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France held in Greece, Croatia seal spot at Euros

AP PHOTO

Greece have come from a goal down to hold France to a 2-2 draw, denying Didier Deschamps' side a perfect record in their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

Olivier Giroud teed up Randal Kolo Muani for the opener just before halftime on Tuesday (Wednesday AEDT) in Athens, before the hosts levelled in the 56th minute through midfielder Anastasios Bakasetas and Fotis Ioannidis gave them the lead five minutes later.

Youssouf Fofana equalised for Les Bleus with a powerful shot from distance in the 74th. Kingsley Coman thought he had grabbed a winner, but VAR showed his effort did not fully cross the goal line.

Elsewhere in Group B, the Netherlands' Calvin Stengs netted a hat-trick as they easily disposed of Gibraltar 6-0.

Mats Wieffer, Teun Koopmeiners and substitute Cody Gakpo added the other goals in Portugal for an experimental Dutch side which had already secured their place at next year's finals in Germany.

The Netherlands finished second behind France, while the third-placed Greeks had secured a place in the playoffs.

In Zagreb, Ante Budimir's second international goal was enough for Croatia to book their ticket following a 1-0 victory over Armenia and finish Group D runners-up.

Croatia camped in the Armenia half without creating clear-cut chances until Budimir's headed goal two minutes before halftime.

It is a sixth successive qualification for the continental finals for Croatia, and their seventh overall, having finished second and third at the last two World Cups, but never gone beyond the quarter-finals at the Euros.

Turkey, who drew 1-1 with Wales, topped the pool with 17 points from their eight games, one more than Croatia. The Welsh had to settle for a place in the playoffs.

Needing to better Croatia's result, Wales made a dream start as Neco Williams fired them ahead after seven minutes.

But the mood of euphoria inside the Cardiff City Stadium began to wane with news of a Croatia goal before the break.

Hope then ebbed further away when Yusuf Yazici equalised for the visitors from the penalty spot after 70 minutes.

"I have to be careful what I say ... we've conceded the softest penalty you'll ever concede," Wales coach Rob Page said.

"It's so frustrating. The VAR check was over after 10 seconds. I can't get my head around it, I can't really understand how they've come to that decision."

In Bucharest, Romania beat Switzerland 1-0 to finish their campaign unbeaten and top of Group I.

In the battle for first place between two already qualified teams, Denis Alibec tapped in from close range in the 50th minute to break the deadlock for Romania, who finished with 22 points. The Swiss, who would have leap-frogged Romania into top spot with a win, ended second on 17 points.

Three teams will join the 21 nations already qualified when the playoffs take place in March.