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England step closer to Brazil

England are yet to lose a competitive match under Hodgson in regulation time.

Montenegro players celebrate scoring a later equalising goal against England. England's Danny Welbeck and Glenn Johnson (standing) show their disappointment. Picture: AFP

REUTERS - England defended solidly to contain Ukraine and edge closer to next year's World Cup finals after a scrappy 0-0 draw on Tuesday left the Group H leaders in pole position to secure a ticket to Brazil.

A point from an untidy match which featured few goal-scoring chances after a hectic opening 10 minutes moved England on to 16 points with two matches to play, one ahead of Ukraine and Montenegro with Poland two points further back.

England, who have yet to register a group win so far against any team other than Moldova and San Marino, welcome Montenegro to Wembley on October 11, the same night Ukraine host Poland.

In the concluding fixtures four days later, England host the Poles with Ukraine away at San Marino and Montenegro playing Moldova.

England, still unbeaten in competitive fixtures under Hodgson in regulation time, had few alarms after the opening exchanges with Hart rarely tested by a Ukraine side that showed little of the vibrancy that secured a 1-1 draw a year ago at Wembley when they were denied victory by a late Lampard penalty.

England, missing injured strike duo Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge, along with suspended fellow frontman Danny Welbeck, lacked penetration with Rickie Lambert an isolated figure as the lone striker.

Ukraine coach Mykhaylo Fomenko described the match as a "game of nerves."

"It is hard to assess our chances of topping the group after this game. Had we won tonight it would be different," he told reporters.

"England are a strong side with players involved in the Champions league. No doubt, they were tough opponents."

OTHER RESULTS

The Netherlands and Italy celebrated becoming the first European teams to book places at next year's World Cup in Brazil on Tuesday when the final pieces of the continent's qualifying jigsaw began to fall into place.

The Dutch sealed their place with a 2-0 win in Andorra while Italy came from behind to beat the Czech Republic 2-1.

Costa Rica and the United States both guaranteed places in the 32-team finals from the CONCACAF region, while Argentina became the first South American team to join hosts Brazil with a 5-2 thumping of Paraguay

Nine teams have now joined Brazil in the draw for the finals with Italy and the Netherlands advancing from Europe along with Japan, Australia, Iran and South Korea from Asia, Costa Rica and the US from the CONCACAF region, and South American giants Argentina.