RUSSIA and Slovakia clinched qualification for Euro 2016 on Monday as reigning continental champions Spain and England both ended their campaigns with victories.
Russia’s turnaround in form under Leonid Slutsky continued as they beat Montenegro 2-0 in Moscow to take the second automatic qualifying spot in Group G behind Austria and condemn Sweden to a play-off.
The veteran right-back Oleg Kuzmin scored his first international goal to put Russia ahead in the 33rd minute at the Otkrytie Arena and Aleksandr Kokorin converted a penalty shortly after following a foul on Dmitri Kombarov by Vladimir Rodic.
It was a fourth straight win for the 2018 World Cup hosts since Slutsky replaced the sacked Fabio Capello and ensured that Russia would finish ahead of Sweden, despite their 2-0 victory at home to Moldova.
“My men were really great. They’ve got our team out of trouble in an almost dead-end situation in this campaign,” said Slutsky.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic put Sweden ahead in Solna with his 59th international goal and eighth in eight qualifiers before Erkan Zengin doubled their lead shortly after the interval.
But Erik Hamren’s team must come through a two-legged play-off next month if they are to qualify for a fifth successive European Championship finals.
Elsewhere in Group G, Marko Arnautovic scored once and Marc Janko netted a brace as group winners Austria signed off with a 3-0 defeat of Liechtenstein in Vienna.
Meanwhile, Slovakia won through to a European Championship finals as an independent nation for the first time thanks to a 4-2 win in Luxembourg that guaranteed them second place in Group C behind reigning champions Spain.