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EURO 2020: Switzerland, Denmark qualify; Ireland into playoffs

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Denmark, Switzerland and Ireland, the top three teams in Group D, could have finished 2020 European Championship qualification in any one of six permuted orders following Monday’s final round of fixtures, with the top two sides heading straight through to this summer’s tournament and third-place nation going the dreaded playoffs route.

[ MORE: Van Dijk leaves Netherlands squad for “personal reasons” ]

Everything was all set up for a dramatic final day, for prayers to be answered and heartbreak to occur. First-place Denmark visiting third-place Ireland facing one another head-to-head added an even greater level of intrigue of potential for a massive swing in the final standings.

In the end, Ireland came ever so close to causing colossal chaos. Everything finished effective just as it began, with Switzerland and Denmark securing automatic qualification after swapping places and Ireland heading down the road less desired.

Denmark got there by way of a 1-1 draw with Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. The Danes took the lead through Martin Braithwaite in the 73rd minute and appeared destined to finish top of the group after missing the competition in 2016, but Wolverhampton Wanderers defender Matt Doherty headed home to equalize in the 85th. Ireland had a pair of chances after that, but Kasper Schmeichel held firm and saw Denmark over the line.

[ MORE: Premier League Team of the Season so far ]

Switzerland took care of business with hardly a worry in the world, as the hammered Gibraltar to the tune of 6-1. Cedric Itten put the Swiss ahead after 10 minutes, though the game remained 1-0 early into the second half. Ruben Vargas made it 2-0 in the 50th minute, followed by a goal from Christian Fassnacht in the 57th. Gibraltar got one back in the 74th, before Loris Benito, Itten and Granit Xhaka each added another in the final 15 minutes.

As things stand, Switzerland will be placed into Pot 2 for the group stage draw, while Denmark would go into Pot 3.

EURO 2020 qualifying: Spain slips up in final seconds; Danish delight

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in 2020 European Championship qualifying…

[ MORE: Italy qualifies for EURO 2020 with win over Greece ]

Norway 1-1 Spain

Spain led for the entirety of the second half and was mere seconds from a victory that would have extended their perfect record through qualifying (now 6W-1D-0L) and seen them move to within two points of qualification to EURO 2020. La Roja conceded a 93rd-minute penalty when Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga clattered into Omar Elabdellaoui. Bournemouth attacker Joshua King stepped up and converted to keep Norway in touching distance of automatic qualification.

Alas, Spain remains in control of Group F with a six-point advantage on third-place Romania, but they now require a victory of their own and points dropped by Romania to book their place in next summer’s tournament during the current international window.

Saul Niguez had put Robert Moreno’s side ahead in the 47th minute, but the 2008 and 2012 European champions were unable to see their one-goal advantage over the finish line. Sergio Ramos overtook Iker Casillas as Spain’s record holder for all-time appearances, winning his 168th cap.

Denmark 1-0 Switzerland

Yussuf Poulsen scored the only goal in a colossal six-pointer between Denmark and Switzerland. The two nations entered Saturday’s clash separated by a single point in the race for second place and automatic qualification. Denmark sat on nine points, Switzerland on eight.

For 83 minutes, a scoreless deadlock ensued. Switzerland would have been the far happier side, not only as the away side but also the side with a one-point disadvantage and a game still in hand. Instead, they trail the Danes by four points after Poulsen slotted home to complete a lethal counter-attack in the 84th.

Elsewhere in EURO 2020 qualifying

Group D

Georgia 0-0 Ireland

Group F

Liechtenstein 1-1 Armenia

Group J

Bosnia-Herzegovina 4-1 Finland — FULL RECAP
Malta 0-4 Sweden
Faroe Islands 0-3 Romania

Euro 2020 qualifiers: Italy and Spain stay perfect, Eriksen shines for Denmark

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Christian Eriksen‘s future at Tottenham Hotspur may be in serious doubt, but his future with Denmark has never been more secure. The 27-year-old again proved vital for his country as he assisted the opener and scored a brace from the spot in a 6-0 storming of Gibraltar.

His assist came just six minutes into the match on a cross from deep down the right flank, sending it in for a finish off the head of Robert Skov. Eriksen then scored his first penalty past the half-hour mark to put Denmark 2-0 up on the road, and again stepped up to the spot for a second in the 50th minute. Thomas Delaney bagged Denmark’s fourth, Christian Gytkjaer added the fifth, and the Lech Poznan striker picked up his brace with 12 minutes to go.

Like Eriksen, Teemu Pukki remained white hot as Finland secured a massive 1-0 win at home over Greece, pushing them to second in Group J on 12 points. The goal, Pukki’s fourth of the qualifiers, came from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute after Dimitrios Kourbelis fouled Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara. The tally marks Pukki’s sixth goal in his last five matches for club and country, already on top of the Premier League goal chart with five.

Italy, meanwhile, moved to five wins through five matches atop Group J with a 3-1 win over Armenia. Andrea Belotti bagged a brace while Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini added the third in Yerevan. The victory came in comeback fashion as FC Sochi striker Alexander Karapetian opened the scoring 11 minutes in for the hosts on an impressive counter-attack, but he was sent off just before halftime for a second yellow card and Italy preserved its perfect record.

Sergio Ramos scored from the spot to help give Spain a slim 2-1 road victory over Romania. Spain put eight shots on frame in the first half to Romania’s one, but could only record the one penalty goal. A second would eventually be coming, and it did just two minutes after the break as Paco Alcacer finished off a wonderful team goal that featured an assist from Jordi Alba on a wonderful far-post run that caught the Romanian defense out of sorts and played Alcacer onside. On-loan Brighton striker Florin Andone pulled Romania one back with a half-hour to go but they couldn’t get past a bunkered-in Spain reduced to 10 men for the final 11 minutes after Real Sociedad defender Diego Llorente was sent off.

Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof was one of three goalscorers as Sweden hammered the Faroe Islands 4-0 on the road. All four goals came in the first half as the visitors coasted to build a three-point gap for a qualifying position behind Spain in Group F.

Newcastle defender Fabian Schar seemed to have given Switzerland a deserved 1-0 victory on the road at the Republic of Ireland, but a late 85th minute equalizer saw the scoreline level. The Magpies center-back marauded forward through the middle and contributed the finish to a wonderful bit of one-touch attacking with 15 minutes to go. Switzerland deserved to go in front despite the lack of Xherdan Shaqiri who made himself unavailable for selection as he fights for a place in the Liverpool squad. The home side would peg Switzerland back, however, as David McGoldrick delivered a header five minutes from time to share the spoils, moments after Glenn Whelan struck the bar.

Bosnia & Herzegovina poured it on late to top Lichtenstein 5-0. The hosts held 68% possession and popped off 28 shots to Lichtenstein’s eight, but could only muster an 11th minute effort from Amer Gojak for the majority of the match. It was 1-0 until the final 10 minutes when they poured four more on, with Edin Dzeko, Haris Duljevic, and Edin Visca all finding the back of the net plus a second for Gojak. The three points were vital as they pushed Bosnia & Herzegovina up to third in Group J, with a five point gap between them and second-placed Finland.

Norway topped Malta 2-0 at home as Bournemouth’s Josh King scored from the spot. 21-year-old Genk midfielder opened the scoring past the half-hour mark, and King delivered his penalty in first-half stoppage time as the home side cruised in Oslo. They jumped into third in Group F, but still sit two points back of Sweden.

Israel drew 1-1 with Macedonia at home, a disappointing result that sees their second-place spot in Group G suddenly in peril, with third-placed Austria and fourth-placed Slovenia now within striking distance as they both take the field tomorrow.

EURO qualifying: A pair of 3-3 draws, feat. 3 stoppage-time goals

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A roundup of all of Tuesday’s action in 2020 European Championship qualification…

[ MORE: Report: Solskjaer to be named new United boss this week ]

Italy 6-0 Liechtenstein

Italy thrashed Liechtenstein on the back of two penalty kicks converted by Fabio Quagliarella (35th and 45th minutes), along with individual tallies from Stefano Sensi (17th), Marco Veratti (32nd), Moise Kean (70′) and Leonardo Pavoletti (76th).

With two victories from two games, and a +8 goal difference now in tow, Italy sit perched high atop Group J. With two sides set to qualify from the six-team group, it’s just about impossible to conjure up a scenario in which the Azzurri don’t qualify with more than a couple qualifiers still remaining.

Malta 0-2 Spain

Alvaro Morata bagged a brace (31st and 73rd minutes) to help Spain to a comfortable, if slightly labored, victory over Malta. Spain enjoyed a healthy 80 percent of possession and out-shot Malta by a margin of 23-2 (7-1 on target).

The only side with six points from their first two games, Spain lead Group F by two points over Sweden.

Switzerland 3-3 Denmark

The game of the day.

Remo Freuler put Switzerland ahead after 19 minutes. It would stay that way until the final 25 minutes, when a massive explosion of goals saw the game quickly get out of hand, in the most unimaginable of ways.

Granti Xhaka made it 2-0 in the 66th, and Breel Embolo made it 3-0 in the 76th. That was it, the game was over, done and dusted, right? Wrong.

Mathias Jorgensen brought Denmark back to 3-1 in the 84th, followed by Christian Gytkjaer in the 88th for 3-1. Deep into stoppage time — as in, three minutes deep — Henrik Dalsgaard completed the comeback with a header to clean up a mad scramble of failed headed clearances inside the penalty area.

Norway 3-3 Sweden

While also a six-goal thriller with stoppage-time drama, Sweden’s comeback was only from 2-0 down.

Bjoern Maars Johnsen (41st) and Joshua King (59th) established the lead just before the hour mark, and everything was going exactly to play for Norway. That remained the case until the 70th minute, when scored Viktor Claesson from open play. Norway scored again in the 86th minute, only Havard Nordtveit put the ball into his own net, which drew the Swedes level.

Robin Quaison gave Sweden the lead in the 91st minute, surely sealing all three points in a memorable comeback, right? Wrong again. Ola Kamara’s 96th-minute equalizer meant a 3-3 draw that neither side would be happy with, nor particularly dissatisfied.

Elsewhere in EURO 2010 qualifying

Group D

Ireland 1-0 Georgia

Group F

Romania 4-1 Faroe Islands

Group J

Bosnia & Herzegovina 2-2 Greece
Armenia 0-2 Finland

Former Arsenal striker Bendtner drops appeal, will serve time

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) Former Denmark forward Niklas Bendtner will have to serve a 50-day jail sentence after dropping his appeal against an assault conviction.

Early this month, Bendtner was found guilty of beating and kicking a cab driver in the Danish capital on Sept. 9. The 30-year-old Dane admitted to hitting the man but said he had acted in self-defense after a quarrel over the fare.

[READ: What’s next for the USMNT?]

Bendtner was sentenced to 50 days in prison and fined 1,500 kroner ($230).

The State Prosecutor of Copenhagen wrote on Twitter that it also abandoned its appeal after Bendtner’s move, adding “the verdict is therefore final.”

It was not immediately clear when Bendtner would serve his time.

Bendtner, a former Arsenal and Juventus forward who now plays for Norwegian club Rosenborg, has not been selected for his national team in recent months because of his poor shape.