CONCACAF Champions League: Toluca escapes Estadio Azul with 0-0, opening leg draw

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Cruz Azul’s quest for a record sixth CONCACAF title suffered a small setback on Tuesday, but with the Champions League final between La Maquina and fellow Mexican league side Toluca tied 0-0 after 90 minutes in Mexico City, the Liga MX leaders are only slightly worse off than they are three hours ago. Still, having lost their chance to take advantage of their home field, the Cementeros are left hoping the Estadio Nemesio Díez proves as kind to them as Estadio Azul was to the Red Devils.

The night would have been worse to Luis Fernando Tena’s men had Pablo Velazquez converted on close range chance near the hour mark, but goalkeeper Guillermo Allison, starting in place of the suspended Jesus Corona, managed to keep the Paraguayan off the scoresheet. Late in the half, a long distance shot from Antonio Rios nearly gave the Diablos Rojos a shock winner, with the woodwork called into action to keep Cruz Azul even.

Through much of the game, however, Mexican international Marco Fabián looked intent capitalizing on Cruz Azul’s home field edge, with his 36th minute shot into Alfredo Talavera’s goal briefly allowing the crowd to erupt. With the first assistant’s flag raised, however, Fabián’s goal never reached the scoresheet, with the offside call leaving the teams deadlocked.

In second half stoppage, final tries from Fabián and Christian Gimenez ran Talavera’s save total to eight, one more than Allison accumulated in the opposite goal. Despite the teams combining for 30 shots (18 for Cruz Azul), the game ended as it start, even if each team faces new questions after the tie’s first 90 minutes.

For Toluca, the team’s left hoping home field will prove more kind than it did for Cruz Azul, with chances for Velazquez and, in the first half, Wilson Tiago showing they’re capable of generating chances against one of the Clausura’s best defenses. For Cruz Azul, the task will be converting quantity into quality,with one goal potentially the difference between renewed glory and another close call.

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