London:Hat-tricks by Theo Walcott and Miroslav Klose saw England to a crushing 4-1 win over Croatia and Germany a facesaving 3-3 draw with Finland respectively in Wednesday's second batch of European qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup.
Walcott at last showed the talent that had provoked Sven-Goran Eriksson to take him to the 2006 finals but failed to get a game - however his vibrant display may well usher in the end of former captain David Beckham's international career.
For Klose it was a perfect response to those who believed he may be past his prime as three times he levelled for the 2006 semi-finalists against a Finnish side hardly brimming with world class talent.
There was relief too for France coach Raymond Domenech, who may well have faced the axe had his side gone down to defeat at home to Serbia, but second-half goals by former Arsenal team-mates Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka were enough to see them to a 2-1 win.
Italy, the side that denied Domenech the World Cup last time round, also won as a brace from Daniele De Rossi saw them to a 2-0 win over Georgia and give them six points from their first two matches.
The Republic of Ireland, coached by former Italy handler Giovanni Trapattoni, eked out a 0-0 draw away at Montenegro to trail the Italians by two points.
There were mixed results for the Iberian duo as European champions Spain breezed past Armenia 4-0 while 2006 World Cup semi-finalists Portugal lost 3-2 at home to Denmark, conceding two goals in injury-time.
That was not quite such an embarrassment as Switzerland losing 2-1 at home to Luxembourg, one that must rate as probably the worst in the distinguished career of Swiss boss Ottmar Hitzfeld.
For England the victory was a measure of revenge for the two Euro 2008 qualifier defeats inflicted by the Croats which had seen the Balkan side progress to the finals at the expense of the English.
Walcott was modesty itself after firing his hat-trick against a Croatian side - reduced to 10-men early in the second-half when Robert Kovac was red carded - that suffered its first ever competitive home defeat in Zagreb.
"There were 11 stars, the whole team were stars out there," said the teenager.
England coach Fabio Capello praised Walcott's performance but also cautioned against expecting a similar level of performance the whole time.
"I said after Andorra that he can play fantastic but he will play not the same level all the games. He is very interesting, very young but we have to help him," said the Italian.
German coach Joachim Loew admitted conceding three goals was not wholly satisfactory but he was delighted in Klose, as the 30-year-old took his international tally to 44 goals in 84 games - leaving him just four away from becoming Germany's third-highest goalscorer.
"We know what Miro Klose can do, sometimes in life having a bit of trust pays off," said Loew.
"We showed a lot of character to come from behind three times."
However, they will have to sharpen up considerably with Euro 2008 semi-finalists Russia in their group, as they opened their campaign with a 2-1 win over Wales.
Domenech had remarked on Tuesday that it was just as well that the guillotine was not in use any more given the criticism he had come under since the opening 3-1 defeat by Austria.
The enigmatic coach looked relieved as the final whistle went - better than the whistles that had greeted him prior to the match from the home crowd, increasingly fed up with a series of poor performances and results.
"The players reacted well to the challenge set for them," admitted the 56-year-old.
"The quality of football was there and looks promising for the future.
"I think the players and the spectators tonight had a good rapport," added Domenech, none too convincingly.
Italy's De Rossi has been more renowned for his combative qualities rather than his goalscoring prowess but he may have changed the common perception of him on Wednesday with his brace, the first a ripsnorter from 30 yards.
It left Italy coach Marcello Lippi more than satisfied.
"It's good enough. We've got six points, the players did well," said Lippi.
"We finished with two good results and now we can go home and get five or six more games under our belts before the next matches," he added.