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PIX: Sweden, Finland clinch Euro finals berth

November 16, 2019 08:20 IST

Sweden players celebrate after beating Romania and qualifying.

IMAGE: Sweden players celebrate after beating Romania and qualifying. Photograph: Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/Reuters

Sweden sealed a place at Euro 2020 after goals from Marcus Berg and Robin Quaison secured a 2-0 win away to Romania on Friday.

The result secured second spot in Group F for Sweden with 18 points. Spain, who sealed a place at the finals last month, top the standings with 23 points from nine games after thrashing Malta 7-0. Romania are third with 14 points.

Sweden coach Janne Andersson was moved to tears by his side's performance, saying: "This is so fantastic, it can't be true. What players I have. I am so incredibly happy and proud.

"I had tears in my eyes when there was two minutes to go. That we are going to the Euros is one thing, that the players did it together is fantastic, unbelievably fantastic."

Striker Berg, also speaking to Sweden's TV4, added: "There was a lot of pressure today, there weren't many that thought we could come here and beat them 2-0... I'm completely empty, it's going to take a while before it sinks in."

Berg put the Swedes ahead in the 18th minute with a trademark header past goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu following a cross from Emil Forsberg. It was his 21st international goal.

Midfielder Quaison wrapped up the points with a cool finish 16 minutes later, with Berg turning provider.

The visitors continued to dominate after the break with Albin Ekdal rattling the crossbar with a thundering shot midway through the second half.

Romania, lacking ideas and urgency, failed to create any clear-cut chances at the National Arena.

The match was halted for a couple of minutes late in the second half by the match referee after alleged racist chanting from the stands and a public announcement was made.

Spain rout Malta to win group

Santi Cazorla celebrates scoring Spain's second goal

IMAGE: Santi Cazorla celebrates scoring Spain's second goal in the Euro 2020 Group F qualifier against Malta, at Estadio Ramon de Carranza, Cadiz, Spain, on Friday. Photograph: Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters

Spain clinched top spot in Group F in style, hammering Malta 7-0 at home on Friday for their biggest win of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign as seven players got on the scoresheet.

Spain had sealed their place at next year's tournament last month in unconvincing fashion by drawing 1-1 with both Norway and Sweden but they created a party atmosphere in Cadiz with a superb display of attacking football.

The Spaniards lead the standings with 23 points from nine matches, five more than second-placed Sweden, who booked their place at Euro 2020 with a 2-0 win over Romania.

Alvaro Morata put the Spaniards on their way to a resounding victory over Malta by netting midway through the first half, scoring for the seventh consecutive game for club and country.

Santi Cazorla doubled the lead shortly before halftime with his first goal for his country in over four years, a special moment for the much-loved 34-year-old who has staged a remarkable recovery from a career-threatening foot injury.

Robert Moreno's side turned on the style in the second half, with defender Pau Torres marking his debut with a goal in the 62nd minute and Pablo Sarabia also netting for the first time for Spain less than a minute later.

Dinamo Zagreb striker Dani Olmo then came off the bench to make his Spain debut and moments later marked the occasion by scoring his side's fifth goal, while Gerard Moreno soon followed by netting his first goal for Spain.

Jesus Navas produced the most impressive strike of the evening for goal number seven, finding the top corner from outside the area, while substitute Paco Alcacer was not far away from hitting goal number eight when he rattled the post.

Malta coach Raymond Farrugia endured a painful night in more than one sense as he accidentally banged his head against the dugout in the second half and required medical assistance, although he remained on the sidelines until full-time.

Pukki fires Finland to first major finals

Teemu Pukki shoots from the penalty spot to give Finland a 2-0 lead.

IMAGE: Teemu Pukki shoots from the penalty spot to give Finland a 2-0 lead. Photograph: Lehtikuva/Martti Kainulainen/Reuters

Finland striker Teemu Pukki scored twice as the team beat Liechtenstein 3-0 to book a place at Euro 2020 and reach the finals of a major soccer tournament for the first time.

