Croatia, Ireland, Czechs on course for Euro 2012

AP
Turkey's coach Guus Hiddink watches the game during the first leg of their Euro 2012 play-off qualifying soccer match with Croatia at Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. (AP Photo)
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Turkey's coach Guus Hiddink watches the game during the first leg of their Euro 2012 play-off qualifying …

LONDON (AP) — Croatia and Ireland took command of their European Championship playoff matches with dominant away wins in the first leg Friday.

The Czech Republic also looks headed for the 2012 finals after a 2-0 home victory over Montenegro.

Bosnia-Herzegovina and Portugal head into the second leg of their playoff at 0-0, however, after Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo wasted the visitors' best chances in Sarajevo.

"It's a good result but it's dangerous over two legs because we didn't get the away win we deserved," said Portugal coach Paulo Bento. His team was the most high-profile country failing to automatically qualify from the group stage.

Croatia took revenge for its quarterfinal loss on penalty kicks to Turkey at Euro 2008 by routing the Turks 3-0 in Istanbul, with Ivica Olic, Mario Mandzukic and Vedran Corluka scoring.

"It is almost impossible to qualify now," Turkey coach Guus Hiddink said.

Captain Robbie Keane scored twice in Ireland's 4-0 win against Estonia, which had both center backs ejected.

"It should be all over," Keane said. "You can't take anything for granted but if we don't qualify, we'll be devastated."

Vaclav Pilar and Tomas Sivok were the second-half scorers for the Czechs, who are in excellent shape to maintain their record of reaching every European Championship since Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

The second legs are Tuesday.

Substitute Ezequiel Lavezzi scored in the 60th minute to rally Argentina to a 1-1 draw with Bolivia in a South American World Cup qualifying match at Buenos Aires.

Marcelo Martins put Bolivia ahead in the 56th, capitalizing on an error by Argentina defender Martin Demichelis. Lavezzi equalized four minutes later, his first touch after coming on for Ricardo Alvarez.

Argentina has failed to win its last two matches, losing 1-0 to Venezuela before drawing with Bolivia, which picked up its first point in three matches.

"Of course it's a good point for us," Martins said, "considering that we earned it against one of the best-known teams in the qualifying. ... For as hard as we played, we deserved this result."

Loic Remy extended France's unbeaten run to 16 matches by scoring in a 1-0 victory over the United States. The United States dropped to 1-4-1 under coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

"Obviously you want to kind of score a couple of goals sooner or later, so I wish there was one or two," Klinsmann said.

In Asian World Cup qualifying, North Korea became the first team eliminated from the 32 nations that played in South Africa last year, losing 1-0 at Uzbekistan. Japan, Jordan and Uzbekistan became the first three teams to advance to the final round of Asian qualifying, and China's 1-0 loss to Iraq moved it to the brink of missing its third straight World Cup.

In exhibition games, Italy defeated Poland 2-0, Germany drew 3-3 at Ukraine, and the Netherlands played a 0-0 draw against Switzerland. Greece drew 1-1 with Russia, while Denmark beat Scandinavian rival Sweden 2-0 at home.

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