Spain, Norway hold up Scotland’s Euro qualification
PARIS: Scotland missed their first chance to seal a Euro 2024 berth as they lost to two late goals in Spain on Thursday as the third contender in Group ‘A’, Norway, won 4-0 in Cyprus.
Elsewhere, Turkey, in their first game under Vincenzo Montella, won in Croatia to vault to the top of Group ‘D’ and Albania tightened their grip on Group ‘E’ with a comfortable win over the Czech Republic.
Scotland had won all five of their group games and entered Thursday’s match in Seville needing one point from three matches to qualify.
Spain pressed in the first half, but Scotland had the ball in the net first when Scott McTominay swerved a second-half free-kick over Unai Simon.
The strike was disallowed after a VAR review for an offence in the goalmouth by Jack Hendry.
Spain finally made their possession count as Alvaro Morata stooped to head home Jesus Navas’ inviting cross after 73 minutes.
The points were safe 10 minutes later when Aaron Hickey’s slip under no pressure allowed Oihan Sancet, who had come for his international debut after 67 minutes, to score from a Joselu cross, though it did appear the last touch came off defender Ryan Porteous.
“It was tough today, at the end we take the three points and we’re very happy with that,” Morata told BBC. “They [Scotland] defended good and they are very dangerous in counter-attacks. When they have this spirit, they are a good team.”
In Larnaca, Erling Haaland scored his fifth and sixth goals of the qualifying campaign. Alexander Sorloth and Fredrik Aursnes also struck as Norway crushed Cyprus.
Scotland lead the group with 15 points from their six games, while Spain have 12 from five and Norway 10 from six. Scotland will qualify if Norway fail to win at home to Spain on Sunday.
In Montella’s first game, Baris Alper Yilmaz caught home goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic out of his area after 30 minutes and chipped home from long range.
Both teams had further chances in Osijek.
Croatia were held out in the closing stages by goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir and the offside flag as Turkey won 1-0 to go top in Group ‘D’ with 13 points from six games, three ahead of Croatia, who have played a game fewer.
“Turkey deserved this win,” said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic. “We were bad. We had many mistakes from the beginning. We couldn’t find our game, we deservedly lost.”
Albania kept up their unexpected challenge for a first ever Euros qualification with a 3-1 victory over 10-man Czech Republic.
A brace from Taulant Seferi helped them to the victory that leaves them top of the Group ‘E’ on 13 points from six games, five ahead of the Czechs in third, who have a game in hand.
With fixtures to come against Moldova and Faroe Islands, Albania stand on the brink of their greatest achievement in international football.
Sebastian Szymanski and Adam Buksa scored for Poland in a 2-0 win in the Faroes that keeps them second in the group, four points behind Albania but one ahead of the Czechs and Moldova.
Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2023