Helsinki: After more than 80 years of trying, Finland has finally made it to a major football tournament.
Their neighbour, Sweden, will be at next year’s European Championship, too.
It was a great night for the Nordic nations on Friday as they took the number of teams to seal places in the first ever Europe-wide championship to 12.
The celebrations were most wild in Finland, which ended a run of 32 failed qualifying campaigns for either the World Cup or European Championship stretching back to 1938.
“Oh Finland is, oh Finland is, oh Finland is finally in the men’s soccer championship!” Finland’s Prime Minister, Antti Rinne, tweeted after the “Huuhkajat” — as the national team is known at home — beat Liechtenstein 3-0 to guarantee second place behind Italy in Group J with a game to spare.
The top two qualify from each of the 10 groups, with four more teams advancing via the play-offs in March.
Sweden booked their place at Euro 2020 a few hours later by winning at Romania 2-0 to ensure qualification from Group F along with Spain.
It’ll be a sixth straight appearance at the Euros for the Swedes, who were quarter-finalists at last year’s World Cup in Russia.
Santi Cazorla scored his first goal in four years for Spain to help crush Malta 7-0. Cazorla returned to Spain in May in a surprising call-up.
The 34-year-old former Arsenal playmaker hadn’t played for his country since 2015 due to a string of serious injuries that threatened his career.
But Cazorla has played well since his return to the field with Spanish club Villarreal and is becoming an important piece of Robert Moreno’s squad for Euro 2020.
“What Santi’s achieving, his form, after what he went through for nearly three years with his terrible injury problems, is exceptional,” Moreno said. “Without guys like him and Raul (Albiol) and Sergio (Ramos) it’s hard to win tournament semi-finals and finals.”
Denmark, another Nordic country, will have to wait to seal qualification, however, despite beating Gibraltar 6-0 to go top of Group D. With Switzerland winning 1-0 at home to Georgia to move into second place, the group will go down to the final round of matches.
Ireland, in third place, is three points behind Denmark heading into their meeting in Dublin on Monday and would qualify with a win. Switzerland is sure to progress by beating Gibraltar away on the same night.
Italy, meanwhile, made it nine wins from nine qualifiers by beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-0 away, setting a national record in the process with their 10th successive victory.
Francesco Acerbi, Lorenzo Insigne and Andrea Belotti were the scorers for the Azzurri, who can complete a perfect qualification with a home win over Armenia on Monday.
The 10 straight wins eclipsed Italy’s s record of nine in 1938-39 under Vittorio Pozzo.
Finland 3 Liechtenstein 0
Armenia 0 Greece 1
Norway 4 Faroe Islands 0
Switzerland 1 Georgia 0
Denmark 6 Gibraltar 0
Spain 7 Malta 0
Romania 0 Sweden 2
Bosnia-Herzegovina 0 Italy 3