Thu, Oct 13, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Denmark stun Portugal to top group

BRINGING HOME THE BACON:Michael Krohn-Dehli and Nicklas Bendtner scored the goals that consigned Portugal to the playoffs and sent the Scandinavians to the finals

AFP, PARIS

Denmark, France and Russia booked their places at Euro 2012, while Portugal were consigned to the playoffs after a tense conclusion to qualifying on Tuesday.

Greece, surprise champions of Euro 2004, joined that trio as winners of their respective groups, with Sweden also sealing their passage as best runners-up in Group E with a shock 3-2 win over the already qualified Netherlands in Stockholm.

Two-time former winners France did it the hard way, fighting back from 1-0 down to force a 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina, who would have topped the table had they held on to win.

Denmark, European champions in 1992, stunned Portugal with a 2-1 win in Copenhagen to leapfrog the visitors and top Group H, consigning the Euro 2004 losing finalists to the playoffs.

Greece edged Georgia 2-1 away, while Russia as expected had no problem in disposing of Andorra 6-0 to top their respective groups.

Both title holders Spain and 2008 finalists Germany rounded off their campaigns without dropping a point as Spain beat Scotland 3-1 and Germany prevailed by the same score against Belgium.

An increasingly impressive Germany romped to victory over a promising side who were bidding to become the first Belgium team to win on German soil since a 1983 victory over East Germany.

Goals by Mesut Ozil, Andre Schuerrle and Mario Gomez put paid to Belgium’s hopes of a win that would send them into the runners-up playoffs — Turkey’s 1-0 win at home to Azerbaijan confirmed they would finish second.

France looked like they might end up in the playoffs for the second successive time in a major championships when Edin Dzeko scored a beauty for Bosnia late in the first half, but a penalty from Dzeko’s Manchester City teammate, Samir Nasri, leveled matters in the second half and the hosts held on for the point they needed.

“The match was difficult. It was what we expected,” France coach Laurent Blanc said. “It was tough and it was tense, but in the end it’s a huge satisfaction to be qualified for the Euros.”

His Bosnian counterpart, Safet Susic, said he hoped for better luck in the playoffs as they bid to qualify for their first major finals since achieving independence in 1992.

“I’m particularly sad for my players,” said Susic, whose side will learn their playoff opponents today. “I think they played a great match. They controlled the match for about 60 minutes, before their physical level fell away.”

Greece confirmed their place in the finals after two late goals saw them come from 1-0 down to beat Georgia — Angelos Charisteas their Euro 2004 goalscoring hero getting their winner.

Croatia have to be content with a playoff place despite beating Latvia 2-0, their 2-0 away defeat by Greece on Friday proving decisive.

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic — feted as a national hero after an impressive showing at Euro 2008 — did not shirk his responsibility for their failure to top the group.

“I’m the only one responsible for results in qualifying,” Bilic told Croatian television. “Our goal was to finish first in the group, so this must go down as a failure.”

Russia were never likely to succumb to an Andorra side that had not mustered a point and scored just one goal in the qualifiers and they duly cruised through.

A brace by rising 21-year-old CSKA Moscow star Alan Dzagoev was the feature of the rout.

“I’m proud of my team as we were the better team today and in the entire qualifying campaign,” Russia manager Dick Advocaat said. “It was a really impressive performance tonight. Now we need to prepare the best possible way for the finals.”

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