Scandinavian Spotlight: Europa League Places Decided and Tough Euro 2012 Draws
The last weekend of the season in Norway wasn't short of drama last Sunday as the final league positions were decided. As reported last week Rosenborg had slipped to fifth and were all but out of contention for a Europa League spot, relying on other results to go their way. Sure enough their record of qualifying for Euro competition every year for two decades is still intact.
Second placed Tromsø secured the silver medal position with an overwhelmingly emphatic 6-1 trouncing of lowly Start where Mostafa Abdellaoue, brother of Hannover's Mohamed, showed he's not the only one in the family who knows where the net is with a hat-trick against the hosts.
In typical style Brann let their supporters down for the second time in three weeks against Aalesund. The chance to avenge their defeat in the Cup Final and at the same time guarantee themselves a spot in the Europa League was too much to ask for a side which seems to frequently 'bottle it' on the big occasion. Favourites for the Cup, they failed. Surely the more motivated team against Aalesund, they failed again, going down 3-1 and finishing fourth, one agonising point off third place.
Odd Grenland blew it as well, and probably just as spectacularly, when they were well beaten by an already relegated and rock bottom Sarpsborg. How not to qualify for Europe guys! Two goals inside the first 10 minutes saw them up against it before Fevang pulled one back but the gap was back to two when Breive scored in 37. A second from Krogsgard wasn't enough.
So defeat for both teams above them opened the door for Rosenborg and they duly helped themselves to third place. Overcoming Viking in the Lerkendal Stadion despite a second minute opener from Nisja for the visitors, they leapfrogged Brann and Odd and finished in the third and final Euro qualification berth having run out 3-2 winners.
In Denmark, leaders FC Copenhagen maintained the four-point gap at the top with an unconvincing win over bottom dogs FC Køge in the Parken Stadion. Following a couple of close things for the home side a spell of intense pressure from the visitors resulted in them taking the lead when Christoffersen headed in from a corner (36). FCK stepped up a gear after the break however and squandered a couple of good chances before drawing level in 73 minutes when Santin was adjudged to have been brought down in the box. He took it himself and just a minute later his team took the lead when an Oviedo cross was smashed in by Nordstrand for the winner.
The three sides below Copenhagen also won to keep the league looking the same. Nordsjælland beat Silkeborg 2-1 away while Midtjylland overcame Odense 3-2 also away. Another away win, this time by Aarhus 2-0 over Aalborg, keeps them in fourth.
In Europa league games things didn't go quite so well for Denmark's representatives. Copenhagen's top scorer Dame N'doye had the dubious honour of scoring for both sides as a 1-1 draw against Vorskla Poltava in Ukraine saw the Danes guaranteed to finish third in the group and miss out on qualification. Odense also crashed out when a 2-1 home defeat to Wisla Krakow left them bottom of the group and gave their visitors renewed hope following Fulham's loss to FC Twente. A win for Wisla over leaders Twente on the last day coupled with a draw or worse for the Londoners will see the Poles progress.
Sweden's sole representatives Malmø at last brought their run of four defeats to an end when they played out a drab goalless draw against AZ Alkmaar. One point from five games is a poor return for last year's Swedish champions but at least a blank sheet was a distinct improvement for the competition's worst defence which had leaked an average of 3.25 goals in their previous four matches.
All eyes were on the draw for the European Championship finals yesterday as Sweden and Denmark awaited their fate alongside the other 14 contenders. The Danes, of course, were famously winners of the tournament in 1992 in Sweden when they replaced Yugoslavia following the latter's descent into anarchy and war. Sweden have a reasonably good record too, reaching the semi-finals of their own tournament and a quarter final in Portugal 2004.
Of the two, Denmark look to have got the tougher draw alongside Netherlands, Germany and Portugal but they are capable of taking points off any of them and of course they beat Portugal in their final qualification game. Sweden will have to play the hosts in group D and a France team which isn't what it once was. They must also know that in a competitive match they can't be as bad again as they were at Wembley a few weeks ago when they fell to England.
For their part England will no doubt be quietly confident of getting out of the group, but underestimating any opponent could signal defeat. The Republic of Ireland will of course enjoy playing against manager Giovanni Trappatoni's homeland of Italy but it could all come down to what they do against Croatia.