By JOEY SAMUEL
During the qualifying process for the 2010 World Cup, France put on a number of disappointing performances and was forced to get in through the playoff round. On Tuesday, Les Bleus made sure that wouldn't happen again.
A Samir Nasri penalty in the 78th minute rescued a 1-1 draw for France against Bosnia-Herzegovina, allowing France to remain in first place in Group D and seal a place in EURO 2012. Bosnia, meanwhile, will now have to qualify through the playoff process, having missed a chance to leap over France in the final round of matches.
In Copenhagen, a match with equal importance was played as Denmark and Portugal faced off for first place in Group H. Despite a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal fell 2-1 to Denmark, who punched a ticket to Poland and Ukraine. Portugal, on the other hand, missed out a chance to qualify directly and will also have to win a playoff series to advance.
In other results from the final day of Euro qualifying:
SCOTLAND, BELGIUM SLIP UP; CZECHS, TURKS TAKE ADVANTAGE
In Group I, Scotland faced a massive test as, needing to defeat host Spain in order to seal a playoff spot. Unfortunately for the visitors, Spain did not let up and was up 3-0 by the end of the first hour. Scotland managed to pull a goal back late on, but the Spaniards held on. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic took advantage and notched a 4-1 win away to Lithuania, thus clinching second place behind Spain.
Belgium faced a similar challenge Tuesday, as it required a win in Germany to clinch a playoff spot. Germany was just as ruthless as Spain, running out to a 3-0 lead before winning 3-1 to crush Belgium's hopes. Turkey took advantage in similar fashion to the Czechs by beating Azerbaijan at home, 1-0, to seal a spot in the playoffs.
SWEDEN UPSETS NETHERLANDS TO QUALIFY
Entering Tuesday, Sweden had already sealed second place behind the Netherlands in Group E and thus was already at least heading to the playoffs. The Swedes had a chance, however, to seal automatic qualification to Euro 2012 as the best-placed runner-up by beating the Dutch on the final matchday.
Despite facing a Dutch side that entered the match with nine wins in nine games, Sweden managed to pull the upset. Two goals within a minute during the second half turned the score around for the Swedes as they won 3-2 and clinched their spot in Poland and Ukraine.
GREECE, RUSSIA SEAL QUALIFICATION
Last Friday, Greece notched a huge win over Group F rivals Croatia to move into first in the group. That result meant the Greeks only needed to defeat Georgia to qualify for Euro 2012, and they did just that, although it wasn't easy. Georgia led the game for an hour before Greece scored two goals to turn the game on its head and leave Georgia as 2-1 winners. Croatia, despite beating Latvia 2-0, must now qualify via the playoffs.
Elsewhere, Russia had not qualified yet in Group B despite entering Tuesday in first place. The Russians put any doubts to rest by thrasing Andorra by a 6-0 margin in Moscow. Alan Dzagoev of CSKA Moscow led the Russians with a brace, who put the demons of missing out on the World Cup in South Africa out of their minds and sealed their place in Euro 2012.
IRELAND, ESTONIA CLINCH PLAY-OFF SPOTS
In Group B, Ireland needed at least a draw against Armenia to clinch a playoff spot behind Russia. Richard Dunne scored and Armenia let in an own goal as the Republic of Ireland secured a 2-1 win to seal their passage into the playoff round. The Armenians, however, were eliminated despite being by far the highest-scoring team in Group B.
Meanwhile, the dream continued for Estonia, which was idle Tuesday but got the result it needed. Estonia sealed its own playoff place when spoiler Slovenia defeated Serbia 1-0. Serbia, on the other hand, was eliminated and joins Slovenia as two teams from Group C that qualified for the 2010 World Cup but will not be at Euro 2012.
QUALIFIED FOR EURO 2012
Poland, Ukraine, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Greece, Netherlands, Denmark, England.
QUALIFIED FOR PLAYOFF ROUND
Portugal, Croatia, Republic of Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Estonia, Montenegro, Turkey.
Which teams in Euro qualifying surprised you the most? Who disappointed you? Which teams have the best shot at advancing from the playoff round?
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