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France, Greece reach Euro 2012
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 13 - 10 - 2011

Denmark snatched an automatic spot at the 2012 European Championship at the expense of Portugal Tuesday while France needed a late penalty in a 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina to reach the finals.
Former champion Greece and Russia also clinched their places at next summer's tournament in Ukraine and Poland with victories in the final round of qualifying games, and Sweden beat already-qualified Netherlands 3-2 to advance as the runner-up with the best record from the nine groups.
Portugal's 2-1 defeat in Copenhagen dropped Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates into next month's qualification playoffs, along with fellow runner-up Turkey, Ireland, Estonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Czech Republic. Montenegro had already finished second in Group G before a 2-0 loss at Switzerland Tuesday.
Defending champion Spain and Germany beat Scotland and Belgium respectively to finish their group campaigns with perfect records, although the Netherlands' defeat in Stockholm ruined their 100 percent run in qualifying.
With England and Italy also already through as group winners, France and Portugal were the only heavyweights from the continent still to seal automatic qualification.
The French, needing at least a draw to finish top of Group D, fell behind at the Stade de France in the 40th minute when Edin Dzeko curled home a shot from the edge of the box.
Playmaker Samir Nasri salvaged a point for the host when he converted a penalty after being brought down just inside the area by defender Emir Spahic.
It left Portugal as the biggest casualty of the night although the 2004 runner-up can still qualify through the playoffs.
Denmark had to win to secure first place in Group H and was 2-0 up by the 63rd minute thanks to goals by Michael Krohn-Dehli and Nicklas Bendtner. Ronaldo halved the deficit with a free kick in second-half injury time but it wasn't enough for the Portuguese.
Greece needed goals in the final 11 minutes by substitute Giorgos Fotakis and veteran Angelos Charisteas to secure a 2-1 win over Georgia and reach its third straight European Championship. It meant second-place Croatia's 2-0 victory over Latvia was in vain, with Greece winning Group F by two points.
As expected, Russia thrashed Andorra to qualify automatically from Group B, Alan Dzagoev scoring twice in a 6-0 win in Moscow. Sergei Ignashevich, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Denis Glushakov and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov also found the net for Dick Advocaat's side.
Ireland and Armenia were left to battle it out in a straight shootout for second place, with the Irish emerging triumphant thanks to a 2-1 win in Dublin.
Estonia is arguably the most surprising team in the playoffs. Dare Vrsic's goal sealed a 1-0 win for the Slovenians.
Italy beat Northern Ireland 3-0, thanks to Antonio Cassano's double and an own goal by Gareth McAuley, to finish the group unbeaten and with a 10-point gap to Estonia.
Turkey's 1-0 victory over Azerbaijan saw it leapfrog Belgium into second place in Group A.
The Belgians lost 3-1 to Germany, which clinched a 10th straight win in qualifying thanks to goals by Mesut Oezil, Andre Schuerrle and Mario Gomez.
Scotland's 3-1 defeat to Spain allowed the Czech Republic to climb into the runner-up spot in Group I with a 4-1 win in Lithuania.

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