France makes Euro 2012, Portugal in playoffs

Denmark snatched an automatic spot at the 2012 European

Championship at the expense of Portugal on Tuesday while France

needed a late penalty in a 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina to

reach the finals.

Former champion Greece and Russia also clinched their places at

next summer’s tournament in Ukraine and Poland as group winners

with victories in the final round of qualifying games, and Sweden

beat already-qualified Netherlands 3-2 to advance as the runner-up

with the best record from the nine pools.

Portugal’s 2-1 defeat in Copenhagen dropped Cristiano Ronaldo

and his teammates into next month’s qualification playoffs, along

with fellow runners-up Turkey, Ireland, Estonia,

Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Czech Republic. Montenegro had

already finished second in Group G before a 2-0 loss at Switzerland

on Tuesday.

Defending champion Spain and Germany beat Scotland and Belgium

respectively to finish their group campaigns with perfect records,

although the Netherlands’ defeat in Stockholm ruined their 100

percent run in qualifying.

With England and Italy also already through as group winners,

France and Portugal were the only heavyweights from the continent

still to seal automatic qualification.

The French, needing at least a draw to finish top of Group D,

fell behind at the Stade de France in the 40th minute when Edin

Dzeko curled home a shot from the edge of the box.

Playmaker Samir Nasri salvaged a point for the hosts when he

converted a penalty after being brought down just inside the area

by defender Emir Spahic.

”While the first half was disappointing, the second half was

heart-warming,” France coach Laurent Blanc said. ”What I liked

was the players’ reaction. If they had not reacted tonight, we

would be talking about the playoffs.”

It left Portugal as the biggest casualty of the night although

the 2004 runners-up can still qualify through the playoffs, the

draw for which takes place on Thursday.

Denmark had to win to secure first place in Group H and were 2-0

up by the 63rd minute thanks to goals by Michael Krohn-Dehli and

Nicklas Bendtner.

Ronaldo halved the deficit with a free kick in second-half

injury time but it wasn’t enough for the Portuguese.

”It was fantastic. All we maybe missed were a couple of more

goals,” said Denmark coach Morten Olsen.

Greece, the surprise 2004 champion, needed goals in the final 11

minutes by substitute Giorgos Fotakis and veteran Angelos

Charisteas to secure a 2-1 win over Georgia and reach its third

straight European Championship.

It meant second-place Croatia’s 2-0 victory over Latvia was in

vain, with Greece winning Group F by two points.

As expected, Russia thrashed Andorra to qualify automatically

from Group B, Alan Dzagoev scoring twice in a 6-0 win in Moscow.

Sergei Ignashevich, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Denis Glushakov and Diniyar

Bilyaletdinov also found the net for Dick Advocaat’s side.

Ireland and Armenia were left to battle it out in a straight

shootout for second place, with the Irish emerging triumphant

thanks to a 2-1 win in Dublin.

The hosts capitalized on the disputed sending-off of Armenia

goalkeeper Roman Berezovski, for hand ball outside the area, in the

26th minute to go 2-0 up by the 59th minute through Valeri

Aleksanyan’s own goal and Richard Dunne’s close-range finish.

Henrik Mkhitaryan replied two minutes later for Armenia, which

would have finished runner-up with a win.

Sweden’s first win over the Netherlands since 1924 ensured the

team advanced as the best runner-up – but it needed to overturn a

2-1 deficit to do so.

In a four-minute span just after the break, Sebastian Larsson

scored a penalty and Ola Toivonen crashed home a powerful shot in a

stirring fightback that stunned the Dutch, who had recovered from

Kim Kallstrom’s 14th-minute free kick with goals by Klaas-Jan

Huntelaar and Dirk Kuyt.

”This was a fantastic team effort,” Sweden coach Erik Hamren

said.

Estonia is arguably the most surprising team in the

playoffs.

The unheralded Baltic nation kept hold of second place in Group

C thanks to Serbia’s failure to defeat Slovenia in Maribor.

Dare Vrsic’s goal sealed a 1-0 win for the Slovenians, with

Nemanja Vidic missing a penalty for the visitors in the Manchester

United defender’s first game back after an eight-week injury

layoff.

Italy beat Northern Ireland 3-0, thanks to Antonio Cassano’s

double and an own goal by Gareth McAuley, to finish the group

unbeaten and with a 10-point gap to Estonia.

Turkey’s 1-0 victory over Azerbaijan saw it leapfrog Belgium

into second place in Group A.

The Belgians lost 3-1 to Germany, which clinched a 10th straight

win in qualifying thanks to goals by Mesut Oezil, Andre Schuerrle

and Mario Gomez.

Scotland’s 3-1 defeat to Spain allowed the Czech Republic to

climb into the runner-up spot in Group I with a 4-1 win in

Lithuania.

Jan Razek and Michail Kadlec both scored twice for the Czechs,

with David Silva hitting two for Spain in an eighth straight

qualifying win for the world champions.