London, Oct 12: Denmark snatched an automatic spot at the 2012 European Championship at the expense of Portugal on Tuesday while France needed a late penalty in a 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina to reach the finals.
Former champion Greece and Russia also clinched their places at next summer's tournament in Ukraine and Poland as group winners with victories in the final round of qualifying games, and Sweden beat already-qualified Netherlands 3-2 to advance as the runner-up with the best record from the nine pools.
Portugal's 2-1 defeat in Copenhagen dropped Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates into next month's qualification playoffs, along with fellow runners-up Turkey, Ireland, Estonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Czech Republic. Montenegro had already finished second in Group G before a 2-0 loss at Switzerland on Tuesday.
Defending champion Spain and Germany beat Scotland and Belgium respectively to finish their group campaigns with perfect records, although the Netherlands' defeat in Stockholm ruined their 100 percent run in qualifying.
With England and Italy also already through as group winners, France and Portugal were the only heavyweights from the continent still to seal automatic qualification.
The French, needing at least a draw to finish top of Group D, fell behind at the Stade de France in the 40th minute when Edin Dzeko curled home a shot from the edge of the box.
Playmaker Samir Nasri salvaged a point for the hosts when he converted a penalty after being brought down just inside the area by defender Emir Spahic.
“While the first half was disappointing, the second half was heart-warming,” France coach Laurent Blanc said. “What I liked was the players' reaction. If they had not reacted tonight, we would be talking about the playoffs.”
It left Portugal as the biggest casualty of the night although the 2004 runners-up can still qualify through the playoffs, the draw for which takes place on Thursday.
Denmark had to win to secure first place in Group H and were 2-0 up by the 63rd minute thanks to goals by Michael Krohn-Dehli and Nicklas Bendtner.
Ronaldo halved the deficit with a free kick in second-half injury time but it wasn't enough for the Portuguese.
“It was fantastic. All we maybe missed were a couple of more goals,” said Denmark coach Morten Olsen.
Greece, the surprise 2004 champion, needed goals in the final 11 minutes by substitute Giorgos Fotakis and veteran Angelos Charisteas to secure a 2-1 win over Georgia and reach its third straight European Championship.
It meant second-place Croatia's 2-0 victory over Latvia was in vain, with Greece winning Group F by two points.
As expected, Russia thrashed Andorra to qualify automatically from Group B, Alan Dzagoev scoring twice in a 6-0 win in Moscow. Sergei Ignashevich, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Denis Glushakov and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov also found the net for Dick Advocaat's side.
Ireland and Armenia were left to battle it out in a straight shootout for second place, with the Irish emerging triumphant thanks to a 2-1 win in Dublin.
The hosts capitalized on the disputed sending-off of Armenia goalkeeper Roman Berezovski, for hand ball outside the area, in the 26th minute to go 2-0 up by the 59th minute through Valeri Aleksanyan's own goal and Richard Dunne's close-range finish.
Henrik Mkhitaryan replied two minutes later for Armenia, which would have finished runner-up with a win.
Sweden's first win over the Netherlands since 1924 ensured the team advanced as the best runner-up—but it needed to overturn a 2-1 deficit to do so.
In a four-minute span just after the break, Sebastian Larsson scored a penalty and Ola Toivonen crashed home a powerful shot in a stirring fightback that stunned the Dutch, who had recovered from Kim Kallstrom's 14th-minute free kick with goals by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Dirk Kuyt.
“This was a fantastic team effort,” Sweden coach Erik Hamren said.
Estonia is arguably the most surprising team in the playoffs.
The unheralded Baltic nation kept hold of second place in Group C thanks to Serbia's failure to defeat Slovenia in Maribor.
Dare Vrsic's goal sealed a 1-0 win for the Slovenians, with Nemanja Vidic missing a penalty for the visitors in the Manchester United defender's first game back after an eight-week injury layoff.
Italy beat Northern Ireland 3-0, thanks to Antonio Cassano's double and an own goal by Gareth McAuley, to finish the group unbeaten and with a 10-point gap to Estonia.
Turkey's 1-0 victory over Azerbaijan saw it leapfrog Belgium into second place in Group A.
The Belgians lost 3-1 to Germany, which clinched a 10th straight win in qualifying thanks to goals by Mesut Oezil, Andre Schuerrle and Mario Gomez.
Scotland's 3-1 defeat to Spain allowed the Czech Republic to climb into the runner-up spot in Group I with a 4-1 win in Lithuania.
Jan Razek and Michail Kadlec both scored twice for the Czechs, with David Silva hitting two for Spain in an eighth straight qualifying win for the world champions. AP