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.
They were second in Group G behind Poland, who had already qualified going into this round of games, but maintained a three-point lead at the top of the group thanks to a 2-1 win against Israel.
In Saint Petersburg, the Hazard brothers made short work of Russia as already-qualified Belgium maintained their 100 percent record with a 4-1 win that secured them top spot in Group I.
Eden and Thorgan Hazard put Roberto Martinez’s side three goals ahead at the break before striker Romelu Lukaku crashed home the fourth in the 72nd minute to make sure of the result.
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
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ANOTHER SCANDAL: Searches focused on several riders, including Dayer Quintana, a source said, while the two being held were reportedly a doctor and physiotherapist French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced. The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century. Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody. Laurens added that the two