Italy and Netherlands secure World Cup ticket

The two sides sealed their place in next summer’s finals following wins on Tuesday, becoming the first European nations to guarantee their spots in Brazil

Italy have booked their place in next summer’s World Cup finals after recovering from a goal deficit to beat Czech Republic 2-1 in Turin.

Former Lazio striker Libor Kozak opened the scoring after 20 minutes but their lead was overhauled within eight minutes of the second half.

Defender Giorgio Chiellini restored parity by nodding home from a corner, before AC Milan hitman Mario Balotelli secured his country’s ticket to Brazil with a 54th-minute penalty in typically cool fashion.

Cesare Prandelli’s men will be joined in South America by the Netherlands, whose progression from Group D was ensured after a 2-0 victory over Andorra.

Manchester United marksman Robin van Persie netted twice within ten minutes after the interval to seal qualification for the Dutch, taking his international tally to 38 in 79 appearances.

The 30-year-old has now leap-frogged former Arsenal team-mate Dennis Bergkamp as his country’s second-most prolific goalscorer of all time, with only Patrick Kluivert now ahead of him on 40.

Both international giants have become Europe’s first representation in next summer’s finals, joining Japan, Australia, Iran and South Korea as the only other sides to have guaranteed their place alongside the host nation.

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