With less than a year until EURO 2016 kicks off in France, the second set of matches in qualifying got underway today.
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With games from Iceland to Andorra, points were up for grabs as both sharks and minnows of European football look to take a step closer to the European Championship.
Group A: Latvia 0-2 Netherlands
After struggling in the first set of qualifying matches and coming off of a 4-3 loss to the USMNT, the Netherlands were in need of a result in Latvia. After dominating possession for the opening hour, the Dutch were finally rewarded when substitute Georginio Wijnaldum finished off a scramble in the box in the 67th minute. Just four minutes later, the Oranje found themselves up 2-0 after Luciano Narsingh fired home for Guus Hiddink’s side.
Group B: Wales 1-0 Belgium
Gareth Bale’s goal in the 25th minute was enough to lead Wales over Belgium in a massive win for Chris Coleman’s men. In Bale’s 50th appearance for the Dragons, the Real Madrid superstar has put his side atop Group B and that much closer to securing a berth in EURO 2016, which would be massive for the country. Wales has only qualified for one major tournament in history, the 1958 World Cup. Belgium missed Marouane Fellaini, who was sidelined with a groin injury, as the number-two ranked side in the world failed to create many real chances on goal in Cardiff.
Group H: Croatia 1-1 Italy
The two top teams in Group H faced off in an empty stadium in Split, as Croatia was forced to play without fans after they interrupted the match between these two sides in Italy in November. Despite having no home support, Croatia got out to a lead as Mario Mandzukic atoned for his early missed penalty kick, slotting home a cross from Ivan Rakitic. Italy drew level with a clever penalty kick from Antonio Candreva, as the Lazio man’s chip down the middle fooled Danijel Subasic in net. Croatia keeps a two point lead over Italy at the head of Group H.
Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying
Group A: Kazakhstan 0-1 Turkey
Group A: Iceland 2-1 Czech Republic
Group B: Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-1 Israel
Group B: Andorra 1-3 Cyprus
Group H: Malta 0-1 Bulgaria
Group H: Norway 0-0 Azerbaijan