Euro 2020 roundup: Croatia survive Slovakia scare to join Germany in finals

Niall McVeigh on 16 November 2019

Germany, Croatia and Austria all sealed their places in the Euro 2020 finals with wins on Saturday, while a draw in Northern Ireland also confirmed qualification for the Netherlands.

Croatia’s 3-1 win over Slovakia means they top Group E, but the 2018 World Cup finalists got a scare when Robert Bozenik put the visitors ahead after 32 minutes in Rijeka. Two goals in four minutes from Nikola Vlasic and Bruno Petkovic settled the hosts’ nerves near the hour mark, before Ivan Perisic sealed victory with a spectacular finish, volleying into the top corner on the stretch with 15 minutes to play.

Things were more straightforward for Germany in Mönchengladbach, where the hosts beat Belarus 4-0. Matthias Ginter’s backheeled finish from Serge Gnabry’s cross gave Germany a half-time lead, and Leon Goretzka doubled their advantage shortly after the break, rifling a low shot home from a short corner.

Midfielder Toni Kroos then stole the show with two fine goals as Joachim Löw’s side sealed qualification from Group C. The Real Madrid midfielder sidefooted home clinically from the edge of the area on 55 minutes, and added a second late on after twisting beyond two defenders. Manuel Neuer denied Belarus a consolation from the penalty spot, tipping Ihar Stasevich’s effort round the post.

Toni Kroos celebrates his first, and Germany’s third, goal in Mönchengladbach.
Toni Kroos celebrates his first, and Germany’s third, goal in Mönchengladbach. Photograph: Leon Kuegeler/Reuters

Austria secured a top-two finish in Group G with a 2-1 win over North Macedonia in Vienna. Stefan Lainer was the star man for the hosts, the Gladbach right-back setting up David Alaba with a terrific through ball after seven minutes, then bundling home a second from a corner early in the second half. Despite Vlatko Stojanovski’s late consolation, Franco Foda’s side held on to ensure their place at the finals.

In Saturday’s other games, already-qualified Poland beat Israel 2-1 in Jerusalem. Robert Lewandowski was on the substitutes’ bench for the first hour, with Grzegorz Krychowiak and Milan striker Krzysztof Piatek getting the goals in his absence. Elsewhere in Group G, an own goal from Igors Tarasovs condemned Latvia to defeat in Slovenia – their ninth loss out of nine in this campaign.

Belgium emphatically secured top spot in Group I, beating second-placed Russia 4-1 in St Petersburg. Eden Hazard scored twice after his brother, Thorgan, had put Roberto Martínez’s side ahead. Romelu Lukaku added a fourth, lashing the ball home from the edge of the area, before Georgiy Dzhikija scored for the hosts.

The group whipping boys, San Marino, remain without a point after losing 3-1 at home to Kazakhstan – but they scored their first goal of the campaign through Filippo Berardi, whose cool finish on the break sparked scenes of joy in Serravalle.

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