Sweden and Ukraine became the last two qualifiers for Euro 2016 after eliminating Denmark and Slovenia respectively in Tuesday’s play-offs.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a brace as Sweden beat their Scandinavian neighbours 4-3 on aggregate after a 2-2 draw in Copenhagen. The PSG forward was the star as Sweden completed a victory over Denmark that was more comfortable than the final scoreline suggested.
“It was great to do this here in Denmark,” said Ibrahimovic, who had been rumoured to be on the brink of retiring from the international game had his side failed to progress.
“With the idea that this was supposed to be my retirement, I’ve pushed all their countries into retirement.
“If I have to finish with a Euros, then that’s destiny. Thanks for all the support and see you in France. There’s still a few months (before it begins) but we’ll be there.”
He opened the scoring on 19 minutes with a delicate finish from Kim Kallstrom’s corner. It was a second vital contribution from Kallstrom in the early stages having diverted a goalbound effort from Denmark onto the bar as early as the eighth minute.
Ibrahimovic settled the affair 14 minutes from time with a stunning free-kick from distance that meant Denmark would now need to score an improbable four times to reach the Euros.
The hosts, who had eliminated Sweden from the 2010 World Cup play-offs six years ago, didn’t give up and pulled back late goals from Yussuf Poulsen and Jannik Vestergaard, but they nonetheless came up well short.
That was a second successive failure to qualify for a major finals and Denmark’s veteran coach Morten Olsen subsequently decided to call it a day after 15 years at the national team’s helm.
“I’ve told the players that the Federation and I have agreed that it would make no sense for me to continue,” said the 66-year-old, who previously won titles with Brondby in Denmark and Ajax in the Netherlands.
“The last few months have been frustrating. I couldn’t find consistency either in our performances or our line-up. I take full responsibility.”
Ukraine edge past Slovenia
Ukraine held on after conceding an early goal to veteran centre-back Bostjan Cesar before an equaliser deep into injury time by Andriy Yarmolenko saw them complete a 3-1 aggregate victory against Slovenia.
Ukraine were aiming to avoid an unprecedented sixth straight play-off elimination across the World Cup and Euros together in their match in Maribor.
And there was a daunting portent when Cesar opened the scoring for the hosts on 11 minutes.
Ukraine still led 2-1 on aggregate having won the first leg 2-0 in Kiev and after Slovenia’s Miso Brecko was sent off a minute into time added on, Yarmolenko sealed Ukraine’s progress with an equaliser seven minutes into injury time.
After Republic of Ireland beat Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday and Hungary ousted Norway the day before, all 24 teams for next year’s finals in France are now known.