Football/Soccer

Republic knocked off top Euro 2020 Group spot while Northern Ireland and Wales secure places in play-offs

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy 

THE Republic of Ireland toppled from first place to third in Euro 2020 qualifying Group D as Denmark and Switzerland moved into the top two spots last night.

Denmark brushed aside Gibraltar 6-0 to assume first place on 15 points, while Switzerland, who have 14, needed a 77th-minute winner from debutant Cedric Itten as they laboured to a 1-0 win at home to Georgia.

The Republic, who have 12 points and are guaranteed a play-off place should they need it, now face a straight shoot-out with the Danes for automatic qualification when they meet in Dublin on Monday.

With the Swiss expected to pick up three points from their final group game against pointless Gibraltar, Ireland will need to beat Denmark to book their spot at Euro 2020 courtesy of their better head-to-head record between the sides.

Denmark warmed up for that match with a comprehensive win over Gibraltar, Robert Skov and Christian Eriksen both scoring twice to go with goals from Christian Gytkjaer and Martin Braithwaite.

Itten headed the winner in a 1-0 victory for Switzerland just six minutes after coming off the bench to make his debut.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland and Wales were, the like Republic, assured of a place in the play-offs thanks to Sweden securing automatic qualification from Group F.

The Swedes won 2-0 in Romania thanks to first-half goals from Marcus Berg and Robin Quaison to sew up second spot.

Sweden's win ended Norway's faint hopes of a second-placed finish after they had won 4-0 at home to the Faroe Islands earlier in the evening.

Goals from Tore Reginiussen and Iver Fossum put Norway, who have a guaranteed play-off spot, two up after only eight minutes and a second-half double from Alexander Sorloth sealed a routine win.

Group winners Spain hammered Malta 7-0, with the final five goals coming in the last half-an-hour.

Goals from Alvaro Morata and Santi Cazorla put the hosts two up at the break before they moved through the gears in the second half.

Two became six in the space of 10 second-half minutes thanks to goals from Pau Torres, Pablo Sarabia, Daniel Olmo and Gerard Moreno before Jesus Navas completed the rout.

Finland qualified for a major championships for the first time in their history as a 3-0 home win over Liechtenstein booked their place at the Euros.

Two goals from Norwich striker Teemu Pukki, the first a penalty, added to Jasse Tuominen's opener and guaranteed the hosts second place in Group J behind Italy.

It ended a run of 32 failed attempts to qualify for either the World Cup or European Championships.

Having finished fifth out of six teams in their qualifying group for the last World Cup, Finland - who also topped their Nations League group last year - beat the likes of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece to automatic qualification this time around.

Elsewhere in Group J, Italy made it nine wins from nine at the top of the pool thanks to a 3-0 win away to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Francesco Acerbi, Lorenzo Insigne and Andrea Belotti with the goals, while Greece won 1-0 in Armenia thanks to Dimitris Limnios' goal.

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Football/Soccer