Denmark, France, Greece, Russia and best runners-up Sweden secured the last five automatic places in the UEFA EURO 2012 finals while next month's play-off lineup was also confirmed as the nine qualifying groups concluded.
Already through alongside co-hosts Poland and Ukraine were holders Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and England. Now 12 teams are confirmed for the finals draw on 2 December in Kyiv while next month's play-offs will involve Turkey, the Republic of Ireland, Estonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Portugal and the Czech Republic.
There were two direct contests for group supremacy and for a while it seemed as if Bosnia and Herzegovina would make their first final tournament at France's expense as they led 1-0 in Paris, but Samir Nasri's penalty 12 minutes from time ensured Les Bleus topped Group D.
Meanwhile in Copenhagen, Denmark secured the victory against Portugal they needed to overtake their visitors in Group H. The 2-1 result means Portugal go to the play-offs, pipping Norway – who beat Cyprus 3-1 – on goal difference.
In another first-versus-second fixture Sweden knew they could not overtake the Netherlands in Group E. However, a home win would mean automatic qualification as the runners-up with the best record against the sides first, third, fourth and fifth in their section. And having had a lead wiped out and then fallen behind, the Swedes replied with two goals in a minute for a 3-2 advantage that took them to the finals, and also meant they were the only side to take points off the Dutch.
Meanwhile, both Greece and Russia began the day needing only a point to seal their places and did so with victories. With 11 minutes left Greece were actually heading for the play-offs as they were 1-0 down in Georgia and Croatia were beating Latvia 2-0, but substitute Giorgos Fotakis and Angelos Charisteas ensured Greece topped Group F.
It was more comfortable for Russia, who saw off Andorra 6-0 to win Group B two points ahead of the Republic of Ireland, who sealed a play-off by beating Armenia 2-1. Also in Thursday's draw, despite not having a game tonight, are Estonia, thanks to Serbia's 1-0 loss in Slovenia giving the Baltic nation a first play-off as Group C runners-up behind Italy.
The Azzurri only dropped two points but Germany and Spain completed perfect runs and denied their opponents play-off chances. Germany made it ten Group A wins with a 3-1 defeat of Belgium, leaving Turkey second after their 1-0 victory against Azerbaijan. Meanwhile Spain overcame Scotland 3-1 for an eighth success, allowing the Czech Republic to end as runners-up with a 4-1 triumph in Lithuania.
Only in one section was everything wrapped up before today, England having won Group G and Montenegro with a first play-off, despite tonight's 2-0 loss in Switzerland. They can now await the play-off draw at 13.00CET on Thursday in Krakow when the four ties to take place on 11/12 and 15 November will be determined.
(draw 2 December, matches 8 June to 1 July)
Hosts: Poland, Ukraine
Group A: Germany
Group B: Russia
Group C: Italy
Group D: France
Group E: Netherlands, Sweden*
Group F: Greece
Group G: England
Group H: Denmark
Group I: Spain (holders)
(draw Thursday, matches 11/12 & 15 November)
Republic of Ireland
Bosnia and Herzegovina
(Four teams to be seeded based on coefficient tbc)
The nine pool winners, plus the runners-up with the best record against the sides placed first, third, fourth and fifth in their pool qualified directly, with the other second-placed teams entering the play-offs. More details, including the procedure for breaking ties and determining the best runners-up, are in the official regulations.
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