England’s attempt to qualify for EURO 2008 ended in abject disappointment on Wednesday evening when they went down 3-2 to Croatia at Wembley Stadium in London.
Having been gifted a lifeline by Israel’s win over Russia on Saturday, Steve McClaren’s side showed a glimmer of fight to come back from two goals down to level the score at 2-2 thanks to a penalty from Frank Lampard and well-taken Peter Crouch effort.
A howler from Scott Carson and a slack offside trap saw Croatia go 2-0 up inside the opening quarter of an hour, and substitute Mladen Petric’s late strike sealed a famous win for Slaven Bilic’s side, as one of world soccer’s big nations have missed out on appearing in a major finals next summer.
With co-hosts Austria and Switzerland already qualified - Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and European champions Greece will make up the 16-nation field next June.
EURO 2008 qualifying - Group A
Portugal booked their spot in the finals thanks to a 0-0 draw with Finland. Cristiano Ronaldo was on top form, as his side somehow failed to score. They join already-qualified Poland, who drew 2-2 with Serbia, as the top two from Group A.
Italy and France had already secured their places before Wednesday evening's games. Italy ran out comfortable 3-1 winners over Faroe Islands, while France were involved in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Ukraine in Kiev.
Turkey beat Bosnia & Herzegovina 1-0 to edge out Norway in Group C by a point. The Norwegians beat Malta 4-1, with a hat-trick from Steffen Iversen, but it proved a fruitless result for the Scandinavians. Greece, who had already secured top spot in the group, beat Hungary 2-1.
Germany were held 0-0 by a courageous Wales side in Frankfurt, but the result mattered little, as Joachim Low's side had already qualified alongside Czech Republic from Group D.
England's 3-2 demise at the hands of already-qualified Croatia, coupled with Russia's 1-0 win in Andorra, saw Steve McClaren's side lose out and Guus Hiddink's squad progress to the finals in dramatic fashion.
Sweden's 2-1 win over Latvia meant that Northern Ireland's 1-0 defeat in Spain did not matter. Nigel Worthington's men were brave in defeat, but were ultimately outclassed in Las Palmas on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria.
Romania took top spot with a 6-1 win over Albania, while Marco van Basten's Holland side were defeated 2-0 by Belarus in Minsk. The Dutch, however, still took second spot after already booking their place before Wednesday’s final qualifying game.
Click here to see the final EURO 2008 qualifying tables.