Saturday, 10 October 2015  -  26 Dhul-Hijjah 1436 H
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N. Ireland, Portugal seal Euro spots

Last updated: Saturday, October 10, 2015 12:23 AM


Northern Ireland's Steve Davis (L) celebrates scoring the opening goal against Greece during their Euro 2016 Group F qualifying soccer match at Windsor Park, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday. — AP

LONDON — Northern Ireland qualified for its first major Finals since the 1986 World Cup and Ireland beat world champion Germany in Dublin on a great night for Irish soccer Thursday.

There was also joy in Portugal as the Euro 2004 host booked its place at Euro 2016 in France.

The biggest cheers in Europe came out of a half-renovated Windsor Park in Belfast after Northern Ireland beat 2004 European champions Greece 3-1 to reach the European Championship for the first time.

Two goals from skipper Steven Davis and one from John Magennis sealed the victory and left coach Michael O’Neill’s men unbeaten after nine matches at the top of Group F. Their final game is against Finland in Helsinki Sunday.

Ireland sealed one of its greatest ever results by beating world champion Germany 1-0 thanks to a superb angled shot from Shane Long after 70 minutes to keep their qualifying hopes alive in Group D.

Germany tops the group on 19 points, followed by Poland and Ireland both on 18. Poland, with Robert Lewandowski scoring twice, drew 2-2 in Scotland, which ended Scottish hopes of qualifying, as it is cut adrift on 12.

Portugal sealed its place with a 1-0 victory over Denmark in Braga guaranteeing top spot in Group I thanks to Joao Moutinho’s 66th-minute goal.

Albania, which lost 2-0 at home to two late goals in a politically-charged match against Serbia in the same group, could have qualified for its first ever Finals with a win.

But because Denmark has now finished its program, and is only a point ahead, Albania can still claim the automatic qualifying spot if it wins in Armenia Sunday. Armenia, which only has two points, lost 4-0 to France in a friendly in Nice.

Portugal has 18 points, Denmark 12 and Albania 11. Hungary remained in contention to finish in the top three in Group F with a 2-1 win over the Faroe Islands thanks to two late goals from substitute Daniel Bode, as do Romania, which drew 1-1 with Finland which is out. With one match to play Northern Ireland has 20 points, Romania 17 and Hungary 16.

The top two teams in each of the nine groups qualify automatically along with the best-placed third team and four playoff winners from the remaining third-placed teams.

Host France, Austria, the Czech Republic, England and Iceland have already qualified. — Reuters

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