Euro 2012 Qualifiers Round-up Group E-H: Denmark keeps dreams alive as Croatia leapfrogs Greece

Croatia's win over Israel saw them top Group F after Greece could only manage a draw at Latvia, while Sweden improved its position behind the Netherlands in Group E.
 Euro 2012 Qualifiers: Group E, F, G, H,


 Moldova - Hungary 0-2 Croatia - Israel 3-1
San Marino - Sweden 0-5 Latvia - Greece 1-1
 GROUP G   Malta - Georgia 1-1
 Switzerland - Bulgaria 3-1 GROUP H  
    Denmark - Norway 2-0

  Iceland - Cyprus 1-0

GROUP E | Moldova 0-2 Hungary

Hungary secured three vital points against Moldova as Sandor Egervari’s men were able to keep the pressure on Sweden with a 2-0 win.

The away side took the lead inside the opening ten minutes when Vilmos Vanczak met a free-kick swung across in the Moldovan area with a firm header. Hungary had several opportunities to make the game safe as Moldova failed to show any adventure going forward but the second goal didn’t arrive until the 83rd minute when Rudolf Gergely finished off a fluid move with a neat shot.

Following Sweden’s victory over San Marino, Hungary must win its final group game against Finland and hope that the Swedes fail to pick up maximum points in either of their two remaining fixtures against group toppers, the Netherlands, and the Finnish.

GROUP E | San Marino 0-5 Sweden

San Marino defended valiantly throughout the first-half but Sweden’s superiority told when the two teams re-emerged after the break with the Swedes putting five past their 10-man opposition.

In a hotly contested tie which saw five yellow cards in the opening half, the home side was reduced to 10 men when Davide Simoncini was sent off for a second bookable offense. The numerical advantage finally told when Kim Kallstrom gave Sweden the lead when he found space in San Marino’s area.

Christian Wilhelmsson doubled Sweden’s advantage with typically drilled shot in the 70th minute, before late strikes from Martin Olsson, Tobias Hysen and a second for Wilhelmsson ensured the visitors controlled their own fate in Group E with two games remaining.

The Netherlands confirmed their place in the finals next year, leaving the rest of the pack – Sweden & Hungary – to compete for second, and the chance to qualify via the playoffs with a win for the Swedes in either one of their remaining two matches enough to see them finish second in Group E.

GROUP F | Croatia 3-1 Israel

Croatia ended Israel’s hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012 after overturning a one goal deficit to move ahead of Greece to the top of Group F.

Israel’s first-half performance saw it take a slender one goal lead into the interval thanks to Tomer Hemad’s strike in the 44th minute but it was soon pegged back after the teams returned for the second half.

Croatia levelled the game in the 47th minute when Tottenham’s Luka Modric showed good skill before hammering the ball home putting the pressure back on the away side, who needed to take all three points.

Luis Fernandez’s men were then reduced to 10 men after Tal Ben Haim was shown a straight red card for violent conduct leaving space in defense for the Croatians to exploit. Croatia took the lead through Eduardo soon after the dismissal before the ex-Arsenal man scored his second two minutes later to guarantee the three points.

Following Greece’s stalemate against Latvia, Slaven Bilic’s side occupies the automatic qualifying position in Group F with a trip to Athens still to come, with many expecting top spot to be decided when the two teams meet.

GROUP F | Latvia 1-1 Greece

Latvia dented Greece’s hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012 with a 1-1 draw, a result which saw the home side’s slim chances of making the finals disappear entirely.

Greece found itself behind after the Latvians had worked the ball onto Aleksandrs Cauna who steadied himself before lashing the ball into the net.

Fernando Santos’ side managed to score an equalizer in the second half through Kyriakos Papadopoulos but a point still saw the Greeks surrender first place in Group F to Slaven Bilic’s Croatia.

Latvia’s brave attempt to keep alive its dreams of Euro 2012 were firmly diminished with this result but for the Greeks, who host Croatia in Athens in October, they will know that victory in that fixture will see them regain top spot and all but secure a passage to Poland & Ukraine.

GROUP F | Malta 1-1 Georgia

Malta secured its first point of the campaign thanks to a Michael Mifsud strike against a lackluster Georgia outfit in a 1-1 draw.

Jaba Kankava gave Georgia a deserved lead after quarter of an hour with a well taken goal after a bright side from the away side only for Malta’s star striker, Michael Mifsud, to level the match soon after.

Malta showed the greater determination to win the game with Mifsud coming close in the second half for the islanders but a draw was a fair result for the Maltese who battled hard.

The islanders remain rooted to the foot of the table with their solitary point whilst the Georgians will look at previous results, as well as this one, which ruined a positive qualifying campaign that has seem them fail to qualify for a major tournament once more.

GROUP G | Switzerland 3-1 Bulgaria

Switzerland ensured that Euro 2012 remained a possibility, albeit dependant on results out of its control, with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Bulgaria with Xherdan Shaqiri netting a hat-trick.

Bulgaria scored the opening goal in Basel inside the opening ten minutes when Ivan Ivanov sent a bullet header beyond Diego Benaglio. The Swiss responded positively to going behind but they weren’t able to find the finishing touch until a minute before half-time; Xherdan Shaqiri did well to beat his marker before equalizing with a low shot.

The home side completed their recovery to keep alive their slender hopes of qualification, hinging of results elsewhere in Group G, when Shaqiri netted his second just after the hour mark, and the FC Basel man completed his hat-trick in the 90th minute.

For the Swiss to qualify via the playoffs for Euro 2012, England must beat Montenegro on October 7, and Switzerland must win its remaining matches against Wales and Montenegro.

GROUP H | Denmark 2-0 Norway
A Nicklas Bendtner brace ensured that Denmark, Norway and Portugal are all locked together on 13 points with two games still to come for Denmark and Portugal, while the Norwegians have one match left to play.

Denmark took the lead in the 24th minute when Bendtner managed to get the better of his marker and nod the ball past a helpless Rune Almenning, and the Sunderland striker scored his second a minute before the break.

The win for the Danes leaves their qualification hopes dependant on the result against the Portuguese in October, with the winner of that tie likely to extinguish the other’s automatic qualifying chances.

Norway, however, is unlikely to qualify because of its poor head-to-record against both Denmark and Portugal, while having only one game left to play.

GROUP H | Iceland 1-0 Cyprus
Iceland registered its first win of the campaign with a 1-0 victory over Cyprus in Group H.

Kolbeinn Sigthorsson gave the home side the lead after four minutes with a well taken finish and it was able to defend valiantly against a toothless Cypriot attack.

Giannakis Okkas and Dimitris Christofi came close for the away side but ultimately Iceland was able to take all three points, leapfrogging its opponents in the group in the process.

Neither side can qualify for the finals but they would have been playing for group position, and Iceland will hope that they will finish above the islanders following their narrow win.