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Germany stay on course for 2010 finals

  • Story Highlights
  • Group leaders Germany take charge of qualifying tie against Liechtenstein
  • Russian keep up the pressure in Group Four with a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan
  • Finland end Wales hopes of South Africa 2010 with a 2-0 victory in Cardiff
  • Group Two leaders Greece held to a 1-1 qualifying draw by Israel in Ramat
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(CNN) -- Michael Ballack led the way as Germany maintained their four-point advantage over Russia with a 4-0 win against Liechtenstein in their World Cup Group Four qualifier on Saturday.

Michael Ballack, left, gave group leaders Germany an early lead in their World Cup clash.

Michael Ballack, left, gave group leaders Germany an early lead in their World Cup clash.

Russia, who have a game in hand, earlier stayed on course for the 2010 finals with a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan, but only the section winners are guaranteed a place in South Africa.

The eight best runners-up from the nine European groups then play-off for the final four places.

Chelsea midfielder Ballack put the Germans in front after four minutes with Daniel Jansen adding a second on eight.

Group minnows Liechtenstein then held on until three minutes into the second half when Bastian Schweinsteiger struck -- swiftly followed after 50 minutes by Lukas Podolski.

Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko and Zenit St Petersburg midfielder Konstantin Zyryanov were on target for the Russians who remain second with nine points from four games.

Russia's domination was rewarded after 32 minutes when Pavlyuchenko beat Azeri goalkeeper Farkhad Veliyev with a 25-yard free-kick in Moscow.

They had to wait until the 71st minute before increasing their lead when Zyryanov fired in from six yards after a five pass from Pavlyuchenko and remain two points clear of Finland.

The Finns kept their dreams alive with a 2-0 victory in Cardiff that saw Wales manager John Toshack admit his team's chances of reaching South Africa had gone.

Captain Craig Bellamy went one step further and said that in his opinion neither side has "a glimmer of hope of qualifying."

Toshack's rookies were found wanting by experienced Finland who had veterans Sami Hyypia and Jari Litmanen as their outstanding contributors.

"It was a must-win for either side in a group where we have drawn the short straw facing Germany and Russia, two of the best teams in Europe," said Toshack whose side face a daunting clash with Germany on Wednesday.

The visitors took the lead three minutes before halftime when Litmanen's pass sent former Charlton forward Jonatan Johansson clear to squeeze his shot home off a post. Substitute Shefki Kuqi scored the second with two minutes left.

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Finland's Birmingham-born boss Stuart Baxter hailed his side's victory and the performance of veteran midfielder Litmanen.

"That was a very good performance and I was pleased that there were 2,000 Finnish fans here to see it. Jari was outstanding, he is in the process of re-inventing himself at 38," said Baxter.

"He may not be able to do the runs he used to a few years ago, but he can still pass the ball and he dominated the game. He is an amazing person. He has been a great servant to Finnish football, a great player."

Greece remain top of qualifying Group Two but only on goal difference after a 1-1 draw in Israel where Theofanis Gekas gave the visitors the lead after 41 minutes at the Ramat Gan Stadium.

Omer Golan levelled for the home side 10 minutes into the second half to keep them only a point behind Greece and Switzerland.

Goals from captain Alexander Frei and substitute Gelson Fernandes gave the Swiss a hard-fought 2-0 victory away to Moldova moving them alongside Greece on 10 points.

Frei opened the scoring after 32 minutes but Switzerland had to wait until the last minute to make certain of the win through Fernandes.

Latvia overwhelmed Luxembourg 4-0 at the Stade Josy Barthel to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for next year's finals.

They led at half-time through Girts Karlsons and doubled their lead two minutes after the restart courtesy of Aleksandrs Cauna's strike.

Aleksejs Visnakovs and Andrejs Pereplotkins gave the scoreline a more one-sided look with goals in the 71st and 86th minutes.

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