The final group games have been played in the qualifiers for Euro 2016 in France next summer. The biggest shock is that the World Cup bronze-winners Netherlands did not manage to qualify.
The following nations have booked a ticket to the tournament: France (host), Czech Republic, Iceland, Turkey (best third-placed team), Belgium, Wales, Spain, Slovakia, Germany, Poland, England, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Romania, Austria, Russia, Italy, Croatia, Portugal and Albania.
There are still the qualification playoffs to look forward to, with the drawing taking place on Sunday in Nyon, Switzerland. The eight remaining third-placed will be drawn against each other and play a two-legged playoff for the final four spots.
In the seeded group: Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sweden, and Hungary.
In the unseeded group: Denmark, Ireland, Norway, and Slovenia.
The games will take place in mid-November.
Turkey played a thrilling last game against Iceland. The Turks needed a win in order to finish as the best third-placed team and get an automatic spot in the tournament, and in the 89th minute, Selcuk Inan scored the winner for Turkey. The win was even more impressive as Gokhan Tore had been sent off in the 77th minute.
Iceland, Albania, Northern Ireland and Wales all qualified for their first ever European Championship appearance. The Icelandic people are so proud of the achievement that national team manager Lars Lagerback is getting a beer named after him.
The Netherlands were the biggest disappointment throughout the qualification group stage, as the Dutch finished in fourth place in Group A behind the Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey. Netherlands finished with a 4-1-5 record and only 13 points. They had to win at home against the Czechs in the final game to have any shot at reaching the third spot, along with Turkey losing to Iceland, but they lost 3-2 at the Amsterdam Arena.
“I am empty, physically and mentally,” Dutch captain Wesley Sneijder told De Telegraaf after the game.
“We needed to win, but you can not make such mistakes.The Czechs are good, despite the changes, but you have things back shut. But if you are so easily finds out, you have to make up too much. We opened fantastic, but then we make too many mistakes, and are punished.”
The Czechs went up 3-0 after goals by Pavel Kaderabek, Josef Sural and an own goal by Robin van Persie. Marek Suchy was sent off right before halftime, but a 10-men Czech team still managed to pull out the win. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and van Persie scored in the second half for the Dutch.
The Netherlands have spiraled down ever since the bronze medal win against Brazil last summer. Louis van Gaal left his post as national team manager to take over Manchester United, and his replacement Guus Hiddink left the job after a poor start in the Euro 2016 qualifiers. Danny Blind took over the job after Hiddink left, but it didn’t get much better as the struggles continued.
In the latest FIFA rankings that came out at the start of the month, the Netherlands were ranked 14th in the world, but failing to qualify will most likely result in a big drop for the “Oranje.”
It remains to be seen of players like van Persie and Huntelaar continues to play for the national team as they are both 32 years old and would be closing in on 35 by the time World Cup 2018 in Russia rolls around, if the Netherlands could manage to qualify for the tournament.