Belgium qualify for World Cup finals

A 2-1 away win against second-placed Croatia has seen Marc Wilmots' side become the third European team to guarantee their spot in Brazil
Belgium became the 11th nation to secure their spot at World Cup 2014 with a 2-1 win at Croatia on Friday.

With a game to spare, Marc Wilmots' men triumphed over the Balkan side thanks to two first-half strikes for Everton forward Romelu Lukaku, ensuring that Niko Kranjcar's 83rd minute goal did not take away three points from the visitors.

The victory means that the Rode Duivels sit top of Group A in Uefa qualification with 25 points - eight above second-placed Croatia, who also only have one game left to play.

Fellow Group A competitors Serbia have an outside chance of claiming a play-off spot thanks to Igor Stimac's side's defeat on home turf, though Scotland, Macedonia and Wales cannot reach the tournament in Brazil.

World Cup 2014 hosts, the Selecao, have already already joined in next summer's competition by Japan, Australia, Iran, South Korea, Netherlands, Italy, United States, Costa Rica and Argentina.

Azerbaijan 2-0 Northern Ireland

Michael O'Neill's charges, who had Jonny Evans sent off for the foul that led to the hosts' injury-time second, were guilty of missing a host of chances at the Bakcell Arena in Baku as they slipped to their fifth defeat in Group F.

Rufat Dadasov had the Azerbaijan supporters on their feet in the 58th minute when he rounded off a neat move by side-footing beyond Roy Carroll.

And there was a late second when Mahir Shukurov capitalised on Evans' dismissal by curling home a free kick from 20 yards.

Jamie Ward twice went close for Northern Ireland in the opening period, first forcing Kamran Agayev into a close-range save before scooping over the crossbar.

Martin Paterson was also guilty of wastefulness prior to Dadasov's strike when he dragged wide from eight yards and the Huddersfield striker also hit the bar with two minutes remaining.

O'Neill welcomed Chris Brunt back from suspension, meaning Niall McGinn dropped to the bench.

Azerbaijan boss Berti Vogts, meanwhile, included Vuqar Nadirov and Qara Qarayev in their starting XI, both having been named among the substitutes for the 1-1 draw with Israel in September.

The visitors controlled possession in the early stages and Brunt nearly forced a breakthrough in the ninth minute when he spun in the box and fired an effort at Agayev.

The West Brom winger was involved again soon after as his fierce 25-yard strike was beaten away by the goalkeeper.

Northern Ireland continued to press and Ward's 23rd-minute header from Paterson's centre forced a superb point-blank save from Agayev.

The visitors' profligacy was almost punished when Dadasov flashed an eight-yard strike wide of the post.

And Azerbaijan came even closer on 28 minutes as Rauf Aliyev hit a sweet back-post volley towards the near post, forcing Roy Carroll into a wonderful reflex save.

But Northern Ireland finished the half the stronger and had two further chances to take the lead.

First Ward scooped a loose ball over the crossbar, before Paterson dragged wide after his strike partner's through ball put him one-on-one with Agayev.

Azerbaijan came out the stronger side after the break, though, and Dadasov should have done better when he sidefooted Shukurov's cross wide.

Soon after, however, the forward did break the deadlock. Araz Abdullayev slid an intricate ball into Aliyev's path and his low cross was converted at Carroll's near post.

Northern Ireland looked for an immediate comeback and Gareth McAuley looped a header onto the roof of the net before Oliver Norwood curled a 30-yard free kick just wide.

Paterson went closest in the 88th minute, receiving Steven Davis' pass before unleashing a vicious effort against the woodwork.

But Evans then saw red for an off-the-ball challenge on Aliyev and Shukurov's resulting free kick put the result beyond doubt.

Azerbaijan finish their campaign with a home fixture against Fabio Capello's Russia on Tuesday, while Northern Ireland travel to Israel looking to avoid finishing bottom of the group.

David Silva 'very happy' to stay at Manchester City

The attacking midfielder has once again been linked with Spanish giants Real Madrid but insists that he will stick to the long-term contract that he signed in 2012
Manchester City attacking midfielder David Silva has played down renewed speculation linking him with a move to Real Madrid.The Spain international has been listed as a reported target for the Spanish giants on numerous occasions since his arrival in Manchester from Valencia in 2010.

"I'm very happy in Manchester and I think this is similar to what happens every year," the 27-year-old told Cadena Cope when asked about new links.

"There are always rumours and, in the end, the player has to be calm."

Silva, who is currently on international duty with Spain, signed a new five-year deal with City in September 2012.

"I renewed my contract because I am happy in Manchester," he added.

