Two of the World Cup semi-finalists from 2006 are in danger of missing out in 2010 after disappointing 1-1 draws on Saturday. France, with Franck Ribéry controversially starting on the bench, were held at home by Romania while Portugal needed an 86th-minute equaliser to avoid defeat in Denmark.
The French must now avoid defeat in Serbia on Wednesday if they are to have any chance of winning their group. But the full-back Patrice Evra insists his side, who took the lead through Thierry Henry only for Julien Escudé to score an own-goal shortly afterwards, should have beaten Romania. "People who say we did not play well don't know anything about football," he said. "If we play like that in Serbia, why should we not bring the points back?"
Portugal meanwhile needed an 86th-minute strike from Liédson, a 31-year-old naturalised Brazilian making his debut, to earn a draw after Arsenal's Nicklas Bendnter put Denmark ahead in the 42nd minute. The 21-year-old suggested after the game that he is unhappy with his role at Arsenal: "I'm a central striker, not a winger," he said. "Last season I was primarily used on the left side, this season I'm being used on the right but I just want to play centre."
The Spain coach Vicente del Bosque insisted that his side could not take qualification for granted despite a 100% record and a six-point lead in Group Five. Their latest win was a 5-0 thrashing of Belgium, David Villa and David Silva each scoring twice. Second-placed Bosnia-Herzogovina beat Armenia 2-0 in Yerevan to remain six points behind the Spanish.
The Ivory Coast are a single point away from qualification following a 5-0 win over their nearest rivals, Burkina Faso, in which Didier Drogba scored twice. Cameroon resurrected their chances of qualifying by beating Gabon 2-0 in Libreville. The game was played under intense security due to the presence of Ali Bongo, whose contested victory in last week's presidential election has led to violent protests. Tottenham's Sébastien Bassong was injured in the first half. The teams meet again on Wednesday in Yaoundé.
In South America, second-placed Chile's seemingly serene campaign faltered with a 2-2 home draw with Venezuela. Paraguay drew level on points with a 1-0 home win over Bolivia, and will qualify themselves if they beat Argentina at home on Wednesday.