 European championship final and Newcastle United forward Craig Bellamy was the hero as he kept his cool to slot a superb winner in the 71st minute.
A deflected Alessandro Del Piero free-kick had earlier cancelled Simon Davies’ opener for the hosts but there was no question that Wales, ranked 76th in the world, deserved their success.
Wales have only ever qualified for one major soccer tournament — the 1958 World Cup. After their win in Finland last month they top group IX with six points. Yugoslavia are second on four after a 2-0 win over Finland.
Second-half goals by Darko Kovacevic and Sinisa Mihajlovic, the second a penalty, gave Yugoslavia the points, though goalkeeper Dragoslav Jevric also made several great saves to deny the Finns.
Italy, held 1-1 at home by Yugoslavia on Saturday, are third, also on four points.
England, who had to come from behind to win 2-1 in Slovakia on Saturday, were twice behind again against group VII outsiders Macedonia at Southampton but this time couldn’t find the winner. Blunders by Arsenal duo David Seaman and Sol Campbell handed goals to Artim Sakiri — direct from a corner — and Vanco Trajanov. David Beckham and Steven Gerrard each equalised in the first half, but England failed to take control.
Striker Alan Smith was sent off in injury time to complete a miserable night for the World Cup quarter-finalists.
The result further strengthened Turkey’s grip on group VII.
Okan Buruk, Umit Davala and Ilhan Mansiz had the World Cup semi-finalists 3-0 up at home to Liechtenstein in 14 minutes but they had to wait until the last 10 minutes for substitute Serhat Akin to add two more goals.
Turkey top the group with a maximum nine points, with England second on four.
Germany top group V with maximum six points but came close to a humiliation at home to the Faroes, the world’s 119th-ranked team. A Michael Ballack penalty after two minutes had the Hannover crowd sitting back expecting a big win but an Arne Friedrich own-goal had the Faroes level at the break. Miroslav Klose spared the Germans’ blushes by heading the winner after an hour, though Hjalgrim Elttoer hit a post for the Faroes seven minutes from the end.
France continued their impressive recovery from their miserable World Cup with an easy group I win in Malta.
Thierry Henry scored two on Wednesday. Sylvain Wiltord and substitute Eric Carriere were also on target.
The Netherlands swept to the top of group III with an impressive 3-0 win in Austria as Clarence Seedorf, Philip Cocu, and Roy Makaay had them in control after half an hour. The Dutch have six points, the same as Austria and the Czech Republic, 2-0 winners over Belarus.
Bulgaria made it three wins out of three in group VIII though they will be disappointed to have only beaten Andorra 2-1. Belgium remain second on six from three games after a 1-0 win in Estonia.
Switzerland top of group X with a 2-1 win in Ireland, Fabio Celestini getting the winner three minutes from time.
They have seven points from three games with Russia on six from two. Russia thumped Albania 4-1 in Moscow.
Norway completed a good week as they followed up their 1-0 win in Romania on Saturday with a 2-0 home win over Bosnia.
Claus Lundekvam and John Arne Riise in the first half-hour settled the match to take Norway top of group II with seven points from three games.
Romania, helped by a Cosmin Contra hattrick, thrashed Luxembourg 7-0 away.