Italy beat Greece to become 2nd team to qualify for Euro 2020

PARIS, OCT 13 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 10/13/2019 12:02:05 PM IST

Italy overcame Greece’s defensive tactics for a 2-0 win on Sunday (NZ time) and qualified for the 2020 European Championship, ensuring the Azzurri will play in the tournament’s opening match in Rome next June.

Brazilian-born midfielder Jorginho converted a penalty after the hour-mark after a blatant handball by Andreas Bouchalakis. Then substitute Federico Bernardeschi scored from outside the area with a low, bouncing shot that was deflected.
Roberto Mancini’s squad extended their perfect record in Group J to seven wins in seven matches - a sharp contrast from when Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup following a playoff loss to Sweden nearly two years ago. With three qualifiers remaining, Italy have a full 21 points, nine more than second-placed Finland. The top two teams of each group qualify for the tournament next year. The other four qualifiers will come through four tiers of playoffs in March.
Belgium had become the first team to qualify for next year’s tournament on Friday (NZ time) and there were nearly 60,000 fans at the Stadio Olimpico in anticipation of Italy’s qualifying celebration, but they were kept quiet for much of the night as Greece - who had already lost hope of qualifying - defended in large numbers.
The visitors produced the only shot on goal of the first half while Italy were temporarily playing with 10 men due to a knock to left back Danilo D’Ambrosio.
Things got worse for Italy when winger Federico Chiesa, perhaps the Azzurri’s best performer over the course of qualifying, limped off before the break with an apparent thigh issue. But Italy began to threaten more after the break and earned a penalty when Bouchalakis stuck out his arm to block a shot from Lorenzo Insigne that appeared on target.
Jorginho, who holds dual citizenship, sent goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis the wrong way after a nervous buildup to the spot kick as the referee took his time putting the players in order.
Fifteen minutes later, Bernardeschi took a pass from captain Leonardo Bonucci and scored his first Italy goal in more than a year.
Finland remain second in Group J, on 12 points, but were beaten 4-1 in Zenica by Bosnia and Herzegovina, who have moved level on 10 points with Armenia, who were held to a 1-1 draw at bottom-placed Liechtenstein.
Meanwhile, Norway ended Spain’s perfect record, with a 1-1 draw in Oslo, in a match where Sergio Ramos overtook Iker Casillas’ record of most appearances for Spain, playing in his 168th international.
The 33-year-old central defender had already beaten the goalkeeper’s record for most wins with the national team, and Spain looked set to cap the night with victory, and qualification, only for Norway to equalise in stoppage time.
Saul Niguez had put Spain ahead with a long-range goal only two minutes after halftime, but the hosts pressed late and Spain goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga gave away a penalty by fouling Omar Elabdellaoui, allowing Joshua King to step up and slot from the spot just before the final whistle.
Spain sit on 19 points in Group F, with second-placed Sweden now five points back after a 4-0 crushing of Malta in Ta’ Qali. Romania are a point behind Sweden after a 3-0 victory over the Farore Islands in Tórsvøllur.
Elsewhere, in Group D action, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel pulled off several world-class saves and Yussuf Poulsen struck a dramatic winner six minutes from time as Denmark beat Switzerland 1-0 in Copenhagen to see the Danes go level at the top of the group with Ireland, who were held to a 0-0 draw by Georgia in Tbilisi.

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