Football Features

Euro 2020 qualifiers: 5 things you might have missed as De Gea limps off ahead of Man Utd v Liverpool

By CJ Smith

Euro 2020 qualifiers - de gea- spain

Published: 21:54, 15 October 2019

The latest international break was rounded off on Tuesday with another busy night of Euro 2020 qualifiers.

We saw some nations seal their place in next year’s showpiece tournament, while others fought tooth and nail to keep their hopes alive.

So, without further ado, here is the best of the action you may have missed.

1. Spain stumble over the line

Turns out possession isn’t nine-tenths of the law.

All Spain had to do on Tuesday was avoid defeat against Sweden and their place at Euro 2020 would be confirmed but, my word, they made hard work of it.

Despite enjoying a 74 per cent share of possession and having 15 shots, they struggled like hell to break down the Scandanavian side, going behind to a Marcus Berg goal early in the second half.

It looked like the champagne would be left on ice until Rodrigo popped up in the box to equalise in the 92nd minute and send the Spaniards through to the 2020 showpiece.

Sweden will have been worrying about their own qualification hopes but were saved by a late Alexander Sorloth goal for Norway, who just about managed to draw 1-1 with Romania.

Janne Andersson’s men will still need to pick up a result against the Romanians next time out but will feel far more confident about doing so while in control of second spot in the group.

2. Solskjaer holds his breath as De Gea limps off

It wasn’t just the labouring result which will have displeased Spain manager Robert Moreno on Tuesday, even if they did qualify, as he had to watch goalkeeper David De Gea limp off during the second half against Sweden.

The 28-year-old appeared to tweak his hamstring on the hour mark and had to be replaced by Kepa Arrizabalaga, and although it may just be a precaution, there’s no doubt Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will also be holding his breath, crossing his fingers and saying his prayers.

The Red Devils have had a stuttering season so far and face arch-rivals Liverpool on Sunday, looking to get back on track themselves as well as put a dent in Jurgen Klopp’s title charge – doing that without De Gea becomes a much harder task, given how poor United have been during 2019/20 so far.

3. Teemu Pukki puts Finland on the brink

Teemu Pukki’s four-game mini goalscoring blip is officially over.

The former Celtic man had started the season in scintillating form for club and country, scoring eight goals and assisting a further two in just seven games for Norwich and Finland combined.

And after going four games without a goal, the 29-year-old rediscovered his golden touch with a brace during Finland’s 3-0 win over Armenia on Tuesday.

The result puts Finland five points clear of third-place in Group J with just two games left to play, meaning they’re on the brink of finally qualifying for their first-ever major international tournament.

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4. Coleman sees red as Ireland fall in Switzerland

Given just how ridiculously tight it is between the top three in Group D, Switzerland vs Republic of Ireland was always going to be a big one on Tuesday evening.

Unfortunately for the Irish, they were unable to overcome a typically stubborn and dangerous Swiss side, although they made a real fist of it, especially during the second half.

In the end, Mick McCarthy’s men were simply unable to carve out enough meaningful opportunities in Geneva and fell to their first defeat of his latest reign via a first-half goal from Haris Seferovic, while what is likely to go down as a Shane Duffy own goal finished them off in second-half stoppage time.

Darren Randolph made a brilliant penalty save during the second half to keep it close, although the Republic of Ireland must do without Everton right-back Seamus Coleman next time out against Denmark after he received his second red card in three games for club and country in the process of conceding that spot-kick.

Republic of Ireland remain top of the group but both Denmark and Switzerland have a game in hand. It’s all to play for.

5. Italian qualification becomes a procession

Italy are back.

Roberto Mancini successfully guided the Azzurri to Euro 2020 with a 2-0 win over Greece on Saturday and on Tuesday, they turned that qualification into a procession.

Credit to minnows Liechtenstein, who kept the score to 1-0 until the 70th minute against their illustrious opponents but, in the end, fitness and quality shone through and goals from Andrea Belotti (x2), Alessio Romagnoli and Stephan El Shaarawy added to Federico Bernardeschi’s opener to give the Italians a 5-0 win.

Major tournaments just don’t quite feel the same without Italy and as Tuesday showed, they’re enjoying the prospect of returning to the big time next year.