France v USA - International Friendly

“The Mayor of Hannover:” U.S. national team mainstay Steve Cherundolo

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 Mark down Steve Cherundolo as one of the most underappreciated men ever to pull on the U.S. national team shirt.

The man’s international career has stretched 13 years now; that fact alone would top most resumes.

He’s held down “mainstay” chops at right back since 2004, providing a steady and calming defensive presence during the three World Cup qualifying turns. (Cherundolo was a main spoke in the wheel of qualifying for World Cup 2002, although subsequent injuries limited his time internationally over a couple of years.)

His time at Hannover in Germany has also stretched 13 years. So highly respected there, he’s long been a team captain and has humbly acquiesced to the nickname Mayor of Hannover.

Now it seems that Cherundolo, 33, will play a main role in attempting to help guide his country into yet another World Cup. That would be No. 4 – a truly remarkable and unduplicated achievement.  (Landon Donovan had a sparing role in the 2002 run-up, but not an essential one.)

There will be calls for Tim Chandler or some other youngster to displace Cherundolo along the way to Brazil 2014. Maybe it will be Eric Lichaj.  And perhaps at some point, Jurgen Klinsmann will adjudge that blooding Chandler or Lichaj or someone else along the right will best serve the long-term goals.

Personally, I expect Cherundolo to hold down the position through most of qualifying with the same shrewd defensive positioning gleaned from all those Bundesliga seasons, to provide a steady and dependable offensive push up the right and to supply the 3-5 well-shaped crosses a match.

Plus, when Landon Donovan is stationed along the right, the pair’s chemistry, understanding and ability to combine is as robust as any other pair in the U.S. shirt.

While you consider how a smaller guy playing in the less-glamorous position of right back really has contributed so mightily to the U.S. cause through the years, read a little about his life in Hannover in a piece just produced by U.S. Soccer.

EURO 2016: Who’s headed to France?

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - OCTOBER 10: Volkan Sen of Turkey in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group A Qualifier match between Czech Republic and Turkey at Letna Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
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The group stage of qualification is complete, as 20 teams have clinched a berth at EURO 2016, which kicks off next summer in France.

The top-two finishers in each group automatically qualified, as did the best third-place side out of all the groups (Turkey). France qualified automatically as the host nation.

[ MORE: EURO 2016 roundup ]

That leaves eight third-place teams to battle for the final four spots through a play-off. The draw for the matchups will take place on October 18, and those matches will be held from November 12-17 as a home-and-home play-off.

Group A

  1. Czech Republic
  2. Iceland
  3. Turkey (automatically qualified as best third-place side)

Group B

  1. Belgium
  2. Wales
  3. Bosnia and Herzegovina (qualified for play-off)

Group C

  1. Spain
  2. Slovakia
  3. Ukraine (qualified for play-off)

Group D

  1. Germany
  2. Poland
  3. Republic of Ireland (qualified for play-off)

Group E

  1. England
  2. Switzerland
  3. Slovenia (qualified for play-off)

Group F

  1. Northern Ireland
  2. Romania
  3. Hungary (qualified for play-off)

Group G

  1. Austria
  2. Russia
  3. Sweden (qualified for play-off)

Group H

  1. Italy
  2. Croatia
  3. Norway (qualified for play-off)

Group I

  1. Portugal
  2. Albania
  3. Denmark (qualified for play-off)

EURO 2016: Dutch disaster as Netherlands fail to qualify

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 13:  Robin van Persie of the Netherlands (19) reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group A match between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic at Amsterdam Arena on October 13, 2015 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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The group stage of qualifying for the 2016 European Championship has come to a close, and one of the top teams in the world will not be playing in France next summer.

Netherlands 2-3 Czech Republic

The Netherlands finished second at the 2010 World Cup and third at the 2014 World Cup, but have failed to qualify for EURO 2016. Playing in front of a home crowd in a must-win match against the Czech Republic, the Dutch got off to a dreadful start, falling behind 2-0 as manager Danny Blind was forced to make a substitution within the opening 40 minutes. The Czech Republic was sent to ten men before the break, but an own-goal from Robin Van Persie made it 3-0 as the Dutch couldn’t recover. A disastrous result for the Netherlands, as big changes will surely come from the top down.

[ RELATED: David de Gea fighting for starting goalkeeper position with Spain ]

Italy 2-1 Norway

Italy finishes atop Group H without a loss after defeating Norway 2-1 today. Norway took the lead through Norwich City’s Alexander Tettey, but late goals from Alessandro Florenzi and Southampton’s Graziano Pelle gave the Italians all three points.

Malta 0-1 Croatia

With Norway’s loss, Croatia jumped into second place in Group H and secured qualification to EURO 2016 with a 1-0 win away at Malta. Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic scored the game’s only goal, as Croatia advances despite having one point deducted due to inappropriate actions from their fans.

Elsewhere in EURO qualifying

Group A

Turkey 1-0 Iceland
Latvia 0-1 Kazakhstan

Group B

Belgium 3-1 Israel
Wales 2-0 Andorra
Cyprus 2-3 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Group H

Bulgaria 2-0 Azerbaijan