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U.S. soccer: Eddie Johnson's brace leads Americans World Cup qualifying win

Published: Friday, Oct. 12 2012 8:55 p.m. MDT

Eddie Johnson celebrates after scoring against Antigua and Barbuda during a 2014 World Cup qualifier.

Associated Press

ST. JOHN'S, Antigua — Eddie Johnson rewarded his coach's faith in him — twice.

In his first game back with the U.S. national team, Johnson scored twice Friday night, including the winning goal in second-half injury time, lifting the United States to the verge of advancing in World Cup qualifying with a nervous 2-1 victory over Antigua and Barbuda.

If the Americans beat Guatemala on Tuesday night in Kansas City, Kan., they will move into the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The U.S. has 10 points; Guatemala and Jamaica each have seven and were playing each other in a late game in Guatemala.

Johnson connected on headers in the 20th minute and then in the dying moments in his first game for the U.S. team in two years. He was added to the squad by coach Jurgen Klinsmann, ostensibly replacing the disappointing Jozy Altidore, and the move paid off.

"It's good to be back in the mix," Johnson said. "Going into this game the coach has a ton of confidence in me to put me wide out on the wing."

Until his second goal, the Americans struggled, particularly with the wind in their face on the wet cricket pitch at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.

The wind picked up in the second half, and the footing remained tricky. Herculez Gomez crashed into goalkeeper Molvin James in the 49th and James needed several moments before he returned to his feet, holding his chest and left shoulder.

OTHER QUALIFIERS: World and European champion Spain romped to a 24th straight qualifying win on Friday. Pedro Rodriguez scored a hat trick as the world's best team routed host Belarus 4-0 in one of a group of big wins for Europe's leading nations in 2014 World Cup qualifying.

Spain's wasn't the most convincing win of the third round of regional qualifiers, with Germany handing Ireland its worst loss since 1971, 6-1 at Dublin.

Wayne Rooney celebrated being handed the temporary England captaincy by scoring twice in a routine 5-0 win over San Marino.

But Italy was again unconvincing in beating Armenia 3-1, and the Netherlands managed only a comfortable 3-0 win over Andorra, which is 201st in the rankings.

However, Euro 2012 semifinalist Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, couldn't make the most of its dominance against Russia and lost 1-0 in a match between the top two teams in Group F.

Also, Belgium enhanced its burgeoning reputation as a growing force in Europe with a 3-0 win in Serbia, which lost a home World Cup qualifier for the first time in more than 10 years.

Sweden and the Czech Republic needed second-half rallies to avoid draws against weak competition, beating Faeroe Islands 2-1 and Malta 3-1, respectively.

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