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Moutinho fires Portugal to Euro 2016

Oct 8, 2015; 9:48 PM 789

Portugal booked their ticket to Euro 2016 with a 1-0 win over Denmark in Braga on Thursday.

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game midway through the second half as Portugal ensured they would top Group I.

"I had the joy of scoring the goal that qualified us but we all fought hard and we all deserve to be applauded," said Moutinho.

"Qualification wasn't earned just in this match."

Captain and talisman Cristiano Ronaldo admitted it had not been an easy path, particularly after Portugal lost their opening qualifier at home to Albania.

"It was a difficult qualification campaign; we started badly but we finished well," said the Real Madrid star.

"The arrival of Fernando Santos as coach was positive because he called back players that we needed."

It was a sixth successive group victory for Portugal since losing to Albania.

Santos, who had coached Greece at the 2014 World Cup, replaced Paulo Bento following that defeat and has put the team on an upward curve ever since.

"It's very important for us to achieve the objective of finishing on top of our group," said Santos.

"All credit should go to the players for their devotion."

Denmark, who have played their last game, will still qualify if Albania fail to win in Armenia on Sunday.

Albania lost 2-0 at home to Serbia on Thursday and remain a point behind Denmark but the Scandinavians have the edge on head-to-head, although only by away goals.

That means Albania must beat Armenia to secure their first ever qualification to a major championship or they will enter the play-offs.

Albania's defeat actually meant Portugal would have qualified even with defeat.

Moutinho came closest to breaking the deadlock in an uneventful first half but his rasping drive from 25 yards whistled just over the top.

Just before the hour mark, Kasper Schmeichel came to Denmark's rescue making a great stop to deny former Manchester United winger Nani's left-footed effort.

With the hosts enjoying 60 percent of possession, they finally found a goal midway through the second period as Moutinho rifled home low into the corner from 12 yards.

Injury time almost saw more action than the rest of the match put together as Schmeichel made smart saves from world player of the year Ronaldo and veteran winger Ricardo Quaresma before Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio denied Michael Krohn-Dehli at the other end.