The win secured second spot in Group J for Finland with 18 points, behind section winners Italy (27 points), beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0.

With the game sold out weeks in advance and big screens set up in the centres of several major Finnish cities, expectations were high in Helsinki as fans belted out the national anthem while holding their scarves aloft on a chilly night.

The Finns tore into the visitors from the first whistle, but Liechtenstein weathered the early storm, forcing their opponents to go wide and then closing them down.

Liechtenstein kept up resistance until the 21st minute when Pukki surged across the middle. He was dispossessed, but Jasse Tuominen snapped up the ball and side-footed home to send the Helsinki crowd into raptures.

Pukki almost added a second seven minutes before halftime, but his stinging shot was turned away by the keeper. Tuominen came close again just after the break, firing a powerful header from a corner that came back off the near post.

Pukki sealed Finland's spot at next year's finals after Pyry Soiri was hacked down in the penalty area by Livio Meier, coolly slotting home the resulting spot kick in the 64th minute for his eighth goal of the qualifying campaign.

He crowned a superb individual performance with his second goal 11 minutes later, collecting a ball over the top and rounding the keeper. Though defender Andreas Malin blocked his initial shot, Pukki stabbed home the rebound.

The "Pukki party" started in earnest all over the country as he was substituted to rapturous applause in the 84th minute with Finland's ticket to the Euros safely booked.

"There are no words. I've never been as nervous before a match as I was for this one today," a delighted Pukki said as fans invaded the pitch to celebrate.

As fireworks erupted over the stadium, coach Markku Kanerva praised his players for their campaign.

"A fantastic effort by the players. I am so unbelievably proud, it has been an incredible journey that means such an awful lot to the Finnish people," he said.

Italy win record 10th match in a row

Francesco Acerbi celebrates scoring Italy's first goal with Andrea Belotti and teammates.

IMAGE: Francesco Acerbi celebrates scoring Italy's first goal with Andrea Belotti and teammates. Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Italy won 10 internationals in a row for the first time in their 109-year history when goals from Francesco Acerbi, Lorenzo Insigne and Andrea Belotti gave them a 3-0 victory at Bosnia & Herzegovina in a lop-sided Euro 2020 qualifier.

The Italians, who were already assured of advancing, top Group J with a maximum 27 points and were joined by second-placed Finland (18 points) who earlier reached their first major tournament with a 3-0 home win over Liechtenstein.

The result meant coach Roberto Mancini improved on Vittorio Pozzo's run of nine straight wins between 1938 and 1939.

"Let's remember that he won five trophies with the national team so there is still a long road ahead," said Mancini, who took over after Italy missed out on last year's World Cup and has overseen a remarkable turnaround.

"Of course, I'm pleased to have bettered a legend such as him."

Under Pozzo, Italy won the 1934 and 1938 World Cups, the 1936 Olympic Games as well as the now defunct Central European International Cup twice.

Italy's current streak includes a friendly win over the United States followed by nine matches in Euro 2020 qualifying so far. They finish by hosting Armenia on Monday.

Bosnia dropped to fifth on 10 points and, while Finland's victory dashed any slim hopes they had of finishing in the top two, the Balkan country can still progress to next year's tournament via the Nations League playoffs in March.

With Finland's success reducing the Bosnia-Italy game to a dead rubber, it was played at walking pace for long spells but the gulf in class was apparent as defender Acerbi fired the visitors ahead with a fine individual effort in the 21st minute.

Insigne doubled Italy's lead with a bouncing shot on the turn in the 37th, while goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma denied Bosnia's Ermin Bicakcic and Adnan Kovacevic with a pair of excellent saves at the other end.

Disgruntled home fans treated Belotti to a standing ovation after the striker made it 3-0 with a spectacular 53rd-minute goal, as he took a through ball in his stride and beat Ibrahim Sehic with a thunderbolt from 18 metres.

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