Mon, Nov 18, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Netherlands and Germany qualify

AFP, PARIS

Germany’s Toni Kroos, right, and Belarus’ Igor Stasevich vie for the ball during their Euro Group C qualifying match in Moenchengladbach, Germany, on Saturday.

Photo: AP

The Netherlands, Germany and World Cup finalists Croatia on Saturday became the last big hitters to qualify for Euro 2020.

Austria also made it through to the multi-host tournament, which is to begin on June 12, with 16 sides now ensured of a spot at the 24-team event and only four places remaining from the main qualifying route.

They join other big names such as world champions France, Spain, Italy and England, who will all fancy their chances next year.

Ronald Koeman’s resurgent Netherlands needed a point to qualify for their first major tournament since coming third at the 2014 World Cup and got what they needed in a scrappy goalless draw with Northern Ireland in Belfast.

“It means a lot for us as players. Hopefully it means so much to the Dutch people,” Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk said. “We have to make sure we prepare very well for a big tournament. We missed the last two. We want to perform well.”

However, they were far from the flamboyant outfit who have so often thrilled in Group C and survived a huge scare when Steven Davis smashed a first-half penalty high over the bar.

The Netherlands dominated possession and stopped the hosts from having a single shot on target, but failed to create much themselves.

Davis’ spot-kick blunder left Michael O’Neill’s side third and hoping for a way into the tournament via the playoffs.

The draw allowed fierce rivals Germany to move top in the group as Toni Kroos hit a brace in a simple 4-0 win over Belarus in Moenchengladbach that saw them qualify for the Euros for the 13th time in a row.

A deft back-heeled goal from defender Matthias Ginter just before the break, and impressive finishing by Leon Goretzka and Kroos gave Germany a comfortable three-goal lead early in the second half.

Captain Manuel Neuer produced a superb save to keep out Belarus striker Igor Stasevich’s penalty before Kroos dribbled through the defense to claim his second goal seven minutes from time and make sure of a routine win.

“Overall we did well, but at the moment I don’t include us among the favorites for the European title,” said Kroos, echoing coach Joachim Loew’s comments from earlier in the week.

A win over Northern Ireland in Frankfurt on Tuesday would guarantee Loew’s new-look side first place.

Croatia survived a scare to secure their place in the Euros after coming from behind beat Slovakia 3-1 in Rijeka.

The World Cup runners up needed just a point to ensure qualification from Group E, but Robert Bozenik stunned the home crowd when he tapped the away side ahead in the 32nd minute.

However, it was one-way traffic in the second half and Croatia’s qualification was never in doubt once Nikola Vlasic drilled home the leveler.

Bruno Petkovic headed the hosts in front and Ivan Perisic sealed the three points with a thumping finish with 16 minutes left.

“We were trying to stay calm in the dressing room at halftime, we were sure that our quality would prevail. We kept attacking, creating chances, and the goals came,” Petkovic said.

That win gave Wales a fighting chance of qualifying after their 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan earlier on Saturday.

Ryan Giggs’ side stayed third thanks to first-half headed goals from Kieffer Moore and Harry Wilson and Slovakia losing against Croatia.

Austria booked their place with a 2-1 win over North Macedonia that kept third-placed Slovenia at bay, despite their 1-0 triumph over Latvia.

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