Cyprus Mail

Sweden and Ukraine qualify for Euro 2016

A stunning double from captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave Sweden a 2-2 draw away to Denmark as they qualified for Euro 2016 on Tuesday by 4-3 on aggregate against their Scandinavian rivals.

Ibrahimovic silenced the home fans in the 19th minute when he ghosted out to meet Kim Kallstrom’s corner, twisting athletically to sweep the ball past flat-footed goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Then he punished the Danes for their failure to create chances with a beautiful curling free kick in the 76th minute to send the Swedes closer to a place in France next year.

Late goals by Yussuf Poulsen and Jannik Vestergaard provided some comfort for the home fans.

Ukraine meanwhile qualified after a nervy 1-1 draw in Slovenia gave them a 3-1 aggregate playoff win.

Forward Andriy Yarmolekno scored in the seventh minute of second-half stoppage time for Ukraine to cancel out Slovenia captain Bostjan Cesar’s early opener for the home side.

Shortly before Yarmolenko’s goal, which sealed the tie, Slovenia had right back Miso Brecko sent off for a reckless challenge on Yevhen Konoplaynka.
The outcome was also sweet revenge for Ukraine after they suffered a 3-2 aggregate defeat by Slovenia in the Euro 2000 playoffs, when the former Yugoslav republic reached their first major tournament as an independent nation.

The Slovenians piled on the pressure from the start and Cesar converted their first chance, heading in from close-range after some poor defending by Ukraine.

Goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov failed to deal with a teasing cross by Valter Birsa and after a visiting defender blocked Milivoje Novakovic’s effort, the ball fell kindly for Cesar.

The home team’s keeper Samir Handanovic produced a pair of good saves either side of the goal, keeping out a swerving Yevhen Konoplyanka free kick before parrying a shot by striker Yevhen Seleznyov.

Slovenia came close to levelling the tie on aggregate when midfielder Nejc Pecnik’s fierce shot cannoned off a static Pyatov shortly before halftime.

Handanovic again denied Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko while defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy volleyed inches over the bar as Ukraine gained the upper hand after the break.

The visitors were nearly punished several minutes later, when Cesar was left unmarked at the far post for a free header which Pyatov somehow kept out.
Ukraine then survived a fierce Slovenia onslaught as substitute Zlatan Ljubijankic had a shot blocked and the home side forced a flurry of corners in the dying minutes.

Following Brecko’s dismissal, Kevin Kampl slipped and lost possession in the centre circle allowing three Ukrainian players to race clear and leaving Yarmolenko with a simple tap-in.

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