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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.

Report: Granit Xhaka to leave Arsenal in January

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This outcome was inevitable.

After Granit Xhaka was stripped of the Arsenal captaincy on Tuesday, various reports have immediately emerged that the midfielder will leave the Gunners during the January transfer window.

A report from The Times states that Xhaka’s future at Arsenal is non-existent and the Switzerland national team captain will be made available for transfer in January.

Xhaka, 27, has publicly apologized after he swore and gestured at Arsenal’s fans, threw off the captains armband and stormed down the tunnel as home supporters cheered his substitution in their 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on Oct. 27.

He hasn’t played for Arsenal since.

Xhaka’s public apology took four days and in that apology he hit out at supporters for their vile abuse of him and his family.

The central midfielder has become a scapegoat for Arsenal’s poor form this season and he was only appointed captain at the start of the campaign after manager Unai Emery conducted a vote among Arsenal’s players to select a club captain.

Xhaka hasn’t handled this situation well, at all, but Arsenal’s supporters should also take a look at themselves for jeering one of their own players off the pitch.

Did Xhaka react badly? Yes. Was it a situation which had been bubbling up over many months? Yes. Should Arsenal’s fans single out one player to abuse given most of their team have been underperforming? No.

Nobody wins in this situation, as Xhaka will at least get a fresh start elsewhere as his two-and-half year stay at Arsenal can be described as nothing short of a disaster, on the pitch.

Off the pitch it looks to have ended disastrously too.

Basel forward Van Wolfswinkel has successful brain surgery

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BASEL, Switzerland (AP) Basel forward Ricky Van Wolfswinkel is to leave the hospital after successful brain surgery to treat an aneurysm.

The club says the operation was performed Tuesday and the Dutchman has been cleared to leave.

[ MORE: UEL group stage draw ]

Van Wolfswinkel’s aneurysm was discovered by chance during scans after he sustained a concussion in a Champions League qualifying game this month. His injury occurred late in a 2-1 home loss to LASK Linz on Aug. 7.

The 30-year-old former Norwich and Sporting Lisbon player has said he expected to be out of action for at least six months.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Body recovered is Swiss international Ismaili

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The body of Switzerland women’s national teamer Florijana Ismaili has been found, three days after disappearing while swimming in Italy.

Ismaili entered the Lake Como water on June 30 and never resurfaced, a day after her 24th birthday. Her body was recovered from deep below the surface.

Capped 33 times with three goals for the Swiss, she captained Young Boys’ female team BSC YB Frauen.

The Swiss federation announced her passing.

“The SFV expresses its sincere condolences to the family, relatives and friends of Florijana Ismaili and wishes everyone all the strength in this difficult time.”

Swiss international Ismaili missing after swimming accident

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GENEVA (AP) Switzerland forward Florijana Ismaili is missing after getting into difficulties while swimming in Italy.

Swiss side Young Boys Bern says it has been informed that Ismaili, who plays for its women’s team, has been missing since she had a swimming accident at Lake Como in Lombardy on Saturday afternoon.

The club says: “The police searches are still underway. We are very upset and have not given up hope that all will end well.”

The club adds, “We are in close contact with family members and ask for understanding that we cannot make any further comment at this time. We will inform again as soon as we know more.”

Italian news agency Ansa reported that Ismaili rented a boat with a friend. She apparently dived into the lake from the boat but did not resurface.

The 24-year-old Ismaili has been playing for Bern since 2011.