Euro 2020 playoffs: Serbia sinks Norway; Scotland and Northern Ireland reach finals

Hungary, Iceland, Slovakia, Georgia, Serbia, North Macedonia, Scotland and Northern Ireland have reached the Euro 2021 playoff finals.

Scotland captain Andy Robertson celebrates his team's victory over Israel.   -  Getty Images

Serbia reached the Euro 2020 playoff finals after a double from second-half substitute Sergej-Milinkovic Savic gave it a 2-1 win away to Norway after extra time on Thursday while seven other nations joined them on a night of nerve-wracking action.

Scotland will face the Serbians in Belgrade on November 12 for a berth at next year's tournament to be held across Europe following a 5-3 penalty shootout win at home to Israel as the game finished 0-0 after extra time.

Northern Ireland beat Bosnia 4-3 on penalties after holding it to a 1-1 draw in regular time, with no goals in the extra period, and it will host Slovakia, which needed a 4-2 shootout win over visitors Ireland following a 0-0 draw after extra time.

Serbia's Lazio midfielder Milinkovic-Savic scored his first international goals as he fired the visitor ahead in the 82nd minute with his first touch of the ball.

Norway's Mathias Normann equalised in the 88th with a crisp low shot before Milinkovic-Savic struck in the first period of extra time with a sublime finish, dinking the ball over goalkeeper Rune Jarstein from a tight angle.

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“I am still pinching myself as I scored my first goal for Serbia and then the second in a game as big as this one too,” Milinkovic-Savic told Serbian media.

“It will be a joyous trip back to Serbia but we know the job is not done yet and we've got an even bigger game ahead of us.”

Israel's Eran Zahavi missed his side's first penalty while the Scots were perfect from the spot, having soaked up pressure before hitting the woodwork in the dying seconds of extra time.

Norway star striker Erling Haaland looks up in despair after loss to Serbia.   -  Getty Images

 

Rade Krunic put Bosnia in the driving seat with a 13th-minute goal but Niall McGinn hit back for Northern Ireland, robbing two defenders of the ball before steering a low shot past keeper Ibrahim Scekic in the 53rd.

Both sides missed chances before the shootout, with Liam Boyce drilling in Northern Ireland's final spot kick to put it through after Bosnia's Haris Hajradinovic and Edin Visca missed.

Goals from Willi Orban, Zsolt Kalmar and Nemanja Nikolic gave the Hungarians a 3-1 win in Bulgaria and booked a home tie with Iceland, which was 2-1 winner at home to Romania thanks to Gylfi Sigurdsson's first-half double.

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North Macedonia overcame Balkan neighbour Kosovo 2-1 and will visit Georgia, which beat Belarus 1-0 thanks to an early Tornike Okriashvili penalty, with the winners of their playoff set for a maiden major tournament as an independent nation.

There were joyous scenes in Skopje, where North Macedonia edged Kosovo in an emotionally charged encounter, with home coach Igor Angelovski rushing onto the field with a Macedonian flag after the final whistle.

Kosovo, a country of 1.8 million people which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, was accepted as a member of European football's governing body UEFA, and then world football organisation FIFA, in 2016 after a long campaign.

They enjoyed a remarkable 15-match unbeaten run in 2018-19 to win their Nations League group and qualify for the playoffs, which offer a back door to the European Championship.

Euro 2020, originally scheduled for June 12-July 12, was pushed back 12 months because of the novel coronavirus pandemic and is now due to be held from June 11-July 11 next year.

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