Entering The Euro Zone

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2015-10-9 5:03:03

It’s the final countdown for making it to France 2016

Gareth Bale of Wales takes part in a training session on Tuesday in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales before Saturday's Euro 2016 qualifying match against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Photo: IC

The international break is upon us again but for the players contesting the final two European ­Championship qualifiers this weekend is far from meaningless. 

So far hosts France have been joined by Iceland, Czech Republic, England and Austria for next summer's tournament. That leaves 15 automatic qualification spots still up for grabs at the newly expanded 24-team Euros - both the winners and runners-up from each group will be joined in France by the third-placed team with the best record.

The relief of qualification for those 15 nations will mean the lottery of a playoff place for the eight other teams finishing third and the end of a nation's dreams of Euro 2016 for everyone else.

Here's a group-by-group look at exactly what could ­happen over the next 180 minutes.

Group A

Already going to France: Iceland, Czech Republic

Still in the hunt: Turkey, Holland

Holland's hopes hang by a thread as Turkey hold a two-point lead over them, as well as the better head-to-head record, meaning that even two victories guarantees nothing. The Dutch travel to Kazakhstan on Saturday while Turkey take on the already qualified Czech Republic before Holland host the Czechs as Iceland visit Turkey on Tuesday. Despite playing the top two teams, Turkey fans should look forward to breaking out their French phrasebooks next summer. 

Group B

Already going to France: None

Still in the hunt: Wales, Belgium, Israel, Cyprus, ­Bosnia and Herzegovina

Wales seem to have been on the brink of their first major international tournament since the 1958 World Cup for so long. A share of the spoils against either Bosnia and Herzegovina on ­Saturday or Andorra on Tuesday will see ­Gareth Bale on the stage he deserves. Belgium can guarantee more than their playoff spot by beating Andorra on Saturday. Third-placed Israel can yet be overtaken by Bosnia and Herzegovina or Cyprus but can beat the Cypriots on Saturday and then hope for a result when their challengers take each other next Tuesday.

Group C

Already going to France: None

Still in the hunt: Spain, Slovakia, Ukraine

Nice and simple in Group C where the top three are guaranteed to be in the playoffs and the top two just need one win from their two remaining games to be sure of an automatic spot. Group leaders Spain will fancy their chances when they host Luxembourg on ­Friday before playing Ukraine away, while Slovakia will get their chance away to Luxembourg after hosting Belarus on Friday. Ukraine will need to beat both Macedonia and Spain to keep their slim hopes alive.

Group D

Already going to France: None

Still in the hunt: Germany, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland

Germany are still not qualified as the Irish proved ­victors in Dublin. The Republic of Ireland can still be ousted by Poland after Robert Lewandowski equalized at the death to end Scotland's hopes of a playoff berth. Expect Germany to be in France but who joins them from Group D will only be decided when Poland host the Republic of Ireland on Sunday. 

Group E

Already going to France: England

Still in the hunt: Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, ­Lithuania

England have won the group and Switzerland need a win and a draw to take the second automatic spot. They should get three of the four points they need from the visit of San Marino on Friday but may struggle away to a still-hopeful Estonia on Monday, who need to beat England on Friday to stand a chance of grabbing a playoff spot. Slovenia could still pip the Swiss to second with wins over Lithuania and San Marino.

Group F

Already going to France: Northern Ireland

Still in the hunt: Romania, Hungary, Finland Northern Ireland's victory over Greece means will be at their first-ever European Championship next summer. Their better head-to-head record means that Hungary will snatch second from the Romanians if they can make up three points over the final fixtures. Both teams play the Faroe Islands but Romania also host Finland, who are not yet mathematically out of it and play Northern Ireland on Sunday.

Group G

Already going to France: Austria

Still in the hunt: Russia, Sweden, ­Montenegro

Russia need four points to be sure of a place at Euro 2016 and will fancy their chances against Moldova and Montenegro. The Montenegrins face group winners ­Austria in their other game so it looks like Zlatan ­Ibrahimovic's Sweden, who are only a point ahead of them in third, will make the playoffs or perhaps pip the Russians to second place if they can make up a two-point deficit from their games against Liechtenstein and Moldova. 

Group H

Already going to France: None

Still in the hunt: Italy, Norway, Croatia

Another of the groups where three into two won't go, in Group H, Italy are top of the heap and in the driving seat. They play Azerbaijan and second-placed Norway, while Croatia need to make up a point on the Norwegians to beat them to second and an automatic spot, given their superior head-to-head record. Both teams play Malta, with the Croatians also taking on Bulgaria.

Group I

Already going to France: Portugal

Still in the hunt:  Denmark, Albania

Portugal qualified with a win at home to Denmark on Thursday night. The loss for the visitors means they could still be leapfrogged by Albania, who can guarantee a first ever major tournament with a win over Armenia on Sunday as Denmark have completed their eight games in this five team group.

Posted in: Feature, Soccer

blog comments powered by Disqus