DUBLIN            -             Denmark were pushed to the limit but got the point they needed to seal a place at Euro 2020 as Group D runners-up with a hard-fought 1-1 draw in Ireland on Monday that consigned the hosts to the playoffs for the third successive tournament.

A 73rd minute Martin Braithwaite goal set the 1992 European champions on their way to celebrating qualification in Dublin for the second tournament in a row after a 5-1 win almost two years ago to the day had sent them to last year’s World Cup. But they had to survive a late onslaught when Ireland, the better side throughout, scored only their seventh goal in eight qualifiers when Matt Doherty headed home after 85 minutes though they could not get the win they needed to qualify automatically.While no other team in contention across the 10 groups had hit the net as infrequently, Ireland possessed one of the best defensive records, so chances were unsurprisingly few and far between in the first half. It took 34 minutes for a shot on target and when the ball fell fortuitously to an open Conor Hourihane on the edge of the Denmark box, the Aston Villa midfielder should have done better than stroke the ball straight at Schmeichel.

Denmark, who lost midfielder Thomas Delaney and striker Andreas Cornelius to injuries in the first 30 minutes, were a shadow of the side that ran riot in Dublin two years earlier but their opponents were far more disciplined this time. Having drawn four of the other five meetings with Ireland in the last two years, the unbeaten Danes appeared happy to settle for another stalemate until Braithwaite ghosted in behind Doherty to nudge his side into the lead against the run of play. The otherwise impressive Doherty’s first international goal set up a grandstand finish but that was all the home side could muster as the Danes finished three points ahead of the Irish in second place to join group winners Switzerland in the finals. Ireland must wait until the playoffs in March to see if they can follow suit via a route they have successfully navigated in the last two European Championships.

Switzerland qualified for Euro 2020 with an easy 6-1 win away to Gibraltar in their final Group D qualifying match with Cedric Itten scoring twice. The Swiss topped the group with 17 points. Needing a draw to qualify, the Swiss went ahead after 10 minutes through Itten, who had scored on his debut on Friday to give them a 1-0 win over Georgia. Ruben Vargas got to the byline and sent over a low cross which the Gibraltar defence failed to intercept and Itten tapped in. Vargas himself headed the second from Loris Benito’s cross five minutes after halftime and Christian Fassnacht added the third seven minutes later after the Gibraltar defence failed to deal with Michael Lang’s cross. Gibraltar pulled one back in the 74th minute when a long throw was headed on at the near post, the ball bobbled around and Reece Styche prodded it in. But the celebrations did not last long as Switzerland went straight down the other end from the re-start and Benito added a fourth. Itten took his tally to three in two internationals when he headed the fifth and provided the pass for Granit Xhaka to slot home the sixth as Gibraltar tired.

Italy thumped hapless Armenia 9-1 to complete their Euro 2020 qualifying group with a perfect record and extend their record-breaking run to 11 successive international wins as they looked forward to next year’s tournament. Twenty-year-old Nicolo Zaniolo scored a brace, his first international goals, while Ciro Immobile also scored twice as Italy, already qualified, completed Group J with 30 points from their 10 games. Nicolo Barella, Alessio Romagnoli, Jorginho, debutant Riccardo Orsolini and Federico Chiesa shared the other goals. Armenia finished fifth with 10 points and were eliminated as they cannot qualify through the playoffs.

In the other games, Finland, who guaranteed second place on Friday to qualify for their first major tournament, lost 2-1 in Greece while Bosnia won 3-0 away to Liechtenstein. Bosnia could still qualify through the playoffs in March.

Spain rounded off their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 5-0 win at home to Romania. Fabian Ruiz put Spain in front after eight minutes while forward Gerard Moreno struck twice and then forced an own goal from Romania’s Adrian Rus before the break, with Mikel Oyarzabal hitting the fifth in second-half stoppage time. Romania coach Cosmin Contra confirmed after the game that he would leave his role when his contract expires in December.

 

resultsSwitzerland 6-1 Gibraltar

Greece 2-1 Finland

Italy 9-1 Armenia

Bosnia 3-0 Liechtenstein

Malta 1-2 Norway

Ireland 1-1 Denmark

Spain 5-0 Romania

Sweden 3-0 Faroe Islands