Wales end 57-year wait, qualify for Euro 2016 with Belgium, Italy
Wales reached the finals of an international football tournament for the first time since the 1958 World Cup when they qualified for the Euro 2016 Championships despite a 2-0 loss to Bosnia on Saturday.football Updated: Oct 11, 2015 16:14 IST
Wales reached the finals of an international football tournament for the first time since the 1958 World Cup when they qualified for the Euro 2016 Championships despite a 2-0 loss to Bosnia on Saturday.
Wales secured their place when Israel lost 2-1 at home to Cyprus. Belgium also went through from the same Group B thanks to a 4-1 victory over Andorra. Earlier, Italy also made sure of their place in the finals in France next summer with a 3-1 win in Azerbaijan.
Wales, Belgium and Italy join already qualified Austria, the Czech Republic, England, France, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland in the 24-team finals.
Bosnia went in front after 71 minutes in Zenica when Miralem Pjanic delivered a long free-kick into the area and substitute Milan Djuric sent a looping header over goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey. Vedad Ibisevic added a second in the dying moments as Bosnia kept their play-off hopes alive.
But it didn’t matter for a buoyant Wales as Cyprus stunned Israel 2-1 in Jerusalem thanks to an 80th-minute drive from Jason Demetriou.
“It’s the best loss of my life,” said Wales’ Real Madrid star Gareth Bale. “To achieve it is a dream come true and now we want to go out and get ready for France. It shows exactly what we’re about. We’re like brothers on the pitch.”
Belgium inflicted Andorra’s 49th defeat in Euro qualifying, making light of a rain-soaked, plastic pitch to record a 4-1 victory and a fifth European qualification. Marc Wilmots’s side were a goal to the good after 19 minutes when Roma’s Radja Nainggolan scored with a long-range effort which took a slight deflection off Andorra defender Marc Rebes.
Three minutes before the break, Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne unleashed a 25-yard free-kick which soared into the top corner of the goal.
Ildefons Lima pulled a goal back for Andorra from the penalty spot in the 51st minute before Eden Hazard restored Belgium’s two-goal advantage, also from the spot, five minutes later. Laurent Depoitre added a fourth for Belgium while Hazard missed a late penalty.
In Group A, 2014 World Cup semi-finalists the Netherlands remain on a knife-edge as far as their hopes are concerned. They enjoyed a 2-1 win in Kazakhstan but Turkey, their rivals for a play-off spot, then stunned the Czech Republic 2-0 to preserve their two-point lead.
Iceland and the Czechs had already secured Group A qualification.
Georginio Wijnaldum put the Dutch ahead in the 33rd minute in Baku, while Wesley Sneijder added a second on 50 minutes to keep them on track despite Islambek Kuat grabbing a consolation goal deep into added time.
Former Arsenal and Manchester United striker Robin Van Persie came on as a late substitute to earn his 100th cap for the Netherlands, who were European champions in 1988.
In Prague, Selcuk Inan gave Turkey the lead with a 62nd-minute penalty with Hakan Calhanoglu adding a second with 10 minutes left.
In the last qualifiers on October 13, the Dutch host the Czechs and Turkey welcome Iceland. A point will be enough for Turkey following a draw and their home win in head-to-head encounters with the Netherlands.
Iceland, already qualified for their first ever major finals, drew 2-2 with Latvia.
Italy qualified with a 3-1 win over Azerbaijan, while in the same group Norway’s 2-0 win over Malta left them on the brink of also making the finals.
Italy’s hard-fought win in Group H was assured with goals from Eder, Stephan El Shaarawy and Matteo Darmian, but Antonio Conte’s side had a nervy time in Baku.
Norway are second in the group but Croatia kept up the pressure for an automatic qualifying spot with a 2-0 win over Bulgaria in Zagreb.
Croatia were quickly in charge when Ivan Perisic netted his fifth goal in eight outings after just two minutes, beating Bozhidar Mitrev from close range after a fine through ball by Luka Modric. Just before the break, Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic added the second.
Croatia conclude their campaign in Malta on Tuesday on the same night that Norway go to Italy.
First Published: Oct 11, 2015 15:55 IST