England booked a place at the Euro 2012 finals on Friday, while former champions France are among several teams who face nail-biting matches next week to determine their fate.
Seven of the 16 teams for the tournament, are now known including co-hosts Poland and Ukraine, with five automatic berths up for grabs in Tuesday’s final round of games.
Fabio Capello’s Group G leaders England were the only side to book a spot on Friday with a 2-2 draw in Montenegro, although Russia are virtually there after snatching a 1-0 win in Slovakia.
Russia need only a point against rank outsiders Andorra on Tuesday to win Group B.
Three groups will go down to the wire with France hosting Bosnia next week in a winner-takes-all match in Paris after both won their penultimate Group D games, while Portugal and Denmark will meet in similar circumstances in Group H.
The battle for supremacy in Group F will also be determined on Tuesday after Greece beat Croatia 2-0 to leapfrog their rivals into top spot.
The fifth remaining automatic berth will go to the best runner-up with the other second-placed teams entering a two-legged playoff for the tournament’s remaining four spots.
England had gone to Montenegro needing just a point to qualify and were cruising when they went up 2-0 after just over half an hour thanks to goals from Ashley Young and Darren Bent.
The hosts pulled one back on the stroke of halftime through Elsad Zverotic before England striker Wayne Rooney was shown a straight red card after 74 minutes and Montenegro made the most of the advantage with a last-minute goal from Andrija Delibasic.
The draw secured second spot in the group for Montenegro and a place in the playoffs, triggering wild celebrations on the Podgorica pitch.
For England, festivities were tempered somewhat by Rooney’s moment of madness, when he kicked out at Miodrag Dzudovic, which will earn the side’s most dangerous attacking player a minimum one-match ban at the start of next year’s finals.
“It surprised me because just in front of me he kicked the opponent, I think the red card is OK,” Capello told Sky Sports. “For the next game he will be suspended so we will try to find new solutions.”
England, who failed to qualify for the 2008 edition of the European Championship, completed their campaign unbeaten with 18 points from eight games.
Montenegro have 12, having played one game fewer, and cannot be caught by third-placed Switzerland whose hopes ended with a 2-0 defeat in Wales.
Germany, Spain, Netherlands and Italy had already qualified for next year’s tournament and all added points to their tallies on Friday.
Germany made it nine wins out of nine, beating Turkey 3-1 away in Group A.
That result meant their opponents dropped to third place, one point below Belgium who thrashed Kazakhstan 4-1, but who must now visit Germany on Tuesday in their final game, while Turkey host lowly Azerbaijan.
“Our aim is to win 10 games out of 10. The aim was to win, not to give Turkey a present,” Germany coach Joachim Loew told reporters.
World and European champions Spain struck early to take all the points in Prague with a 2-0 win over Czech Republic, denting their hosts’ chances of taking the runners-up spot in Group I.
Czech Republic stayed second with 10 points although Scotland, two points behind, were expected to overtake them when they were to visit Liechtenstein yesterday.
Netherlands secured top spot in Group E when a Klaas-Jan Huntelaar goal shortly before halftime gave them a 1-0 win over Moldova, while Sweden made sure of second place in that group with a 2-1 victory over Finland.
Group C winners Italy took a first-minute lead with a Claudio Marchisio goal in Belgrade before Serbia fought back through Branislav Ivanovic’s 26th-minute effort to snatch a 1-1 draw that kept alive the hosts’ hopes of a playoff berth.
The match passed off peacefully after Serbia lost the reverse fixture in Genoa by a 3-0 walkover due to crowd trouble and the result left Vladimir Petrovic’s side needing to beat Slovenia away in their last game to finish second.
Just a point separates leaders France and Bosnia in Group D after the former beat Albania 3-0 and the latter thumped Luxembourg 5-0 to set up a mouthwatering shootout between the top two next week.
Travel plans are also not certain for the teams in Group H after Denmark crushed Cyprus 4-1 and Portugal beat Iceland 5-3.
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