JOHN O’Shea returned from international suspension to help give the Republic of Ireland a morale-boosting 3-1 win over Kazakhstan in Dublin last night.
Dmitriy Shomko put the visitors ahead with a superb finish but Robbie Keane levelled from the penalty spot, O’Shea gave his side the lead with a close-range finish - his first international goal in 10 years - and then an own goal by goal-scorer Shomko in the second-half sealed victory for the hosts.
The result saw the Republic finish fourth in their World Cup qualifying group, behind Seb Larsson’s second-placed Sweden who qualified for the play-offs.
Sweden were already assured of their play-off place and unbeaten Germany of their top spot when the two teams met last night and both sides went for goal to record a 5-3 scoreline in the Germans favour - with former Black Cat Toby Hysen netting for the Swedes.
Larsson and O’Shea were just two of a number of Sunderland players on international duty last night.
David Vaughan played the full 90 minutes of Wales 1-1 draw with Belgium, giving the midfielder valuable game time on his return from a niggle which has sidelined him for Sunderland in recent weeks.
Ondrej Celustka was again an unused substitute for the Czech senior side, as they lost 1-0 in Bulgaria.
Emanuele Giaccherini also failed to make the starting line up as already qualified Italy played out a 2-2 draw with Armenia.
Meanwhile, Charis Mavrias played for the Greek Under 21’s as they got back to winning ways with a 4-0 win over Malta U21s.
Ki Sung-Yueng made the starting line-up as South Korea beat Mali 3-1 in Cheonan with Sunderland team-mate Ji Dong-won having to be content with a place on the bench.
Jozy Altidore’s hot goal-scoring streak for the USA came to an end on the night he, was named captain, with regular skipper Clint Dempsey missed the game with injury.
The Sunderland striker - who had scored six goals in his previous six games - led his team out against Panama and played well before being substituted in the 76th minute with the scoreline 1-1.
The USA went on to win 3-2 with two injury time goals, a result which ended Panama’s World Cup qualification hopes in the most dramatic and heartbreaking style.
Elsewhere in the World Cup qualifiers, holders Spain finished top of Group I with a 2-0 win at home to Georgia.
Alvaro Negredo (26) and Juan Mata (61) were the scorers for the Spanish, who pipped France to the automatic World Cup spot.
Les Bleus will go into the play-offs after ending their group campaign with a 3-0 victory over Finland, with goals from Franck Ribery (8), Joona Toivio (77 own goal) and Karim Benzema (87).
Meanwhile, Sunderland’s Charis Mavrias played for the Greek Under 21’s as they got back to winning ways with a 4-0 win over Malta U21s.