Vidal 'nervous' ahead of Colombia clash

The Juventus midfielder admits the Chilean squad are feeling the pressure as they seek to secure an "historic" place at the World Cup
Arturo Vidal says Chile will have to overcome pre-match nerves if they are to beat Colombia on Friday evening and secure their place at next year's World Cup.
Jose Pekerman's side currently occupy second spot behind the already-qualified Argentina in the Conmebol section, while Chile are a further two points behind in third place.
With the top four certain to progress, a win for either side at the Estadio Metropolitano in Barranquilla will confirm their place at the 2014 showpiece in Brazil, and Vidal admits he is feeling the pressure.
"Of course there is anxiety. It is a fundamental game for us," said Vidal.
"We are close to something historic, qualifying twice for the World Cup.
"We have a very difficult rival, which is Colombia. They're in a little bit of a better position than us but it's a really important game, so we are keeping our enthusiasm up so we play at 100 per cent."
Chile goalkeeper and captain Claudio Bravo, meanwhile, is confident his team will handle the big occasion against their South American rivals.
"The anxiety is part of this," he claimed. "We are very accustomed to living in these moments. A qualifying game is much more important than a regular club match."
Despite the prize at stake, Colombia boss Pekerman expects an entertaining encounter against Jorge Sampaoli's men.
"The match should be one of the most exciting in the qualifiers because of the way we and Chile play," he told reporters.
"In general, the players are in good form. We have to adapt to what we want to do and we have to be clear when we begin a match and know what type of game we want to play."

Adriano tips Neymar & Messi to forge lethal partnership

The full-back says the pair will flourish together on the pitch as their friendship blossoms off it, and also has plenty of praise for Gerardo Martino's impact at Camp Nou

Barcelona defender Adriano believes Neymar's partnership with Lionel Messi will only improve as the duo become better acquainted off the field.

There has been plenty of debate over how effectively the pair can operate in tandem but, despite both stars experiencing mixed fortunes in the goalscoring stakes thus far this season, Adriano is convinced the duo will soon combine to devastating effect.

"Neymar and Messi are very well connected," he told Goal. "From day-to-day on the field, they are becoming better friends and know each other better.

"Everyone is delighted with them and it shows when they are both on the pitch together.

"Neymar helps Leo, with his philosophy on the game, the way he likes to play and I think he has done very well for the team."

When asked whether or not his fellow Brazilian could usurp his Argentine counterpart as the world's greatest player, the 28-year-old added: "It is complicated. Both can be the best in their own positions.

"Leo is the best in his position and will probably remain the best, while Neymar will surely be one of the best in his role.

"The great thing is that we have the two of them together in the same team."

The former Sevilla full-back went on to praise coach Gerardo Martino for the impact he has made at Camp Nou since succeeding Tito Vilanova at the helm during the summer.

"I like that he makes us believe that we can replicate the same style as before; pressing, stealing possession and regaining the spark we had before," he continued.

"The freshness is back and we want to make history. We want to win La Liga and the Champions League again.

"Tata coaches the team in a different way. He has a clear philosophy, but he told us that he did not come here to change anything, but he has brought with him the experience of coaching Argentine clubs and Paraguay.

"We are delighted with him and how he works and hopefully we can get the results he wants us to get and continue the story of Barcelona."

Juventus can upset Real Madrid, says Lippi

The former Bianconeri boss is confident that the reigning Italian champions can take down the Spanish giants, who he says have 'not exactly been brilliant' so far this season
Marcello Lippi believes that Juventus are more than capable of springing a surprise in their upcoming Champions League games against Real Madrid.

The Serie A champions have been struggling to find their best form in Europe and are in danger of missing out on qualification for the group stages after draws against Copenhagen and Galatasaray.

Nevertheless, Lippi is confident that they can turn things around in their next two games, against Madrid.

"The recipe to beat them is quite simple: you have to believe in your own quality and stay organised," Lippi told Tuttosport.

"A surprise is definitely possible. The key is to believe in a good result. The current Juventus is pretty similar to my Juve and has all the characteristics a team need. 

"Plus Real Madrid have not exactly been brilliant so far. I have no doubt that Juventus will put in two great performances."

Juventus travel to Madrid on October 23, with the Bianconeri hosting the Spanish giants in Turin two weeks later.

Neymar dived a lot in Brazil, says Edmilson

The 37-year-old has stated his young compatriot is playacting less than before, before adding that the attacker has adapted well to his new surroundings at Camp Nou
Edmilson believes that Neymar no longer dives as much following his summer move from Santos to arcelona.

The 21-year-old has been heavily criticised for his tendency to go to the ground easily, but the formerSelecao defender feels his compatriot is already showing signs of improvement.

"Neymar dived a lot in Brazil. He still dives some, but in most cases, the defenders tackle him late," Edmilson told Esports Cope.

"Every time he gets tackled, he really gets tackled."

Edmilson, who wore the Barca jersey from 2004 until 2008, then went on to praise the way Neymar's adapted to his new surroundings.

"Neymar is doing great at Barca, playing very well," he enthused. "He's adapted very quickly to the team's tactics and players. 

"I hope he continues along those lines, creating a good atmosphere and settling into the team. 

"He was aware of the difficulties he faced at the beginning, but he set about every game very well and is very comfortable with his teammates."

Neymar has netted three goals in 11 appearances for Barcelona so far this term.