Euro 2016 Qualifying Review: Germany Stunned by Ireland, Iceland Down Dutch

Group A

Iceland were the early pacesetters in Group A after wins over Lativa and Netherlands, with Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson being the star man for the side after scoring three goals in the two games. He was particularly impressive in the second game against the Dutch, scoring a brace to help inflict the Netherlands’ second defeat of the group stages.

Meanwhile, Czech Republic are now also on nine points after three games. A 2-1 win in Turkey and 4-2 triumph in Kazakhstan were enough to take the Czech’s into second place, a comfortable position as they look to qualify for their first major tournament since Euro 2012. In the next set of fixtures, the top two sides meet in Plzen, Turkey play host to Kazakhstan and Latvia travel to the Netherlands.

Group B

Wales’ ambitions of going to their first major tournament since 1958 is becoming a potential reality as they picked up four points from two games. An impressive 0-0 draw with Bosnia was followed up with 2-1 win over Cyprus – a game in which they played with ten men for much of the second half.

Israel are the surprise team in second; Austria Vienna’s Omer Damari inspired the Israelis to away wins over Cyprus and Andorra after scoring four goals in two games, including a hat-trick in the match against Andorra. Meanwhile,  early favorites Belgium are playing catch-up, an emphatic 6-0 win over Andorra could only be met by a 1-1 in Bosnia.

When the qualifying resumes in November, Wales face their first real test in a trip to Belgium and Israel’s credentials will be measured when they face Bosnia at home.

Group C

Slovakia are the shock leaders in Group C after wins over Spain and Belarus. Al Ain winger Miroslav Stoch sealed the three points against the European Champions after scoring a header on the 87th minute. Despite the setback in Slovakia, Spain are second in the group, as normal service resumed when they won 4-0 in Luxembourg, with Diego Costa scoring his first goal in international football.

Ukraine are in comfortable command of the playoff spot after wins over Belarus and Macedonia, as Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side were able to forget their disappointing 1-0 defeat to Slovakia in the opening game of the campaign. Ukraine will hope to make their grip on the playoff even tighter when they face Luxembourg, while Spain and Slovakia will look to cement their place in automatic spots in games against Belarus and Macedonia.

Group D

Poland are the leaders of arguably the most exciting group in the Euro 2016 Qualifying campaign. The Poles picked up seven points from their first three games whilst beating Germany 2-0 and drawing 2-2 with Scotland – Ajax’s Milik was the man of the moment as he scored two goals in the two games.

Ireland are dreaming of making their second consecutive appearance in the European Championships after a 7-0 win over Gibraltar and a 1-1 draw in Germany, as Sunderland’s John O’Shea was the unlikely hero on his 100th cap, scoring a 94th minute equalizer in Gelsenkirchen.

Scotland can look at their results in a methodical manner; a 1-0 win over Georgia and a 2-2 draw in Poland have left them in touching distance of the automatic places. In the next set of fixtures, Republic of Ireland play host to Scotland while Poland and Germany face tame games against Georgia and Gibraltar.

Group E

England may be cruising their way through qualifying with nine points from a possible nine, but it has been far from pretty for the side that disappointed once again at a World Cup. A boring 5-0 win over San Marino was met with a labored 1-0 victory in Estonia. Wayne Rooney’s pursuit of Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record may be the only interesting aspect from England’s qualifying campaign.

Slovenia seem the most likely to follow England to the European Championships in the automatic places. The side, who have only once qualified for the Euros in 2000, beat Switzerland and Lithuania to go second in the group.

Meanwhile, Switzerland and Lithuania may be battling for the playoff spot, with the latter attaining six points from three games after wins over San Marino and Estonia. Switzerland only have a 4-0 win over San Marino to show for their campaign so far. The two sides meet in St Gallen, while England play Slovenia at Wembley and the bottom two sides play in Serravalle, San Marino.

Group F

For the first time in their history, Northern Ireland won their first three qualifying games, as they followed up their 2-1 win in Hungary with a 2-0 home success against the Faroe Islands and a 2-0 away win in Greece. Manager Michael O’Neill commented that Kyle Lafferty, who has three goals so far, “Has ability, technique, pace and size.”

Romania are chasing Northern Ireland after picking up four points from the two games. A 1-1 draw at home to Hungary and a 2-0 win in Finland have them sitting in the second automatic spot. Greece are currently bottom of the group after claiming just one point from the first three games, and the likeliness of new manager Claudio Ranieri keeping his job till the end of the campaign is slim. Northern Ireland face Romania in arguably their hardest game in the next round, while Hungary face Finland in Budapest.

Group G

Austria are looking good to qualify for their first major tournament since 2008 after three games. Das Team are sitting at the top of the group with seven points after an impressive week that saw them record wins over Moldova and Montenegro. Following Austria are Russia – a side that fell in the group stages of the World Cup – who had a difficult week as they could only record draws with Sweden (1-1) and to Moldova at home (1-1).

Montenegro will have to improve if they want to build on the promise they showed in the last two qualifying campaigns. They have only registered four points in three games and have yet to face Russia or Sweden. Austria will look to widen the gap between themselves and Russia when the two sides meet in Vienna, while Montenegro will be hoping to give their playoff hopes a boost against Sweden at home.

Group H

Croatia and Italy are the two sides in pole position in Group H. The Croats scored seven goals in two games in wins over Bulgaria and Azerbaijan as they have quickly forgotten about the disappointment of the World Cup. Italy, however, are very much in transition, and while they may have nine points from nine, a 2-1 win over Azerbaijan and a 1-0 win over Malta were not seen as the best results for the Azurri.

Norway look likely to finish in the playoff spot, as the Scandinavians beat Malta and Bulgaria to put a gap of three points between themselves and fourth place. The top two sides meet in Milan on the next match day, while playoff chasing Norway face Azerbaijan in Baku.

Group I

Political tensions overshadowed Group I as Serbia and Albania clashed in Belgrade. The Albanian fans, who were banned from attending the game, flew a drone into the stadium reading “autochthonous” in relation to the disputed state of Kosovo, which is not recognized as an independent nation by Serbia. Freiburg defender Stefan Mitrovic pulled the drone from the sky, provoking a brawl between Serbian and Albanian players that eventually led to fans becoming involved, to which referee Martin Atkinson abandoned the game.

Meanwhile, Denmark and Portugal are leading the group, as the Portuguese got over their 1-0 defeat to Albania by beating Denmark 1-0 thanks to a late Cristiano Ronaldo header. In the next set of games, Portugal take on Armenia while Serbia and Denmark meet in Belgrade.