On June 12th, Turkey won an away game against Kazakhstan, Iceland topped the Czech Republic 2-1, and the Netherlands grabbed a satisfying 2-0 victory over Latvia. The three fixtures represented the start of the second half of the Euro 2016 qualifying competition, of which each team has now played six of their 10 games. With only a few months remaining until we see the final lineup for the 2016 European Championship, now is the perfect time to analyze the current situations in the qualifying groups and assess what certain soccer teams need to do in order to secure Euro qualification. We will start with Euro 2016 qualifying group A.
Group A has proven to be one of the most surprising and unpredictable in the qualifying competition-at least so far. When the group was originally announced, most football fans expected the Netherlands to take the top spots without much difficulty. After all, the Dutch squad has finished in the top three of the last two World Cups, and was the team to really undo the Spanish defending champions at last year's FIFA football tournament.
Iceland: Euro 2016's Dark Horse Contenders?
Shockingly, though, Iceland is currently running the table in Group A. For the record, Iceland has never participated in a World Cup, and has never qualified for a European Championship. They're also currently ranked back at 37 on FIFA's world rankings list-31 slots behind the Netherlands, and 21 slots behind Group A's Czech Republic. Suffice to say, most people expected Iceland to finish in third place in Group A-at best-and likely without a qualification.
Now, six games into the qualifying competition, Iceland look like they could win Group A outright. Even if they get overtaken in the final four soccer games, the chances of the Icelandic side securing their first ever European Championship berth seem quite high.
Indeed, the Icelanders have won four of their five games so far, and most of them decisively so. They beat Turkey 3-0 back on September 9th, topped Latvia 3-0 on October 10th, and beat the Netherlands 2-0 just two days after that. The team hit a hiccup in November, losing 1-2 in a qualifier against the Czech Republic. But they bounced back in March, with a 3-0 triumph over Kazakhstan, and only further affirmed their status as group leaders on June 12th, beating the Czech Republic with a 2-1 advantage of their own.
The string of victories has put Iceland at 15 points in the table standings-two points ahead of the Czech side, and five points above the Netherlands. Their goal difference of +11 is also at least four goals better than any other football team in Group A.
So what happened to the Dutch squad? Why are the wearers of the Netherland football shirt 2015 2016 struggling so much in the Euro qualifying competition after making such a splash at last year's World Cup?
It's hard to say. The departure of coach Louis van Gaal certainly couldn't have helped, but most of the Netherlands' best players from last summer-Arjen Robben, Daley Blind, and Memphis Depay, in particular-are back this year. Furthermore, Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has netted four goals so far in the qualifying competition-as many as any other player in Group A.
Granted, the Netherlands still have time to improve their position, and based on recent games, it looks like they might be able to do just that. The Dutch side suffered their two losses in the earlier parts of the qualifying competition, first in match one against the Netherlands, and then in match three against Iceland.
Since then, the Oranje grabbed the biggest victory of Group A (a 6-0 triumph over Latvia in November) and then beat Latvia again on June 12th. However, they also settled for a draw with Turkey in March, and their only other qualifying win so far was a 3-1 game against Kazakhstan back in October. If the Dutch are going to qualify for Euro 2016, they can't do it just by beating Group A's weakest teams.
Support the Oranje to a Euro 2016 qualification with a new Netherlands shirt from Soccer Box. The football team will play Iceland in their next qualifier (on September 3rd), and the outcome of that game will be pivotal for deciding the fate of Group A. Follow Soccer Box on social media to keep up with all the action! You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other popular networks.