Russia and Slovakia qualify for 2016 European Championship
MADRID (AP) Russia is returning to the European Championship for the fourth straight time, while Slovakia will be playing in the tournament for the first time as an independent nation.
Russia qualified for next year’s tournament in France with a 2-0 win over Montenegro in Moscow on Monday, securing second place in Group G behind group winner Austria. Slovakia defeated Luxembourg 4-2 to finish second to Spain in Group C, guaranteeing its first finals’ appearance since it played as a member of the Czechoslovakia in 1992.
Ukraine, Slovenia and Sweden will have to try to qualify through the playoffs.
The top two teams from the nine groups qualify automatically. The best third-placed team also advances, while the other eight meet in a playoff.
Hungary and Turkey are fighting for the final automatic spot as a third-place team. Turkey can qualify by beating Iceland and having Kazakhstan defeating Latvia.
England wrapped up its qualification campaign with a 3-0 win at Lithuania, finishing with the best record in qualifying with 10 straight wins.
Here’s a look at the Euro 2016 qualifiers on Monday:
Slovakia’s historic qualification for Euro 2016 came thanks to a 4-2 win at Luxembourg, which secured the team second place in the group.
Slovakia hadn’t scored in three games but ended the goal drought in a six-minute span in the first half with goals by Marek Hamsik, Adam Nemec and Robert Mak. Luxembourg made it interesting with second-half goals by Mario Mutsch and Lars Gerson, but Hamsik sealed Slovakia’s victory in injury time at the Josy Barthel Stadium in Luxembourg.
Spain, which had already qualified in advance, finished qualifying first with a 1-0 win at Ukraine, which will have to play in the playoffs.
Ukraine played well and had a series of scoring chances against in Kiev, but it was stopped by a remarkable performance by Spain goalkeeper David De Gea.
”Ukraine played well but David de Gea was brilliant too,” Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said. ”Ukraine (has) a personality that not a lot of sides have and I wish them all the best in the playoffs.”
Spain, the defending European champions, finished with 27 points from 10 matches, while Slovakia ended with 22 points and Ukraine had 19.
England will travel to France without a single blemish against its qualification campaign.
Goals from Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, either side of keeper Giedrius Arlauskis’ own goal, sealed a 3-0 win in Vilnius.
Victory meant that Roy Hodgson’s side becomes only the six team ever to advance to the finals with a 100 per cent record still intact.
”To get ten wins out of ten is never easy in these qualifying groups so we’ve got to be satisfied with it and take a bit of pride in it,” head coach Roy Hodgson said.
Elsewhere, second-placed Switzerland beat Estonia 1-0 after an own goal from defender Ragnar Klavan in fourth minute of second-half stoppage time.
That meant the Swiss finished with 21 points, nine adrift of England but five ahead of third-placed Slovenia.
Slovenia will face a playoff after ending its campaign with a 2-0 away win to San Marino after second-half goals from Botjan Cesar and substitute Nejc Pecnik.
Russia qualified with a 2-0 win over Montenegro and will be making its fourth consecutive appearance at the European championships.
Veteran defender Oleg Kuzmin and striker Alexander Kokorin scored both Russian goals in the space of five first-half minutes to ensure Russia the second automatic qualifying place in the group behind Austria, which had already qualified.
Qualification caps a dramatic turnaround under new coach Leonid Slutsky, who took charge of the team in August with the 2018 World Cup host struggling to qualify. The team has since won all four of its games following Slutsky’s appointment.
”We coped with the task in front of us. Today’s game was fairly difficult because the last match is tricky,” Slutsky said. ”You can’t let yourself relax for a second.”
Austria completed its unbeaten qualifying campaign with a straightforward 3-0 win over Liechtenstein, while Sweden beat Moldova 2-0 to finish third in the group and enter next month’s playoffs.
Swedish captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his eighth goal of the qualifying campaign in the 24th, before Erkan Zengin doubled the lead three minutes after halftime.
Sweden needed a setback by Russia to finish second in the group. It ended with 18 points, two less than Russia and 10 behind Austria.
Associated Press writers James Ellingworth in Moscow and David Gerges in London contributed to this report.