2008 euro qualifiers : Italy, France, Spain qualify; Israel upset Russia
London, November 18:
World champions Italy qualified for the European Championship and took France along with them by beating Scotland 2-1 on an injury-time goal by Christian Panucci.
Spain, Croatia, Poland and the Netherlands also advanced to next year’s tournament in Austria and Switzerland. Defending champions Greece, three-time winner Germany, the Czech Republic and Romania had already qualified for the 16-team event. The final four spots are still be decided.
Israel scored a late winner to beat Russia 2-1, putting Croatia into the finals and keeping England in realistic contention. The English now need to draw with Croatia on Wednesday, whereas a Russian victory in Tel Aviv would have meant almost certain elimination.
Panucci headed in a free kick by Andrea Pirlo after Barry Ferguson’s 65th-minute goal had equalised a goal scored by Luca Toni in the second minute. The victory put Italy at the top of Group B ahead of France.
Even with no chance of qualifying, Israel took a 10th-minute lead through Elyaniv Barda only for Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to level for Russia in the 61st. Omer Golan captured the points for Israel three minutes into injury time.
The result put Group E leaders Croatia into the finals because Russia can’t catch the Croats. It also means that the Russians remain two points behind England going into the final round on Wednesday.
Group C is also going down to the final round, even though Greece were already sure of one of the spots before their 5-0 crushing of Malta.
Turkey came from behind to leapfrog Norway into second place by winning 2-1 in Oslo. Erik Hagen gave the Norwegians a 12th-minute lead but Emre Belozoglu and Kahveci Nihat hit back for the visitors, who now hold an one-point advantage over Norway. Norway should beat Malta, but the Turks host Bosnia-Herezegovina.
Poland reached their first European Championship finals beating Belgium 2-0 with goals from Euzebiusz Smolarek.
Finland scored twice in the last 11 minutes to beat Azerbaijan 2-1 and maintain their slim chances of advancing from Group A. Mikael Forssell and Shefki Kuqi scored after Makhmud Gurbanov had threatened an upset for Azerbaijan.
Portugal edged Armenia 1-0 but still need a point against Finland to ensure qualification. Serbia’s game against Kazakhstan in Belgrade was postponed because of heavy snow.
The Czech Republic beat Slovakia 3-1 and Germany outplayed Cyprus 4-0 in Group D. Danny Koevermans scored for the Netherlands in their 1-0 victory over Luxembourg in Group G, and it was enough to capture a qualifying spot along with Romania, who lost at Bulgaria 1-0.
Spain beat Sweden 3-0 with goals by Joan Capdevila, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos, while Northern Ireland defeated Sweden 2-1.