Sports

Rodrigo fires Spain into Euro 2020

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

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STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AFP) — Spain sealed qualification for Euro 2020 with two games to spare on yesterday, after Rodrigo Moreno came off the bench to score a dramatic injury-time equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Sweden.

The 2008 and 2012 European champions needed only a point in Stockholm to guarantee automatic progress to the finals. Rodrigo ensured they got it, after Marcus Berg had headed Sweden into the lead early in the first half.

Rodrigo's 92nd-minute tap-in sparked jubilant celebrations on the touchline. It provided a dramatic conclusion to an otherwise fairly smooth campaign for Robert Moreno, who took over in June following the resignation of Luis Enrique.

“Qualification is a must for a team like Spain, but achieving it still has value,” said Moreno. “It releases the pressure and gives us time to work.”

After drawing their last two matches, Spain are top of Group F on 20 points, five ahead of Sweden and six above Romania who missed the chance to take second spot when Norway's Alexander Sorloth snatched a last-ditch 1-1 draw in Bucharest.

Finishing ahead of Sweden, Romania and Norway offers only a limited idea of how Spain will fare against Europe's elite.

There remain several question marks over key positions, not least in goal where David de Gea started but was forced off injured in the second half, a worry for his club Manchester United ahead of their meeting with Premier League leaders Liverpool this weekend.

De Gea appeared to have pulled a muscle in his right leg after making a clearance and was replaced by Chelsea's Kepa Arrizabalaga, who had started Saturday's 1-1 draw with Norway.

“He said at half-time he wanted to continue,” Moreno said. “It's a pull in his adductor. We will have to assess the damage.”

Suspensions for Sergio Ramos and Sergio Busquets meant there was not a single player in the starting line-up who had played in the Euro 2008 and 2012 triumphs, or the World Cup in-between.

Moreno is furthering Spain's attempt to usher in a new era. Barca's 16-year-old sensation Ansu Fati could be an option against Malta and Romania next month.

Haris Seferovic's early effort and Shane Duffy's late own goal kept Switzerland's hopes of automatic qualification alive with a 2-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland.

Although Vladimir Petkovic's side have already guaranteed a play-off spot via the Nations League, the win means they are just a point behind Group D leaders Republic and Denmark with two matches remaining in their campaign.

They also have the better of the head-to-head record with the Irish as the two teams drew 1-1 in September.

Ireland's destiny will come down to their final game of the campaign against Denmark, a match they need to win to qualify.

Andrea Belotti scored a second-half brace as already-qualified Italy overran Liechtenstein 5-0 to stretch their perfect run in Euro 2020 qualifying to eight games, to match an 80-year Italian record.

Roberto Mancini's side were assured of top spot in Group J after a 2-0 win over Greece in Rome on Saturday.

Federico Bernardeschi gave Italy the lead after just two minutes in Vaduz, but it was not until the last 20 minutes that the “Azzurri” hammered home their domination with four late goals.

Belotti headed in twice for a second-half brace, with Alessio Romagnoli and substitute Stephan El Shaarawy also scoring near the end.

Mancini celebrated his ninth win in a row as Italy manager to draw level with the record run of legendary Vittorio Pozzo, back in 1938-1939.

Pozzo won the first two of Italy's four World Cup titles in 1934 and 1938, and gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics


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