Wales, Ice­land nearer to qual­i­fy­ing for Euro 2016

The China Post - - SPORTS -

Wales and Ice­land both moved closer to qual­i­fy­ing for the 2016 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship on Fri­day, while the game be­tween Croa­tia and Italy was over­shad­owed by a swastika sym­bol that had been etched onto the pitch.

Gareth Bale moved Wales closer to a first ma­jor tour­na­ment since 1958 by scor­ing to se­cure a 1-0 victory over Bel­gium that lifted the coun­try top of Group B. Ice­land is try­ing to qual­ify for its first ever tour­na­ment and came from a goal down to beat the Czech Repub­lic 2-1 and take over the lead in Group A.

In Group H, Croa­tia main­tained a two-point lead over Italy af­ter a 1-1 draw at home in Split, but the talk­ing point was the Nazi sym­bol that could be clearly seen out­lined on the pitch — ap­par­ently etched in by some­one be­fore the game.

"We weren't aware of it on the side­lines," Italy coach An­to­nio Conte said. "Not be­cause of the ten­sion of the match, but you couldn't see it. I was only told about it at the end of the match. There is so much sad­ness that such a thing could hap­pen."

Here is a look at Fri­day's

qual­i­fy­ing games:

Group A

PSV Eind­hoven team­mates Ge­orginio Wi­j­nal­dum and Lu­ciano Nars­ingh scored sec­ond-half goals Fri­day as the Nether­lands beat Latvia 2-0 in Riga to move closer to sec­ond place in its Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship qual­i­fy­ing group.

Ice­land's win meant it leapfrogged the Czech Repub­lic to lead the group by two points af­ter six rounds. The Nether­lands is now three points be­hind the Czechs. Turkey, which got a late win­ner from Arda Tu­ran for a 1- 0 victory in Kaza­khstan, is fourth.

The Dutch win was the first on the road for Guus Hiddink since he started his sec­ond stint in charge of the na­tional team af­ter it fin­ished third in last year's World Cup.

"We had to win, and we did," said mid­fielder Wes­ley Snei­jder.

Wi­j­nal­dum poked the ball just in­side the post in the 67th minute and Nars­ingh added the sec­ond four min­utes later.

In Reyk­javik, Borek Dockal opened the scor­ing for the Czechs be­fore Aron Gun­nars­son and Kol­beinn Sightors­son gave

Ice­land the win.


Group B

Wales is close to end­ing its wait for an ap­pear­ance at a ma­jor tour­na­ment.

Bale pounced on a de­fen­sive mis­take to score the win­ner against Bel­gium in the 25th minute, lift­ing the Welsh to the top of Group B.

With four games left, Wales is three points above Bel­gium and — more im­por­tantly — five points clear of third-place Is­rael, which lost 3-1 at Bos­nia-Herze­gov­ina.

The 1958 World Cup was the last ma­jor fi­nals in­volv­ing Wales, even though the coun­try has had top play­ers down the years such as Ryan Giggs, Ian Rush and Mark Hughes.

Led by the ir­re­press­ible Bale, who has five goals in the group, the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion is mak­ing its mark un­der coach Chris Cole­man and has won three and drawn three of its six games for its best ever start to a qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign.

Cyprus beat An­dorra 3-1 and is tied on points with Is­rael. Bos­ni­aHerze­gov­ina is a point fur­ther back in fifth, with Edin Visca (2) and Edin Dzeko the scor­ers against Is­rael.

Group H


its un­beaten run in qual­i­fiers for Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships and World Cups to 46 matches thanks to a cheeky chipped penalty that can­celed out a dis­puted open­ing goal for Croa­tia.

Italy for­ward Stephan El Shaarawy had tapped in from eight yards but his goal was in­cor­rectly ruled off­side. While sev­eral Italy play­ers were protest­ing to the of­fi­cials, Croa­tia re­sumed play and Mario Mandzu­kic scored on the counter-attack.

Mandzu­kic had an ear­lier penalty saved and then gave away a spot kick when he han­dled An­drea Pirlo's free kick. Can­dreva con­verted.

Nor­way missed the op­por­tu­nity to make up ground on Croa­tia and Italy and re­mained third — two points be­hind Italy — fol­low­ing a 0-0 draw at home against Azer­bai­jan. Even Hov­land headed Pal An­dre Hel­land's cross off the post with four min­utes left.

Bul­garia was two points fur­ther back af­ter win­ning 1-0 in Malta, de­spite Ilian Mi­can­ski miss­ing a penalty on the stroke of half­time.

Ivelin Popov scored in the 56th minute to hand Bul­garia only its sec­ond win of the qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign.


Bel­gium’s Ja­son De­nayer, left, and Wales’ Aaron Ram­sey battle for the ball dur­ing the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship qual­i­fy­ing soc­cer match at Cardiff City Sta­dium, Cardiff, Wales on Fri­day, June 12.

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