Albania joins Germany, Poland, Romania at Euro 2016
LEIPZIG, Germany (AP) Albania joined World Cup winner Germany, Poland and Romania in clinching a spot at next year’s European Championship on Sunday after winning their final qualifying games.
Germany beat Georgia 2-1 to top Group D ahead of Poland, which beat Ireland by the same score.
Albania reached its first major tournament with a 3-0 away win over Armenia to finish second in Group I behind Portugal, which had already qualified.
Romania’s 3-0 away win over the Faeroe Islands was enough to clinch second place behind Northern Ireland in Group F.
Here’s a roundup of action from Sunday’s Euro 2016 qualifying games:
Germany needed a penalty from Thomas Mueller and a late goal from substitute Max Kruse to overcome Georgia, while Poland had captain Robert Lewandowski to thank for the winner against Ireland.
Kruse scored three minutes after coming on as a substitute for Germany to finish top of the group, one point above Poland.
Lewandowski’s goal was his 13th goal in qualifying for Poland. It tied the mark set by David Healy of Northern Ireland in Euro 2008 qualifying.
Ireland finished three points behind Poland, but can still qualify for the Euros via a playoff.
Germany was unconvincing for long periods against Georgia and had to wait until Mueller’s penalty in the 50th minute to make the breakthrough. Georgia captain Jaba Kankava equalized three minutes later, only for Kruse to claim the winner in the 79th.
In Warsaw, Grzegorz Krychowiak fired Poland ahead in the 13th, only for Jon Walters to equalize three minutes later with a penalty.
Lewandowski claimed the winner with a header to Krzysztof Maczynski’s cross in the 42nd.
Scotland routed Gibraltar 6-0 in Faro, Portugal, in the other group game to finish three points behind Ireland in fourth. Georgia finished six points further back, with Gibraltar bottom on none.
Two first-half goals by Constantin Bulescu helped Romania secured its spot in France with a 3-0 away win over Faeroe Islands, while Greece beat Hungary 4-3 to avoid a winless qualifying campaign.
Already qualified Northern Ireland drew 1-1 with Finland in Helsinki after allowing a late equalizer by Paulus Arajuuri. Craig Cathcart had put the visitors ahead in the 31st.
Greece finally ended its miserable run when substitute Panayiotis Kone headed in the winner in the 86th minute.
”A bittersweet victory,” said Greece coach Costas Tsanas, whose side finished bottom of the group, level on points with the Faeroe Islands.
Hungary led twice in the second half, only for Greece to equalize twice within three minutes.
Hungary finished third in the group, four points behind Romania, and will have another chance to reach the finals through the playoffs if it doesn’t finish as the best third-placed team.
Albania reached the European Championship for the first time thanks to its 3-0 victory in Armenia for second place in Group I.
Albania reached 14 points, two more than Denmark, which had already played its last qualifier and now faces the playoffs.
Group winner Portugal beat already eliminated Serbia 2-1, winning its seventh consecutive qualifier after a shock 1-0 loss to Albania in the teams’ opener. Nani scored in the fifth minute, Zoran Tosic equalized in the 65th and substitute Joao Moutinho netted the winner in the 78th.
Portugal finished with 21 points from eight matches.
With qualification already secured in advance, the Portuguese played without Cristiano Ronaldo and a few other regular starters.
Serbia played the final minutes with nine men as captain Aleksandar Kolarov was sent off with a second yellow card in the 80th and Nemanja Matic received a straight red in the 81st.
Demetris Nellas in Athens and Tales Azzoni in Madrid contributed to this report.