The Post

Russia, Slovakia seal finals spots

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RUSSIA, who host the World Cup in 2018, made sure they will be guests at France’s party next year when they beat Montenegro to make sure of their place in the Euro 2016 finals yesterday.

On the penultimat­e night of qualifiers, they were joined by Slovakia, who beat Luxembourg, while Ukraine, Slovenia and Sweden must take their chances in the playoffs.

England become only the sixth side to go through a qualifying campaign with a 100 percent record after chalking up their 10th successive win by beating Lithuania 3-0 in Vilnius.

Russia beat Montenegro 2-0 in Moscow while Slovakia won 4-2 in Luxembourg and are now assured of a place in next year’s expanded 24-team tournament.

Either Norway or Croatia will seal their automatic place alongside Italy when group H ends today while Hungary could qualify as the best third-placed team from the nine groups.

The team ranked in that position joins the other automatic qualifiers with the other eight third-placed teams heading into November’s two-legged playoffs. The draw for the playoffs takes place on Sunday.

But both Russia and Slovakia avoided that ordeal by winning yesterday.

Russia booked their place with victory over Montenegro at the Otkrytie Arena in Moscow with Oleg Kuzmin scoring his first goal for his country after 33 minutes and Alexander Kokorin adding a second with a penalty shortly afterwards.

Russia qualified in second place in group G behind unbeaten Austria, with Sweden finishing third.

Russia’s qualificat­ion had looked in the balance when Fabio Capello was still head coach but his replacemen­t Leonid Slutskiy guided Russia to four wins, beginning with a vital defeat of Sweden.

Slovakia collected their ticket with their win in Luxembourg while Ukraine’s faint hopes of pipping them for second spot behind defending champions Spain in group C ended when Spain beat them 1-0 in Kiev on the pitch where Spain won the 2012 final against Italy.

Slovakia are now set to make their first trip to the Euros as an independen­t nation but had a few nervous moments after racing into a 3-0 lead.

Luxembourg hit back twice before Marek Hamsik scored his second of the night in stoppage time to clinch a 4-2 win.

Austria and England, both going into their last matches unbeaten, preserved those records with Austria beating Liechtenst­ein 3-0 in Vienna to wrap up their group G campaign with nine wins and a draw from their 10 games, but England did even better.

England won 3-0 in Lithuania to become the only team in the qualifying competitio­n to finish with a 100 per cent record after 10 successive wins.

 ?? Photo: REUTERS ?? Oleg Kuzmin scores past Montenegro goalkeeper Milan Mijatovic during Russia’s 2-0 win that ensured their place in the European Championsh­ip finals in France next year.
Photo: REUTERS Oleg Kuzmin scores past Montenegro goalkeeper Milan Mijatovic during Russia’s 2-0 win that ensured their place in the European Championsh­ip finals in France next year.

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