Switzerland joins England in qualifying for Euro 2016
LONDON (AP) Switzerland will return to the European Championship for the first time since co-hosting the tournament eight years earlier after thrashing San Marino 7-0 on Friday with seven different scorers.
As the Swiss secured second place, Group E leader England made it nine wins out of nine in qualifying, with Theo Walcott and Raheem Sterling scoring in a 2-0 win over Estonia.
With one qualifier remaining, Switzerland has an unassailable five-point advantage over Slovenia, which was held 1-1 by Lithuania but is almost certain to make the playoffs.
Slovenia has a three-point advantage over fourth-place Estonia and goes into the final qualifier at winless San Marino with a plus-nine goal difference.
In St. Gallen, Switzerland was back in wining form in style on Friday.
Against San Marino, Michael Lang put Switzerland in front in the 17th minute but the floodgates only opened in the second half with Gokhan Inler’s penalty after 10 minutes.
There were further successful spotkicks from Johan Djourou and Breel Embolo and goals from open play from Admir Mehmedi, Pajtim Kasami and Eren Derdiyok.
The last time Switzerland played at the Euros in 2008, England failed to qualify but reaching the expanded 24-team tournament has proved a breeze for Roy Hodgson’s side.
England is the only team with a 100 percent record in qualifying for next year’s finals and should be with the top-seeded teams in the draw for the group stage in France.
”That’s important because it fluctuates with the FIFA rankings and I’m only hoping I’ve not been misled that we are now safe to be seeded,” Hodgson said.
England will have to be far more ruthless at Euro 2016 than at Wembley Stadium against Estonia.
It took until the final kick of the first half for the hosts to score with Walcott meeting Ross Barkley’s through-ball. It was the Arsenal attacker’s seventh goal in nine games for club and country.
Sterling didn’t add England’s second goal until the 85th minute of a low-quality game, sliding in to meet Jamie Vardy’s cross and put the ball in the net.
”We played against a well-organized team and a team that’s quite intelligent in the way they played,” Hodgson said. ”We had to work very hard for it. We attacked a lot and we had a lot of the ball.
”We had quite a few chances but it was a question of whether we could put them away.”
England was without injured captain Wayne Rooney, whose only appearance on the field was before the game to collect a golden boot from Bobby Charlton after breaking his England scoring record by netting for a 50th time in last month’s win against Switzerland.