Sports Desk, Nov 12 (efe-epa).- The Scottish national soccer team will be returning to the global stage for the first time since the 1998 World Cup after beating Serbia on penalties Thursday to qualify for the delayed Euro 2020 finals.
North Macedonia will be making their international debut in the European Championship – rescheduled for Summer 2021 because of the pandemic – thanks to a 1-0 victory against Georgia.
In Budapest, Hungary prevailed 2-1 over Iceland, while visiting Slovakia bested Northern Ireland by the identical score to complete the tournament lineup.
Serbia, the better side on paper, seemed listless playing behind closed doors in Belgrade and needed a goal from Luka Jovic in the final minute of regulation to force the contest into extra time.
After outplaying the hosts in the first half, the Scots went ahead early in the second on a goal by Ryan Christie that followed a Serbian giveaway.
Scott McTominay and Callum McGregor each came close to doubling the lead for Scotland and John McGinn created a chance that Christie couldn’t finish.
The sides remained deadlocked at 1-1 after 30-plus minutes of extra time, setting the stage for Scottish goalkeeper David Marshall to be the hero.
Dusan Tadic, Jovic, Nemanja Gudelj and Aleksandar Katai matched Leigh Griffiths, McGregor, McTominay and Oli McBurnie before Kenny McLean converted to give Scotland a 5-4 edge.
Aleksandar Mitrovic took the fifth kick for Serbia and Marshall saved it to send Scotland back to the Euro finals after 24 years as the fourth team in Group D, joining England, Croatia and the Czech Republic.
A goal by Goran Pandev in the 56th minute was enough for North Macedonia to eliminate Georgia and secure their first-ever ticket to a major international competition.
Four months after turning 37, Pandev showed that he hasn’t lost the skills that made him a key contributor on the Inter Milan squad that won the triple in 2009-2010.
At the finals, North Macedonia will line up in Group C with Ukraine, the Netherlands and Austria.
Hungary had 74 percent possession against Iceland, yet still trailed the visitors 1-0 with two minutes left in regulation after conceding to Gylfi Sigurdsson in the 11th minute.
Loic Nego brought the home side level in the 88th minute and RB Salzburg striker Dominik Szoboszlai won it for the Hungarians with a spectacular goal in stoppage time.
Hungary were one of the surprise teams of Euro 2016, reaching the round of 16, but will have their work cut out for them next summer Group F, with defending champions Portugal, 2018 World Cup winners France and Germany.
Slovakia were leading Northern Ireland 1-0 in Belfast with three minutes left in regulation when Milan Skriniar gave up an own goal to keep hope alive for the hosts and the 1,060 fans allowed in the stands at Windsor Park.
Neither team scored in the first extra-time period, but Michal Duris put the Slovaks ahead with a goal on the counter in the 110th minute and the continental side held on to claim the fourth and final berth in Group E, where they will face Spain, Sweden and Poland. EFE jv/dr