Euro 2020 playoffs: Scotland books 1st major tournament berth in 22 years

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The 24-team field for next summer’s European Championship is now set following the completion of a quartet of playoff fixtures on Thursday.

Path A

Hungary 2-1 Iceland

Laszlo Szirtesi – UEFA / UEFA / Getty

It was a case of better late than never for Hungary on Thursday in Budapest.

Loci Nego equalized in the 88th minute before Red Bull Salzburg star Dominik Szoboszlai snatched a 92nd-minute winner with a powerful strike from distance on the counter to cement a 2-1 victory over Iceland.

Gylfi Sigurdsson gave Iceland an 11th-minute advantage when the Everton midfielder struck a free-kick from the edge of the area that Hungary ‘keeper Peter Gulacsi deflected into the back of his own net. Sigurdsson is now just one goal short of matching the national record with Eidur Gudjohnsen and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.

Hungary will now shift its focus to next summer’s tournament as part of a presumptive Group of Death that includes holder Portugal, defending World Cup winner France and Germany.

Path B

Northern Ireland 1-2 Slovakia (AET)

David Fitzgerald / Sportsfile / Getty

Slovakia will get a chance to improve on its group stage dismissal at the 2016 European Championship after topping Northern Ireland 2-1 in extra time in Belfast.

Slovakia took the lead in the 17th minute after a mix-up between George Saville and Jonny Evans allowed Juraj Kucka to streak past Evans and into the area before the Parma midfielder slotted a cool side-footed effort past Norn Iron shot-stopper Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Northern Ireland claimed a late equalizer when Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar redirected Paddy McNair’s low cross into the back of his own net in the 87th minute. In the end, it wasn’t to be for Northern Ireland, and Michal Duris was the one to break Norn Iron hearts with a 110th-minute winner on the break that caught Peacock-Farrell flat-footed at the near post.

Slovakia will now compete in just its second continental showcase as part of a quartet comprised of Spain, Sweden and Poland.

Path C

Serbia 1-1 Scotland (Scotland wins 5-4 on penalties)

Nikolay Doychinov – UEFA / UEFA / Getty

Scotland has booked a spot at a major tournament for the first time since 1998 after beating Serbia on penalties in Belgrade.

Ryan Christie gave Scotland a deserved lead in the 52nd minute when the Celtic midfielder eluded Serbia’s backline before firing a low left-footed effort off the far post and beyond a helpless Predrag Rajkovic.

Steve Clarke’s side appeared well on its way to victory in normal time, before second-half substitute Luka Jovic changed the script in the final minute with a thumping header from a corner that bounced off the pitch and into the top netting.

Penalties were needed, and David Marshall made the only save, lunging to thwart Aleksandar Mitrovic’s spot-kick to ensure Scotland’s progression.

Scotland will now look ahead to an intriguing Group D at the rescheduled European Championship that includes neighboring nation England, Croatia and the Czech Republic.

Path D

Georgia 0-1 North Macedonia

Levan Verdzeuli – UEFA / UEFA / Getty

North Macedonia is heading to its first-ever major tournament after edging Georgia 1-0 in the Euro 2020 qualifying playoffs Thursday at Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi.

Captain Goran Pandev was the hero for North Macedonia, bagging his 36th international goal for the Balkan minnow 11 minutes after the interval. The 37-year-old Genoa attacker beat Giorgi Loria from close range following a deft bit of interplay between him and fellow Serie A standouts Ilija Nestorovski (Udinese) and Elif Elmas (Napoli).

North Macedonia claims PATH D qualifying honors with the result and will feature at next summer’s rescheduled tournament in Group C alongside the Netherlands, Ukraine, and Austria.

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