Denmark secures the top spot in Group H with a decisive 2-1 victory over their closest contender, Slovenia. The winning goal came in the 54th minute courtesy of midfielder Thomas Delaney.
Denmark’s midfielder, #08 Thomas Delaney (center), jubilantly celebrates scoring the crucial 2-1 goal with his teammates during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group H qualification football match against Slovenia in Copenhagen. (AFP)
On Friday, Denmark and Albania secured their places in the European Championship, while defending champions Italy clinched a crucial victory in preparation for a pivotal match against Ukraine.
Italy avenged its elimination in the 2022 World Cup qualifying playoffs by defeating North Macedonia 5-2. The victory not only serves as redemption but also positions Italy to secure a place at Euro 2024 in Germany with just a draw against Ukraine on Monday. The outcome of this match holds significance for claiming the second spot in the group, with England already securing the top position after a 2-0 win against Malta on Friday.
Poland, led by Robert Lewandowski, faces a play off challenge in March after a 1-1 draw at home against the Czech Republic dashed its hopes of advancing directly alongside group leader Albania.
In the pursuit of securing a spot in Euro 2024, Albania commenced their match against Moldova earlier, requiring only a single point. The team accomplished their objective with a 1-1 draw, ensuring their qualification for the upcoming tournament.
Denmark secured the top spot in Group H by defeating their closest rival, Slovenia, with a 2-1 victory, courtesy of midfielder Thomas Delaney’s 54th-minute goal.
This sets the stage for another critical final match on Monday: Slovenia will host Kazakhstan, requiring only a draw to make a return to the Euros for the first time since 2000. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan, with a 3-1 victory against San Marino, is vying for its first-ever qualification to a major tournament.
England confirmed its spot last month, and a routine 2-0 victory against Malta at Wembley Stadium saw Harry Kane add to his prolific season tally with his 25th goal for both England and Bayern Munich.
The sole surprising moment of drama unfolded when Kane received a yellow card, deemed to have simulated a dive in the penalty area.
England is set to be among the group winners with the most impressive records, securing a spot in the pot of top-seeded teams for the Euro 2024 tournament draw scheduled for December 2 in Hamburg.
With Denmark and Albania among the qualifiers,13 countries have now secured their places in the 24-team tournament. The remaining eight spots will be determined by the conclusion of the qualifying groups by Tuesday.
The last three spots will be determined in the 12-team playoffs scheduled from March 21-26, specifically for teams that did not secure a top-two finish in the qualifying groups.
Italy has recent unpleasant memories of facing North Macedonia at home. In March of last year, Italy suffered a 1-0 defeat with a stoppage-time goal in Palermo, leading to their elimination from the 2022 World Cup playoffs.
Redemption took center stage on Friday at Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Despite a halftime lead that had been reduced to 3-2 in the closing minutes, Italy rose to the occasion rather than faltering.
Italy coach Luciano Spalletti expressed his satisfaction, stating, “I liked the team in the second half. These matches reveal the level of personality, and these lads have it. After the scoreline became 3-2, I expected them to suffer, to sit back. Instead, they responded very well, trying to attack even more.”
Brazilian coach Sylvinho is going to Euro 2024 with his Albania team.
The former Arsenal and Barcelona left-back, appointed in January, has steered Albania through a seven-game unbeaten run. This impressive streak comes after starting the qualifying campaign with a 1-0 loss at Poland in March.
Sylvinho has achieved success after spending less than a year in his previous coaching roles at Lyon and Corinthians.
Albania required only one point from its last two Group E games, having outperformed higher-ranked opponents like Poland and the Czech Republic. They secured that vital point in the first attempt on Friday, as veteran forward Sokol Cikalleshi’s 25th-minute penalty gave Albania the lead before Moldova equalized in the 87th minute.
“After the last whistle, but really after nine months, working every day, it’s a dream, it’s a dream,” Sylvinho expressed to Albanian media. “In fact, I should enjoy it. And that is why I am very pleased, like all of you.”
Thousands of Albanian fans congregated at the main Skanderbeg and Mother Teresa squares in Tirana to joyously celebrate the result by waving national flags and setting off fireworks. The city center saw cars driving through, horns blaring, accompanied by loud national music in a spirited display of revelry.
Following the 1-1 draw in Poland, Albania currently holds a two-point advantage over the Czech Republic and is three points clear of Poland, which has completed its schedule. Moldova trails by four points but still has the opportunity to secure second place and qualify.
In the final round on Monday, Albania will host the Faeroe Islands, while the Czech Republic will host Moldova.
Entry to the three-tiered playoffs is determined by the standings in the Nations League groups played last year ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.
The top-tier bracket of four teams will feature Poland and either Croatia or Wales. Additionally, Italy will be included if it loses to Ukraine on Monday.
The second-tier bracket is likely to include Israel and certainly Bosnia-Herzegovina and Finland, the latter securing their position with a 4-0 victory over Northern Ireland on Friday. Ukraine could also potentially drop into this tier.
Nations League group winners Georgia and Greece have secured playoff spots in the third-tier bracket, and Luxembourg is likely to join them.