Iceland qualify for Euro 2016 finals

GOALESS DRAW: Kazakhstan's Sergei Maliy (left) clashing with Iceland's Kolbeinn Sigthorsson in their


    Sep 08, 2015

    Iceland qualify for Euro 2016 finals


    ICELAND made football history on Sunday, when they qualified for a major tournament finals for the first time, joining the Czech Republic in securing their berth at Euro 2016.

    The island nation, with its population of barely 330,000, became the least populated country ever to qualify for a European Championship, thanks to a nervy 0-0 draw with Kazakshtan in Reykjavik.

    Iceland needed only a point to secure one of the top two places in Group A, and captain Aron Gunnarsson of Cardiff City was sent off in the 89th minute just before celebrations erupted on the final whistle.

    The result allowed the side, coached jointly by Heimir Hallgrimsson and the Swede Lars Lagerback, to follow the Czechs and the English in being able to book flights to France next year.

    England became the first nation to qualify for the 24-nation jamboree on Saturday and the Czechs sealed their place by beating Latvia 2-1, while the struggling Netherlands slumped to a potentially disastrous 3-0 defeat in Turkey.

    First-half goals from David Limbersky and Vladimir Darida put the Czechs in control in Riga, and they held on after Arturs Zjuzins got a goal back for Latvia.

    Meanwhile, the Dutch are in real danger of missing out on a European Championship final for the first time since 1984, after suffering a second loss in as many games under new coach Danny Blind.

    Semi-finalists at last year's World Cup, the Netherlands fell behind inside eight minutes in a packed stadium in Konya in central Turkey to an Oguzhan Ozyakup goal and Barcelona's Arda Turan doubled the hosts' lead before the half-hour mark.

    The Dutch were dishevelled and Burak Yilmaz sealed Turkey's win late on, as Fatih Terim's side leap-frogged their opponents into third place in their group, leaving them in pole position to steal a play-off place.

    "We again shot ourselves in the foot," said Blind, whose side lost 1-0 at home to Iceland on his debut last Thursday.

    Striker Robin van Persie added after the Netherlands suffered their worst competitive defeat since Euro 1996: "You make things incredibly hard when you let in easy goals. Our fate is no longer in our own hands. I feel really terrible."

    Meanwhile, Wales will have to wait before clinching qualification for a first European Championship, and a first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup.

    They knew a win at home to Israel in Cardiff would guarantee progress from Group B, but had to settle for a 0-0 draw after failing to find a way past Ofir Marciano in the away goal.

    Belgium's 1-0 win over Cyprus later on Sunday, secured by Eden Hazard's 86th-minute strike in Nicosia, means Wales still requires one point from their final two qualifiers next month, away to Bosnia-Herzegovina and at home to minnows Andorra.

    "The atmosphere was great, but we have two games left," said Wales manager Chris Coleman. "It is in our hands so Israel and Belgium have to do their work to catch us."

    Belgium will also be through if they win in Andorra in their next match, so Israel are likely to have to fight it out with Bosnia for third place.

    Bosnia were comfortable 3-0 winners at home to Andorra, with Ermin Bicakcic, Edin Dzeko and Senad Lulic all scoring in the first half.

    Both sides were reduced to 10 men after the restart as Everton's Muhamed Besic was sent off for the hosts along with Andorra's Victor Rodriguez.