Sweden defeat Dutch to qualify
Sweden secured automatic qualification for the UEFA EURO 2012 finals with a pulsating 3-2 win over the Netherlands this evening. With the Dutch already assured of top spot in Group E the pressure was on Sweden to stop the Oranje's unbeaten romp to next year's championship in Ukraine and Poland, with the potential of an automatic best runners-up qualification spot the prize should they win.
Lyon midfielder Kim Kallstrom put the Scandinavians into a 14th minute lead, defeating Dutch keeper Michel Vorm from a direct free kick awarded after defender Gregory van der Wiel fouled Johan Elmander. Sweden's keeper Andreas Isaksson kept the hosts' on a level footing when denying Robin van Persie.
However it wasn't to last as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar - who had scored the only goal in Friday's win over Moldova - put the 1988 European champions back level in the 23rd minute. That was the Schalke forward's 12th goal of the qualifying campaign, giving him a near-unassailable lead in the goalscorers charts.
Five minutes into the second-half Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt put the Netherlands into the lead, only for the Swedes to hit back immediately with two goals in the space of a minute. First Sebastian Larsson scored from the spot after a penalty awarded following a handball by Joris Mathijsen, then seconds later Ola Toivonen put them back in front.
That frenetic passage of play set up an anxious last half an hour for the Swedes, with automatic qualification dangling in front of them should they hold on, or the play-offs if they conceded. They held their nerve, despite suffering form the absence of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to lift them up to 19 points, with Holland, falling to their first defeat since their World Cup final loss to Spain in South Africa last year, on 24.