Aston Villa has the worst attack in the Premier League. Only two teams have scored fewer goals than Stoke City, which meant 0-0 was always the most likely result from Saturday’s meeting at Villa Park.
But with any soccer match (particularly at the professional level), there is the expectation that teams will do basic things, like be able to show they’re capable of win the game. We assume teams actually are trying to win, but sometimes, on some very rare occasions, teams aren’t able to show it.
Saturday turned out to be one of those days. The teams combined for only two shots on goal, one of which appeared to be an ill-aimed Matthew Lowton cross. Stoke only put two shots toward Brad Guzan all day, neither of which hit the keepers’ gloves. Stuart James, on hand for The Observer, call the match “painful to watch at times.”
There were, however, three Americans on the field (Oh! So that’s why he’s posting about this):
- Brad Guzan starting in Aston Villa’s goal isn’t news, nor was his ability to keep a clean sheet. However, he did almost nothing on Saturday. No shots on goal for Stoke meant no saves for the U.S. national team’s No. 2.
- Geoff Cameron got another start at left back and had a decent day, though similar caveats apply. Aston Villa couldn’t be described as threatening.
- A for some reason, Eric Lichaj was called in to pay left midfield against one of the weaker attacks in the league. Nominally a fullback, the U.S. international got (what’s becoming) a rare start in front of Nathan Baker, playing well defensively against a Stoke flank manned by Matthew Etherington.
The most notable part of the match had nothing to do with the American trio. Darren Bent, long out of the team with injury and (lately) rumored difference of opinion with Paul Lambert, came on in the 66th minute to applause from the Villa faithful.
But as with everything else that happened at Villa Park on Saturday, it’s hard to say it mattered. The match ended 0-0 with little chance it could have done otherwise.
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.
- Czech Republic
- Turkey (automatically qualified as best third-place side)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina (qualified for play-off)
- Ukraine (qualified for play-off)
- Republic of Ireland (qualified for play-off)
- Slovenia (qualified for play-off)
- Northern Ireland
- Hungary (qualified for play-off)
- Sweden (qualified for play-off)
- Norway (qualified for play-off)
- Denmark (qualified for play-off)
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
Turkey 1-0 Iceland
Latvia 0-1 Kazakhstan
Belgium 3-1 Israel
Wales 2-0 Andorra
Cyprus 2-3 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria 2-0 Azerbaijan