Euro 2017 Qualifying - Group 2: Spain qualify while neighbours Portugal prepare for play-off

Euro 2017 Qualifying - Group 2: Spain qualify while neighbours Portugal prepare for play-off

Finland were cruelly eliminated by a matter of a head-to-head record, while neither the Republic of Ireland nor Montenegro will be going to next summer's tournament either.

Ameé Ruszkai

After securing qualification some time ago, Spain finished Group 2 in qualifying for Euro 2017 with a bang on Tuesday night, beating Finland 5-0.

The big story of the group though was the drama of who finished second - Portugal nicking it on the head-to-head.

They finished tied with Finland on points, Cláudia Neto's 78th minute strike in a 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland enough to take them into the play-off with Romania that will be played next month.

It was heartbreak for the Scandinavians then, who were so close to a shot at going to the Euros for a fourth successive time.

The final standings in Group 2. (Photo: Soccerway)
The final standings in Group 2. (Photo: Soccerway)

Portugal leave it late

After their first five games saw them only take points from minnows Montenegro, qualification was always going to be tough for Portugal. Defeat to the Republic of Ireland in their opening fixture put them on the back foot from the off, while a goalless draw in Finland only slightly got them back on track.

However, Neto's hat-trick in the reverse saw them edge out the Finns 3-2 and they knew that a place in the Netherlands was right in the picture.

Were Spain to beat Finland as expected in the final games, Portugal only needed to avenge defeat on home soil to Ireland to qualify.

Victory in the British Isles was never going to be easy though, and it certainly wasn't. After a tough graft, Neto was again needed to save the day, and her second half strike means Portugal are two games away from the Euros.

Finland, meanwhile, will look back to that game in Helsinki in June as the big missed opportunity. Had they beaten the Portuguese that day, they could have secured second spot - regardless of the reverse defeat and loss to Spain on Tuesday.

After doing the double over Ireland, they looked sure to take second place, but things quickly changed and now they will be watching the Euros at home next summer.

Disappointing for Ireland

While they knew ahead of their final game that they couldn't qualify, that will not stop Ireland from being disappointed this week.

They may have started the qualifying process with defeat to Finland, but an impressive comeback win away to Portugal in their next fixture suggested that the Irish could stake a real claim for a spot in Holland.

Yet, they allowed Finland to really get the better of them back in June in a 4-1 loss - a game they needed to win. Even a 9-0 thrashing of Montenegro couldn't heal that wound, before they ended the campaign with a slender 1-0 loss to Portugal on Tuesday night.

Positives aplenty, but it was another unsuccessful attempt to qualify from Ireland.

Montenegro follow the trend

Moving further down the table, bottom-placed Montenegro ensured they weren't one of the odd ones out in qualifying. Of the eight teams to prop up the final standings, only two finished with points to their name, and Group 2's minnows were not one of them.

Losing all eight games and conceding 51 goals in the process, the campaign was as difficult as predicted for the small nation.

They did bag themselves consolation goals in the defeats to Portugal and Finland, but qualifying was another huge learning curve for this side who lack top level experience.

Expectedly easy for Spain

As also expected, Spain cruised through this group. With eight wins from eight, 39 goals scored and just two conceded, it was straight forward from start to finish.

Veronica Boquete ended the campaign as the group's leading scoring with eight goals, which only Norway's Ada Hegerberg and Iceland's Harpa Þorsteinsdóttir bettered across the whole of qualifying - the two beating her to the top of the scoring charts with 10 each.

After a disappointing 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, they will fly to the Netherlands high on confidence and with hopes of doing damage on the continent next summer.

Spain celebrate after ensuring a 100 per cent record in qualifying. (Photo: Soccerway)
Spain celebrate after ensuring a 100 per cent record in qualifying.