Iceland break new ground as Turkey deal hammer blow to Dutch
Iceland became the smallest nation to qualify for the finals of the European Championship thanks to a point from a 0-0 draw with Kazakhstan.
The Nordic island nation boasts an estimated population of just 329,100 people, and 23 of their number will be selected to compete at Euro 2016 in France next summer.
Six wins from their previous seven games proved to be a more than solid foundation and a further Group A point, secured in front of their own fans in Reykjavik, got Iceland over the line.
The Czech Republic also booked their place in France by beating Latvia 2-1 in Riga.
David Limbersky and Vladimir Darida scored the first-half goals that ensured the Czechs of a top-two spot alongside Iceland, with Arturs Zjuzins responding for Latvia in the 73rd minute.
Turkey replaced beleaguered Holland in the race for the play-off spot from the group as Arda Turan inspired a 3-0 victory over the Oranje in Konyan.
Turkey were quickly into their stride and were ahead after eight minutes when Oguzhan Ozyakup latched on to a through ball from Turan and neatly lifted it over Jasper Cillessen.
Things went from bad to worse for the Dutch when sluggish defending allowed Turan in to sweep home a shot Cillessen should have stopped to send the crowd, including Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, into raptures.
Only Memphis Depay looked threatening for a pedestrian Dutch side and Turkey, content to spend most of the second half sitting back, posed a danger on the break.
The visitors huffed and puffed, forcing a couple of routine saves from Turkish goalkeeper Volkan Babacan, but in the end it was more abject defending that allowed Turkey to heap on the humiliation, Yilmaz turning sharply to fire home and seal a first win over the Dutch since 1997.
The Dutch – who finished third in last year’s World Cup – must win their remaining games against Kazakhstan and the Czech Republic to stand any chance of reaching the play-offs.
Wales were made to wait to see if Cyprus would do them a favour in Group B and help them qualify for their first finals since 1958, but it was not to be.
Had Wales beaten Israel in Cardiff they would have reached France under their own steam, but the game ended scoreless despite the efforts of Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Hal Robson-Kanu.
Cyprus put up a fight in their encounter with Belgium only for Eden Hazard to strike for a last-gasp winner.
Bosnia’s hopes of sneaking into the top three were given a boost as goals from Ermin Bicakcic, Edin Dzeko and Senad Lulic saw Andorra defeated 3-0 in Zenica.
Italy are in control of Group I and their own destiny after Daniele de Rossi’s early penalty inflicted a 1-0 loss on Bulgaria. Norway had earlier moved top thanks to a 2-0 home triumph over Croatia.
Meanwhile, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque backed Diego Costa after the Chelsea forward drew another blank in Saturday’s victory at home to Slovakia.
Holders Spain leapfrogged the Eastern Europeans to the top of Group C thanks to a 2-0 success in Oviedo but Costa again failed to score– he has netted just one goal in eight appearances since opting to play for La Roja.