Portugal win big to earn berth in playoffs

 
On the final night of European qualifying the two remaining automatic slots for next year's finals went to Switzerland and, into a major tournament for the first time, Slovakia, while Slovenia, Ukraine and Greece took the other three playoff berths.

Portugal got their goals from Nani, Simao Sabrosa –– who got two on Saturday –– Miguel Veloso and Edinho. Cristiano Ronaldo missed the game with an ankle injury but could be back in action for the November playoffs when Portugal will be among the four seeded teams.  The two-legged playoffs take place on Nov 14 and 18. They will be seeded on the basis of the FIFA world rankings published on Friday and the draw will be made in Zurich on Monday.

Russia, France and Greece are likely to be the other seeded teams with Ukraine, Ireland, Bosnia and Slovenia pitched against them. Slovakia, currently Europe's 26th-ranked team, took the direct route and can celebrate a first appearance in a major tournament since they began playing as an independent nation in 1994.

Slovenia also did all they could with a 3-0 win in San Marino, which was enough to secure second place ahead of Czech Republic, who drew 0-0 at home with Northern Ireland.

Switzerland needed only a point to top Group Two and acheived it without too much drama via a goalless home draw with Israel. Greece took the runners-up spot after a 2-1 win over Luxembourg.

Spain hammered Bosnia 5-2 away to complete a perfect qualifying campaign with 10 wins out of 10. The Netherlands, who won all eight of their games in the five-team Group Nine, were the only other team with a 100 percent record.

World champions Italy, who secured qualification with an injury-time equaliser in Ireland on Saturday, were losing 2-0 at home to Cyprus until a hat-trick by Alberto Gilardino in the last 13 minutes secured a 3-2 win.

Germany also needed a 90th minute goal by Lukas Podolski to secure a 1-1 home draw with Finland in another dead rubber. England finished with a 3-0 win over Belarus at Wembley helped by two goals for stand-in striker Peter Crouch.

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