Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Euro Qualified nations

20 out of 24 nations are ready for the 2016 European Championship in France. Despite the fact that I am those who think that a European Championship of 24 teams is way too much, I cannot help but notice some notable newcomers among the 20 nations, some of which would even have qualified with 16 nations, showing what is perhaps a power shift going on in European football:
  • Group A: The Czech Republic and Iceland qualified. Besides the big surprise of Iceland, ending on second place, the upset here was that the Netherlands did not qualify at all, not even taking the third spot, which gave Turkey direct qualification (and is it really something to be proud of to qualify as third out of six...?)
  • Group B: While not surprising that Belgium qualified on first place, it is perhaps a bit more surprising that Wales took second spot to participate in their first major tournament since 1958. That said, the group did not look that strong, with Bosnia-Hercegovina being the other contenders, and taking the play-off third spot.
  • Group C: Spain never seemed in doubt as group winners, although Slovakia did threaten them on the way. Ukraine will be going to the play-offs.
  • Group D: This was a surprisingly close group for the World Champions of Germany, who despite defeats to Poland and Ireland on the way, took the first spot and were followed by Poland. Ireland will be someone's difficult opponent for the play-off.
  • Group E: Perhaps the most surprising thing in this group is that England, as the only side in Europe, won all their matches, and scored a record 31 goals. Switzerland came on second spot with little competition from third placed Slovenia.
  • Group F: The big surprise of this group is that the 2004 European Champions of Greece ended in the last place, behind even little Faroe Islands. For a big nation, this is a bigger humiliation than the Netherlands fourth place in group A, and show the crisis Greece is in. The winners were also a surprise: Northern Ireland qualified ahead of Romania, while Hungary will be going into the play-ff.
  • Group G: Austria is the new country to watch in the European Championship as they won the group in style and swept aside their opponents. Russia came in second, with Sweden going into the play-offs.
  • Group H: One of the few groups with no surprises as Italy and Croatia took the two qualifying spots, and Norway not as unsurprising taking a play-off spot.
  • Group I: Portugal won the group with seven victories and only one defeat, to second placed surprise of Albania, who qualified deservedly despite also having been awarded a 0-3 victory after a scandalous match against Serbia. A Danish side which completely lacks the quality of former times took the play-off spot.
Of course, the 20th nation, not among the above, are the hosts of France!
The draw for the play-off matches that will decide the last four participating teams will take place next Sunday. 
We will soon know all 24 participating countries!

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