Greece, Czechs and Romania book Euro 2008 places

European champions Greece, Czech Republic and Romania will join Germany in the European Championship finals next year after qualifying on Wednesday.

It was Thierry Henry who grabbed the limelight on a busy night, however, scoring twice against Lithuania to break Michel Platini’s record of 41 goals for France and propel them to the top of qualifying Group B.

Greece, who beat hosts Portugal in the final in 2004, earned a trip to Austria and Switzerland with a 1-0 win over rivals Turkey in Group C in Istanbul, with a 79th-minute goal from striker Ioannis Amantidis.

Turkey dropped to third place after Norway beat Bosnia 2-0 in Sarajevo and will have everything to play for when they travel to Oslo next month.

The Czechs strolled to a 3-0 away win over a toothless Germany, who had already qualified from Group D and were depleted by injury and suspension.

Libor Sionko put them ahead in the second minute, with Marek Matejovsky adding a second in the 23rd and Jaroslav Plasil making it three in the second half.

Romania beat Luxembourg 2-0 away in Group G with goals from Florentin Petre and Ciprian Marica, which was enough to secure qualification after Bulgaria managed only a 1-1 draw in Albania.

Bulgaria cannot now catch Romania but still have a chance, in their last two games, of overtaking second-placed Netherlands if the Dutch slip up in their last two qualifiers next month.

England jeopardy

Two second-half goals from substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko, one a controversial penalty, earned Russia a 2-1 win over England in a chilly Moscow, keeping alive their hopes of qualifying from Group E and putting England’s in jeopardy.

The comeback win after striker Wayne Rooney had put England ahead in the 29th minute propelled Guus Hiddink’s side to 21 points behind Croatia on 26 and England on 23.

The rejuvenated Russians now have to win away matches against already eliminated Israel and Andorra to qualify.

Croatia face Macedonia away before finishing their campaign against England at Wembley on November 21, needing only one point from the two games to get through.

England, who had put together a run of five 3-0 qualifying wins going into the match, have played one more game than their rivals and must rely on a slip-up by Russia or a collapse in form from Croatia to qualify.

England’s neighbours Scotland also suffered a big setback in a tough Group B. The Scots, looking to compete in their first major tournament since the World Cup in 1998, went down 2-0 in Georgia, who are already eliminated.

Scotland had been riding high in the group but the defeat reinstalled last year’s World Cup winners Italy, who did not play on Wednesday, and runners-up France as favourites to qualify.

Portugal earned three points in Group A when goals from Ariza Makukula and Cristiano Ronaldo gave them a 2-1 win over Kazakhstan.

The group is too close to call, with leaders Poland, Portugal, Finland and Serbia, who romped to a 6-1 win over bottom side Azerbaijan in Baku, having two games to play and all still in with a chance of reaching the finals.

Sweden are within a point of qualifying after a 1-1 draw at home to Northern Ireland in Group F, a result that kept the visitors’ hopes of a Euro 2008 spot hanging by a thread. — Reuters

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