Football Features

Euro 2020 qualifying: Seven things you might have missed as Ramos makes Spain history

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:09, 12 October 2019

Saturday brought another busy evening of Euro 2020 qualifiers as teams look to make one final push for a place in next summer’s tournament.

The day kicked off with Ireland’s disappointing draw with Georgia, but there were seven other games for fans to sink their teeth into throughout the evening.

In Group D’s other game of the day, Denmark moved level on points with Ireland thanks to a slender 1-0 win over Switzerland.

Group F saw Romania keep their qualification hopes alive with a 3-0 win to bottom side Faroe Islands while Spain drew 1-1 with Norway and Sweden beat Malta 4-0.

Meanwhile, in Group J Bosnia & Herzegovina beat Finland 4-1, Italy saw off Greece 2-0 and Armenia drew 1-1 with Liechtenstein.

So, here are seven things you might have missed from Saturday’s action.

1. Sergio Ramos makes history

Like him or loathe him, Sergio Ramos is a remarkable defender, and its testament to his ability that he is now a history maker.

Captaining Spain in their 1-1 draw with Norway in Oslo, the Real Madrid defender was making his 168 appearance for the Spanish national team. This moved him one clear of Iker Casillas as the country’s all-time most capped player.

And it was a typical Ramos performance, with the centre-back winning three aerial duels and completing 92% of his passes as Spain went so close to victory.

Spain will be able to all-but secure their place in Euro 2020 with a win over second-placed Sweden next week, but Ramos will have to watch on from the sidelines with a customary yellow card earning him a suspension.

2. Josh King keeps Norway’s unbeaten record going

While Spain will be blasting a draw, Norway will believe they deserved the point they got thanks to Josh King’s last-gasp penalty.

Saul gave Spain the lead just after half-time but Norway more than held their own, frustrating their opponents and missing some good opportunities for themselves.

And just as they looked to be falling to second defeat of the group, referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot after Kepa Arrizabalaga fouled Omar Elabdellaoui.

King stepped up and scored, just as he did in the reverse fixture, to preserve Norway’s impressive home run.

The Scandinavian side have not lost at home since September 2016 when Germany ran out 3-0 winners at the start of the qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup. Fourteen games have passed since then, with Spain joining the likes of Sweden, Northern Ireland Bulgaria and Romania as those leaving Norway without victory.

3. Jorginho spot on again as Italy secure Euro 2020 spot

Italy confirmed their place at Euro 2020 thanks to a 2-0 win over Greece. It will come as a relief to Italian fans after the Azzurri missed out on the World Cup in 2018.

Roberto Mancini’s men were made to work hard for their victory which subsequently kept their perfect record going, with Belgium the only other team with a 100% win rate in Euro 2020 qualifying.

After a goalless hour, Italy had the opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot when Andreas Bouchalakis handled the ball inside the area. Chelsea midfielder Jorginho was the one to step up, and he converted with his trademark hop, sending the ball into the bottom left corner.

It was the third goal Jorginho has scored for Italy, all of which have come from the penalty spot, with the midfielder yet to miss a spot-kick for his national side.

Federico Bernardeschi then capped off the win with just over 10 minutes to go, extending Italy’s winning run to eight in all competitions – just one off the nation’s all-time record.

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4. Kasper Schmeichel plays a blinder on 50th appearance

Denmark left it late to draw level on points with first-placed Ireland in Group D, with Yussuf Poulsen grabbing the only goal of the game against Switzerland in the 84th minute.

But Denmark really have Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel to thank for their three points. The 32-year-old was making his 50th appearance for the Danish national team on Saturday evening since his debut in 2013, and he marked it with a wonderful performance.

Although Denmark had more shots than Switzerland, Schmeichel was the busier of the two goalkeepers, having to make five saves in total. But these were not just routine stops, Schmeichel had to be at his best to keep his sheet clean denying Switzerland’s attackers on various occasions with some fine stops.

And he even had to save from one of his own in injury time, with Thomas Delaney’s header destined for Denmark’s bottom left corner before Schmeichel got his hand to it.

5. Bosnia open up Group J with comprehensive win

Finland had been in very good form going into Saturday’s clash with Bosnia & Herzegovina, and could have gone a step closer to Euro 2020 with a win.

But Bosnia, who had just two wins to their name in the group, produced a shock.

Unfazed by an early injury to Edin Visca, Bosnia took the lead on the half-hour mark through substitute Izet Hajrovic, scoring his first goal for the nation since October 2017 – also his last appearance prior to Saturday,

Bosnia proceeded to take control of the game thanks to a Miralem Pjanic brace before Armin Hodzic added a fourth. Joel Pohjanpalo got a late consolation for Finland but the damage was done, with Teemu Pukki ending his goalscoring run that had stretched four games.

Although Bosnia are still fourth in the group, they now sit just two points behind second-placed Finland with three games left to play. With Armenia also involved, Group J’s second qualifying spot is very much up for grabs.

6. Sebastian Larsson ends seven-year goal drought

With Romania winning 3-0 earlier in the day, Sweden knew only a victory over Malta would do to return them to second place in Group F. And they cruised to a 4-0 victory.

While the win would have been expected, with Malta only managing three points from their seven games, there was a slightly surprising name on the scoresheet.

Sebastian Larsson was making his 116th appearance for Sweden in their game against Malta, drawing level with Roland Nilsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Only five players have now made more appearances for Sweden than Larsson.

In his 115 previous games for Sweden Larsson had managed six goals, with the last coming in a 2-0 win over France in the group stage of Euro 2012. The former Sunderland man has made 72 appearances and 2,672 days have passed since he last found the net, but the wait is finally over.

With Sweden awarded a penalty just before the hour-mark, Larsson was the one to step up and put the away side in firm control after Marcus Danielson had given them a first-half lead, ending the drought.

He then had to wait a gruelling 13 minutes for his eighth Sweden goal, converting once again from the spot to make it 4-0 – following an own goal.

7. Liechtenstein match longest unbeaten run to frustrate Armenia

Armenia missed the chance to move level on points with second-placed Finland in Group J as they were held away by bottom of the table Liechtenstein.

The visitors took the lead in the first half through Tigran Barseghyan and looked to be holding on to a valuable victory until substitute Yanik Frick scored just five minutes after coming on. It was his first senior goal for Liechtenstein and earned them just their second point of the group.

In fact, Liechtenstein are enjoying an unbeaten run of two games in Group J, having also drawn 1-1 with Greece in September’s international break. They have never gone three games without defeat and with Italy up next, it looks certain the minnows will see an unbeaten run end at two again.