Mid-week, Lionel Messi’s injury looked bad, and more than a few LCD inches were devoted to considering the worst case scenario. You couldn’t help but think the worst after his collision with Benfica goalkeeper Artur. Messi said he didn’t think he’d be playing again for a very long time, given how his left knee felt on Wednesday.
Thankfully, all of that consternation is proving undo worry, with Barcelona’s star declared fit to play tomorrow in Seville against Real Betis:
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova included Messi in his squad for the Spanish league match at Betis on Sunday, saying the forward will play barring a setback.
“(Messi) feels fine, he isn’t bothered (by the knee),” Vilanova said Saturday. “If he is traveling it’s because he’s in condition to play. It there existed even the smallest risk he wouldn’t travel with the team.”
So the chase for the record will continue. Messi sits on 84 goals for the calendar year, one behind the total amassed by German great Gerd Müller in 1972.
It would take a huge slump to miss the record. Before the calendar turns, Messi has five possible matches, three in league and two Copa del Rey meetings with Cordoba.
And the record could very well fall tomorrow. In his last four meetings with Real Betis, Messi has scored six times.
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