London: Germany came within minutes of suffering one of the most humiliating results in their soccer history before beating the Faroe Islands 2-0 with two desperately late goals in a Euro 2004 qualifier on Wednesday.
The other leading countries emerged unscathed from the final internationals of the season except Spain, whose 0-0 draw in Northern Ireland five days after a home defeat by Greece left them struggling to secure automatic qualification.
Miroslav Klose spared German blushes in Torshavn with an 89th-minute opener and Fredi Bobic scored two minutes into stoppage time to deny the Faroes their most noteworthy result since beating Austria 1-0, 13 years ago. The result put Germany two points clear at the top of group five on 11 points. Iceland, who won 3-0 in Lithuania, are second on nine.
Turkey had to come from behind twice before beating Macedonia 3-2 in Istanbul and England fought back from a goal down to beat Slovakia 2-1 in Middlesbrough, skipper Michael Owen scoring two goals in his 50th international. Turkey are now top of group seven on 15 points, two clear of England, who are seven points ahead of third-placed Slovakia.
The match between Turkey and Macedonia was marred by crowd trouble. Bottles and coins were thrown from the crowd after Artim Sakiri had put Macedonia 2-1 in front.
There was another significant win for Greece in group six, just five days after beating Spain, as they defeated Ukraine 1-0 in Athens thanks to an 86th-minute winner from Angelos Haristeas.
If Greece win in Armenia on September 6 and beat Northern Ireland at home on October 11 they will secure their place.
Spain, the long-time group leaders, were held to a 0-0 draw by Northern Ireland in Belfast, the 10th straight game in which the Irish have failed to score. Greece have 12 points, Spain 10 and Ukraine nine.
Elsewhere, Denmark consolidated their position at the top of group two after goals from Claus Jensen and Thomas Gravesen gave them a 2-0 win in Luxembourg. Denmark are top with 13 points from six games ahead of Norway, who have 11 points after a 1-1 draw with Romania in Oslo. Third-placed Romania have 10.
There were two big wins in group three with the Czech Republic crushing Moldova 5-0 and Austria recovering from the shock of losing to Moldova on Saturday by beating Belarus 5-0. The Czechs, who also missed a penalty, moved on to 13 alongside The Netherlands at the top. Austria kept their slim hopes alive by moving on to nine points.
In group four, Sweden scored a convincing 3-0 win over Poland and Hungary won 5-0 in San Marino to occupy first and second places, pushing Latvia down from first to third. But it is a tight squeeze with Sweden on 11, Hungary on 11 and Latvia on 10 points.
It is also tight in group eight where Bulgaria, who did not play, remained top on 11 points. Croatia’s 1-0 win over Estonia and Belgium’s 3-0 stroll against Andorra mean the top three teams — Bulgaria (11), Croatia (10) and Belgium (10) are separated by just one point — with Estonia not yet out of it on eight.
Italy closed the gap on surprise group nine leaders Wales after goals from Francesco Totti (32) and Alessandro del Piero (73) gave them a 2-0 win over a spirited Finland side in Helsinki.
Italy moved to 10 points from five matches, two behind Wales who have 12 points from four matches. Finland are now all but out of contention.
Ireland beat Georgia 2-0, thanks to goals from Gary Doherty and Robbie Keane.