By JOEY SAMUEL
When the draw for Group G of EURO 2012 qualifying was made, many believed England had been handed an easy road to the tournament. Their path ended up being much more difficult than many expected, but Friday they finally punched their ticket to Poland and Ukraine.
England qualified for EURO 2012 by drawing, 2-2, with Montenegro to clinch first place in Group G. Ashley Young and Darren Bent put the Three Lions up 2-0 early only for Montenegro to battle back and equalize, but the draw was all England needed to seal their place. However, Wayne Rooney was sent off with a straight red card during the second half and will now miss at least the opening match of the EURO tournament proper.
Elsewhere across Europe, Turkey's hopes of qualifying took a huge hit as they lost 3-1 to Germany. Mario Gomez, Thomas Mueller, and Bastian Schweinsteiger were on target for Germany, who have already qualified. Fellow Group A contenders Belgium followed that up with a 4-1 win over Kazakhstan, giving the Belgians an advantage over Turkey as the two teams head into the final round of matches looking to seal the group's playoff place.
After the break, read more about all the EURO qualifying action, including results that set up dramatic finishes in several groups.
FRANCE AND BOSNIA SET UP DRAMATIC FINAL ROUND
Both France and Bosnia & Herzegovina won Friday in Group D, setting up a highly important final game between the two teams on Tuesday in Paris.
Florent Malouda, Loic Remy, and Anthony Reveillere scored for France in a 3-0 rout of Albania to ensure the French would lead Group D heading into the team's final match. However, Bosnia answered with a 5-0 thrashing of Luxembourg to remain one point back from France. The two teams will meet in a decisive clash on Tuesday with the winner qualifying directly to EURO 2012. A draw will also do for France, but both teams will be desperate to avoid having to qualify through the playoffs.
PORTUGAL, DENMARK ALSO TAKE GROUP H DOWN TO WIRE
Group H will also go down to the final round of matches on Tuesday after both Portugal and Denmark collected convincing wins on Friday.
Portugal defeated Iceland in an entertaining 5-3 affair in Porto behind Nani's brace and a pair of goals in the final ten minutes. Denmark, meanwhile, thrashed Cyprus by a 4-1 scoreline despite being visitors. Those results mean the two teams head into the final round level on 16 points each. They will meet in yet another decisive clash on Tuesday in Copenhagen to determine which team qualifies directly, and which must go through the playoff process.
GREECE, RUSSIA, AND SWEDEN COLLECT HUGE WINS
Greece took control of Group F by earning a massive 2-0 win over Croatia on Friday. The win allowed Greece to leap over Croatia in the standings, but each team still has a chance to qualify directly on the final matchday. Greece will travel to Georgia and Croatia will host Latvia on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Russia all but sealed first place in Group B by collecting an impressive 1-0 away win against Slovakia. To win the group and qualify directly, Russia will only need to defeat lowly Andorra at home in their final game.
Finally, Sweden practically wrapped up the playoff spot from Group E with a 2-1 win over Finland. Sweden have trailed the Netherlands in the standings for most of qualifying, but now they have virtually guaranteed that they will finish in second place in Group E and move on to the playoff round.