Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 7th 2015 Contents PARIS---Qualifying for the largest-
ever European Championship was sup-
posed to be easy.
With only two games left to play,
however, the Netherlands is in danger
of missing out, and Sweden striker Zlatan
Ibrahimovic and his teammates are also
close to elimination.
Four teams---Iceland, the Czech
Republic, England and Austria---have
already qualified to join host France,
with 19 of the 24 places still up for grabs.
The top two from the nine groups
and the best third-place team qualify
automatically. The eight remaining third-
place teams can qualify through the
playoffs in November.
Here s a look at the nine groups:
The Netherlands is facing the real
possibility of failing to qualify for the
European Championship for the first
time since 1984.
Iceland and the Czech Republic are
already through, with Turkey third and
playing the top two teams in its final
push for a playoff berth.
If Turkey beats both, it will reach the
playoffs and eliminate the Dutch.
The Netherlands plays last-place
Kazakhstan in Astana on Saturday and
takes on the Czechs the following Tues-
day in Amsterdam.
The Dutch have a long injury list to
contend with. Captain Arjen Robben
has not recovered from a groin injury.
Also out injured are Daryl Janmaat, Davy
Klaassen, Quincy Promes, Ron Vlaar
and Stefan de Vrij.
The expanded format of Euro 2016
offers one clear advantage: big stars from
small countries will get a chance to
In Group B, Gareth Bale has pushed
Wales to the top of the standings, ahead
of star-studded Belgium.
Wales has not qualified for a major
tournament since the 1958 World Cup.
But with clutch goals, Bale and his team-
mates need only one point from their
last two matches. If it doesn t come in
Bosnia on Saturday, then likely in front
of a home crowd against Andorra next
Belgium, led by Kevin De Bruyne and
Eden Hazard, could be the first to qualify
if it beats Andorra on Saturday.
For the playoff spot, Israel is in posi-
tion ahead of Bosnia and Cyprus.
Spain is a win away from clinching
direct qualification, and it has two
chances to do so.
A win against Luxembourg could set-
tle it on Friday.
Two points behind Spain, Slovakia
will also qualify if it wins either of its
remaining matches against Belarus and
Germany needs a point from its games
against Ireland in Dublin on Thursday
and Georgia in Leipzig on Sunday.
Poland, second with 17 points, is in
the best position to secure the other
direct qualification place, leaving Ireland
and Scotland to scrap for what s most
likely a playoff spot.
Poland plays Scotland in Glasgow on
Thursday before hosting Ireland in War-
saw on Sunday.
Although Ireland has 15 points, two
more than Scotland, the Scots will be
banking on three points from their final
game Sunday against Gibraltar in Faro,
Ireland is hoping for a favor from
Poland. If the Poles beat Scotland, then
one point from their two games could
be enough for third place even if the
Scots win their final game. Ireland s goal
difference is plus-12, while Scotland is
England has already secured its place
and coach Roy Hodgson is expected to
experiment with his team in the matches
against Estonia and Lithuania.
Switzerland is second, the other auto-
matic qualification spot, but is only three
points above Slovenia. The Swiss host
San Marino, where a victory would
almost certainly seal second place and
qualification, before it travels to Esto-
nia.Slovenia will have to beat Lithuania
and San Marino and hope for Switzer-
land to slip up.
After failing to qualify in 13 previous
attempts, Northern Ireland can secure
a maiden appearance at the tournament
with a win against Greece on Thurs-
Northern Ireland leads Romania by
one point, with Hungary three points
"Two draws or one win does us,"
Northern Ireland midfielder Stuart Dallas
said. "At the same time, Hungary know
they need to get maximum points from
their two remaining games, which is no
Finland, which plays at Romania
before hosting Northern Ireland, has
still a chance to finish second.
Ibrahimovic s two goals for Paris
Saint-Germain over the weekend was
good news for his country, too.
The striker is on mission with his
national team as Sweden remains under
the threat of Montenegro in the battle
for a third-place finish after losing to
Austria and Russia.
With Austria already qualified as group
winner, Russia sits second, two points
above Sweden, with Montenegro one
Italy needs one win from its final two
matches to secure qualification.
The team has a two-point lead over
Norway, which it faces in its last qual-
ifying match on Tuesday. First up,
though, is a trip to Azerbaijan on Sat-
"We have two match points and we
don t want to have to wait for the second
one," Italy coach Antonio Conte said.
"It won t be a walkover."
Norway hosts Malta in its penultimate
Croatia is two points behind Norway
and can secure third place and a spot
in the playoffs with victory over fourth-
place Bulgaria. Bulgaria hosts Azerbaijan
on the final day, while Croatia travels
Portugal has a three-point lead over
Denmark in the only five-team group,
with Albania one point further back.
The top three teams are already guar-
anteed of at least a playoff berth. Both
Portugal and Albania have a match in
hand on Denmark.
A draw against Denmark will be
enough for Portugal on Thursday. The
team then plays last-place Serbia, which
had three points deducted after its qual-
ifier with Albania was abandoned when
a drone carrying a pro-Albanian flag
flew over the Partizan Stadium in Bel-
grade, prompting a brawl involving play-
ers and some Serbian fans.
Albania hosts Serbia tomorrow.
decided to retire
from the sport on
Sunday after com-
peting at a high level
"I am, of
disappointed to be
It has been both
an honour and a
privilege to man-
age one of the
game s great clubs
for the last three
being fired from
Liverpool on Sunday.
(Ext: 2069, 2071,
prosecutors are calling for the
arrest of Lionel Messi's father in a
tax fraud case.
Prosecutors have cleared Messi
of wrongdoing but are seeking an
18-month prison sentence for his
father, Jorge Horacio Messi, for
allegedly defrauding Spain's tax
office of four million euros ($4.5
million) in unpaid taxes from 2007-
09. The decision is considered a
win for Lionel Messi, who also had
been mentioned in the
A Spanish judge had recently
rejected an appeal filed by the
player's lawyers to drop the
Barcelona star from the case.
In the documents made public
yesterday, prosecutors also called
for a fine of two million euros ($2.2
million) for the father of the
Prosecutors call for arrest of Messi's father
Gareth Bale has pushed Wales to
the top of the standings in Group B,
ahead of star-studded Belgium.
...although 19 Euro places up for grabs
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