Euro 2016 qualifiers: Oranje on the brink

Danny Blind replaced Guus Hiddink as the Netherlands team coach in June earlier this year.   -  AP

Striker Robin van Persie's lack of game time is a concern for manager Danny Blind.   -  REUTERS

As the European Championship qualifiers head into the last two rounds, only four countries have confirmed their berths at next year’s main event in France. England, Iceland, Austria and the Czech Republic have joined hosts France in the Euro 2016. With only two more rounds left to play, there are bound to be some surprises.

The biggest story of the qualifiers is that of the Netherlands, whose fate hangs in the balance. The 1988 champions are fourth in their group, behind Iceland and Czech Republic, who have already qualified, and third-placed Turkey. If the Oranje have to make it to the play-off, they have to win their remaining matches and Turkey have to drop points in their final two games.

Danny Blind’s men have had an awful qualifying campaign so far, having suffered defeats, both home and away to Iceland, away to the Czech Republic and away to Turkey.

Dutch defender Daryl Janmaat, who has a knee injury, has been ruled out of his team’s next match against Kazakhstan in Astana on October 10; he joins Ajax midfielder Davy Klaasen on the sidelines.

Wales are one point away from securing their place at a major tournament for the first time since the 1958 FIFA World Cup. Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale, who returned from injury in the weekend draw against Atletico Madrid, said he was raring to go. “I have prepared well for the last couple of weeks with my rehab. We are all on board, ready to go,” he said. Wales’s final two matches are against Bosnia and Andorra.

World Cup quarterfinalists Belgium are also expected to join Wales in securing qualification as they need just two points from their remaining two games against Andorra and Israel.

Defending champions Spain and World champions Germany need only a point each in their respective groups to confirm their place in the finals next year. Spain face Luxembourg and Ukraine while Germany take on the Republic of Ireland and Georgia in the final two rounds. Both had slow starts to their qualifying campaign but picked up pace along the way. Spain have dropped Chelsea striker Diego Costa and called up in-form Celta Vigo winger Nolito for their final two games. Germany, meanwhile, will be without the injured Lukas Podolski but have an array of other attacking options at their disposal.

Giants Italy and Portugal also find themselves in similar territory as they could confirm their place at next year’s tournament this weekend, with both teams needing only a point. Italy take on Azerbaijan and Norway while Portugal face Denmark and Serbia.

England were the first team to qualify for Euro 2016 and are the only team boasting a 100% record in the qualifiers, having won all eight of their matches. Manager Roy Hodgson will be hoping to experiment with his squad in the last two games, having called up Danny Ings and Dele Alli to the senior fold for the first time for games against Estonia and Lithuania.

Northern Ireland will be hoping to make history by qualifying for their first ever European Championships and that hope is not misplaced as they require just two points from their final games against Greece and Finland.

The last two rounds of the European qualifiers will take place from October 8 to 13.

The European Championship will be held in France in June 2016.

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