Edin Dzeko’s early, wonderful half volley from 25 yards for Manchester City was the only goal against Sunderland on Saturday as the Premier League teams continued preseason prep while competing in the awkwardly named Barclays Asia Trophy in Hong Kong.
Dzeko (pictured from Saturday) later missed spectacularly from the 12-yard spot as the Bosnian’s effort flew well high into the stands. No matter; it’s just preseason, which is why it seems a little surprising the match went on through heavy wind and occasionally ridiculous rains.
Sunderland went unchanged from the lineup that took down Spurs as the brief tournament opened in midweek, That means Jozy Altidore was back in his new side’s starting 11. The U.S. international, having just moved over from AZ in Holland, played the first 45 minutes.
Impressive in Sunderland’s tournament opener against Spurs, the U.S. striker looked up for the job once again for Paolo Di Canio’s side, despite Saturday’s tough conditions. His best moment was a terrific touch that arranged a chance for Sunderland’s new Italian attacker Emanuele Giaccherini.
For City, recent signing Alvaro Negredo got his first start since the $30 million move from Spain’s Sevilla. Sunderland defender John O’Shea gave the Spaniard a proper Premiership welcome with a big, bruising hit.
Jesus Nava made his debut for the Blues, off the bench; the small Spanish winger had his moments, although he also had issues dealing with the footing.
Bigger take-aways: Not many, really, considering this was such a quick and quirky little tournament. Dzeko picked up a player of the tournament award, and new manager Manuel Pellegrini picked up his first hardware for City, such that it was.
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.
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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