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Croatia secure Euro 2024 ticket, France held by Greece

PARIS (AFP) – Croatia clinched the final automatic qualifying spot for Euro 2024 on Tuesday as Wales were forced to settle for a play-off place, while France had to come from behind to draw in Greece.

Semi-finalists at the World Cup 12 months ago, Croatia knew they would qualify for next year’s European Championship in Germany with a win against Armenia in Zagreb, but any slip-up would have allowed Wales to leapfrog them into second place in Group D.

In the end it was a header two minutes before half-time by Ante Budimir that gave Croatia a 1-0 win to take them through, while Wales could only draw 1-1 with already-qualified Turkiye in Cardiff.

Wales will now go into the play-offs next March to determined whether they qualify for a third consecutive Euro.

A victory in that would set up a final decider against Poland or Estonia, with three qualifying spots in total on offer in the play-offs.

Croatia’s Luka Modric and Armenia’s Lukas Zalarayan go for the ball. PHOTO: AFP

Rob Page’s side needed to beat Turkiye on Tuesday to stand a chance of overtaking Croatia, and they went ahead through an early Neco Williams goal. However, Yusuf Yazici’s 70th-minute penalty earned Turkiye a draw.

France missed out on finishing with a perfect record in Group B as they drew 2-2 with Greece in Athens.

Randal Kolo Muani’s opener put France, with Kylian Mbappe rested from the starting line-up, in front late in the first half.

Captain Tasos Bakasetas equalised for Greece soon after the break and Fotis Ioannidis then put them in front.

Youssouf Fofana pulled France level again, and they appeared to be denied a winner at the death when Kingsley Coman’s deflected cutback seemed to cross the goal-line before spinning back onto the post and out. But it was missed by on-field officials, who had no goal-line technology to help them.

Greece, the 2004 Euro winners, do not qualify automatically but can still come through the play-offs.

The Netherlands had already qualified from the same group before their 6-0 win over minnows Gibraltar in Faro, Portugal.

Calvin Stengs of Feyenoord scored a hat-trick, with Mats Wieffer, Teun Koopmeiners and Liverpool’s Cody Gakpo also netting.

Romania and Switzerland had already qualified from Group I prior to their clash in Bucharest, which the hosts won 1-0 thanks to Denis Alibec’s second-half goal.

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