Portugal, Croatia, Ireland, Czechs reach Euro 2012

BY foxsports • November 15, 2011

Portugal, Croatia, Ireland and the Czech Republic clinched places at the European Championship on Tuesday to complete the lineup for next year's tournament.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to lead Portugal to a 6-2 win over 10-man Bosnia-Herzegovina in the second leg of the teams' playoff, securing progress by the same aggregate score.

Croatia thwarted Turkey's comeback hopes with a 0-0 draw in Zagreb that secured a 3-0 aggregate win, while the Czech Republic won 1-0 at Montenegro and 3-0 overall. Ireland completed a 5-1 win over Estonia with a 1-1 draw in Dublin.

Spain's poor form in friendly matches continued with a 2-2 draw at Costa Rica, but Germany confirmed its status as arguably the strongest contender to unseat Spain as European champion.

While the Spanish needed goals in the last eight minutes from David Silva and David Villa to avoid a humiliating defeat, Germany captain Miroslav Klose scored one goal and set up two more for a 3-0 friendly win over the Netherlands.

In other friendlies, England defeated Sweden 1-0 to end 2011 unbeaten, Denmark beat Finland 2-1, Italy lost 1-0 to visiting Uruguay, and France was held 0-0 by Belgium.

Playing late in the day, Portugal clinched the last of 16 places for next year's competition in Poland and Ukraine.

Ronaldo settled his team's nerves with an eighth-minute free kick and Nani made it 2-0 to the 2004 European Championship runner-up with a long-range shot 16 minutes later.

Zvjezdan Misimovic got a goal back for Bosnia with a penalty awarded for a handball by Fabio Coentrao but Ronaldo restored his team's two-goal advantage shortly after halftime, beating the offside trap and rounding the goalkeeper to tap the ball into the net.

Senad Lulic was sent off for dissent a minute later and Emir Spahic trimmed Bosnia's deficit again from what may have been an offside position, but two goals from Helder Postiga and another from Miguel Veloso ended any doubts in the last 18 minutes.

Croatia qualified for the fourth time since becoming an independent nation in 1991 courtesy of a comfortable 3-0 lead from Friday's first leg.

The 0-0 draw preserved Croatia's perfect playoff record - it qualified against Ukraine for the 1998 World Cup and against Slovenia for Euro 2004 - and restored pride after it was eliminated from the Euro 2008 quarterfinals by Turkey, conceding in the last seconds of extra time before losing a shootout.

''This time we were focused until the end and did not let Turkey kick us out as they did in Austria in 2008,'' Croatia defender Darijo Srna said. ''We played a solid game.''

Ireland qualified for a major tournament for the first time in 10 years, adding to its 4-0 first-leg advantage in the 32nd Tuesday when Stephen Ward smashed in a rebound after Estonia goalkeeper Pavel Londak spilled Kevin Doyle's initial header.

Estonia salvaged some pride in the 57th when Ireland keeper Shay Given was beaten by a long-range shot by visiting captain Konstantin Vassiljev slip through his hands.

The Czech Republic qualified for its fifth straight European Championship when, against the run of play in Podgorica, Petr Jiracek surged past two defenders and scored with a low shot from 10 meters (yards).

The 81st-minute goal helped maintain the Czechs' record of reaching every European Championship since Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

''I think we have deserved it,'' Czech coach Michal Bilek said. ''We played well in the playoffs, especially in the first leg at home.''

The quartet of new qualifiers join Germany, Russia, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Greece, England, Denmark, Spain, Sweden and the two host nations in next year's tournament.

Defending champion Spain, which had already lost friendlies to England, Italy, Portugal and Argentina since winning the World Cup 16 months ago, slumped in San Jose despite goalkeeper Iker Casillas making his national record 127th appearance.

Casillas beat former 'keeper Andoni Zubizarreta's record as Spain's most capped player but his error allowed Randall Brenes to open the scoring in the 31st minute. Joel Campbell then curled past Casillas 11 minutes later and he was replaced by Victor Valdes at the start of the second half.

Only the late efforts of Silva and Villa prevented Spain from losing for the second time in four days, following Saturday's 1-0 defeat to England.

Gareth Barry's deflected header at Wembley was enough to give England its first win over Sweden in 43 years and took the host nation's tally to 2,000 goals in international football.

''It is statistics,'' England coach Fabio Capello said. ''It will be more important what happens at the Euros.''

The Netherlands threatened Germany early on in Hamburg when Wesley Sneijder fired over from distance and Klaas Jan Huntelaar - who wore a protective mask after breaking his nose this month - saw an effort turned away for a corner.

But Klose set up Thomas Mueller to score Germany's opener in the 15th minute, scored his 63rd international goal in the 26th, and combined brilliantly with Mesut Oezil for the Real Madrid midfielder to score in the 66th.

The Germany captain could have scored a couple more, but is now five goals behind Germany's all-time scorer Gerd Mueller.

It was Germany's first win over its traditional rival since 1996.

Italy hadn't lost since being beaten 2-0 by Ireland in a June friendly but Malaga striker Sebastian Fernandez scored in the third minute at the Stadio Olimpico, shooting as two defenders stood immobile to reaffirm the Copa America champion's return to football's elite.

''This was a very important match and it closes out a spectacular year for us,'' Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said. ''To beat Italy at home is big.''

In other friendlies Tuesday, Romania won 3-1 at Greece, Honduras beat Serbia 2-0, and Switzerland won 1-0 at Luxembourg.


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