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EURO 2016 qualifying has now reached the halfway point


UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying has now reached the halfway point. UEFA.com looks at how the nine groups stand, with just two perfect teams and several big names in peril.
UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying is now at the halfway stage with just England and Slovakia holding perfect records and the likes of the Netherlands and Belgium in danger of missing out on automatic places in France. UEFA.com looks at how the nine groups are shaping up.

• The next matches are on 12, 13 and 14 June before the groups conclude with September and October double-headers.
• The nine group winners, the nine group runners-up and the best third-placed side will qualify directly for the final tournament in France.
• The eight remaining third-placed teams will contest play-offs in November to determine the last four qualifiers for the finals.
If qualifying were to end now ...
Qualified: France (hosts), Czech Republic, Iceland, Wales, Israel, Slovakia, Spain (holders), Poland, Germany, Scotland (best third-place), England. Slovenia, Romania, Northern Ireland, Austria, Sweden, Croatia, Italy, Portugal, Denmark
Play-offs: Netherlands, Belgium, Ukraine, Switzerland, Hungary, Russia, Norway, Albania
Standings are provisional until all group matches have been played.
FULL STANDINGS
Watch: Netherlands deny Turkey
Group A
Top two: Czech Republic, Iceland
Third: Netherlands
• Iceland won 3-0 in Kazakhstan to move to within a point of the Czech Republic, held 1-1 by Latvia.
• The Netherlands salvaged a 1-1 draw with Turkey but are five points behind Iceland.
• Turkey are two points further back, having been within sight of overtaking the Netherlands before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's added-time equaliser.
12 June: Iceland v Czech Republic, Kazakhstan v Turkey, Latvia v Netherlands
Bale inspires Wales
Group B
Top two: Wales, Israel
Third: Belgium
• Wales triumphed 3-0 in Israel to end their hosts' perfect record and go top with a two-point lead.
• Belgium beat Cyprus 5-0 to seize third place, just a point behind Israel.
• Cyprus and Bosnia and Herzegovina are respectively two and three points behind Belgium.
• On Tuesday Israel play Belgium in a fixture postponed from earlier in qualifying: a victory would take either top; a draw leaves Wales at the summit.
Tuesday: Israel v Belgium
12 June: Andorra v Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina v Israel, Wales v Belgium
Spain edge Ukraine
Group C
Top two: Slovakia, Spain
Third: Ukraine
• Slovakia's 3-0 success over Luxembourg was their fifth straight win in the group.
• The victory kept them three points ahead of Spain, who edged Ukraine 1-0.
• Ukraine fell three points behind Spain but are still five clear of Belarus.
14 June: Belarus v Spain, Slovakia v FYR Macedonia, Ukraine v Luxembourg
Group D
Top two: Poland, Germany
Third: Scotland
• Poland conceded a late goal to draw 1-1 in the Republic of Ireland but retain pole position.
• Germany and Scotland both prevailed to climb to within a point of Poland.
• Ireland are two points further back.
13 June: Gibraltar v Germany, Poland v Georgia, Republic of Ireland v Scotland

England hit four
Group E
Top two: England, Slovenia
Third: Switzerland
• England thrashed Lithuania 4-0 and like Slovakia have a maximum 15 points.
• Slovenia and Switzerland also won and are on nine points each, three superior to Lithuania.
• Wayne Rooney is within two goals of Sir Bobby Charlton's England record of 49.

14 June: Estonia v San Marino, Lithuania v Switzerland, Slovenia v England
Group F
Top two: Romania, Northern Ireland
Third: Hungary
• Romania squeezed past the Faroe Islands 1-0 to remain a point better off than Northern Ireland.
• Northern Ireland saw off Finland 2-1 and are four points above Hungary, held 0-0 by Greece.
• Greece stay bottom, a point adrift of the Faroes and two behind Finland.
13 June: Faroe Islands v Greece, Finland v Hungary, Northern Ireland v Romania

Five for Austria
Group G
Top two: Austria, Sweden
Third: Russia
• Austria were 5-0 winners in Liechtenstein and are still four points above Sweden, 2-0 victors in Moldova.
• Russia and Montenegro are four points behind the Swedes after their game was abandoned.
• Liechtenstein are one point further back.
14 June: Liechtenstein v Moldova, Russia v Austria, Sweden v Montenegro

Croatia 5-1 Norway
Group H
Top two: Croatia, Italy
Third: Norway
• Croatia went top as they dismantled Norway 5-1 and their June visitors Italy needed a late goal to hold Bulgaria 2-2.
• Italy's late equaliser came from debutant Éder in Ivaylo Petev's first match as Bulgaria coach.
• Norway lost ground and are two points short of Italy, though four in front of Bulgaria.
12 June: Croatia v Italy, Malta v Bulgaria, Norway v Azerbaijan
Group I
Top two: Portugal Denmark
Third: Albania
• With Denmark not playing, Portugal jumped two points clear by ousting Serbia 2-1.
• Albania came from behind to beat Armenia 2-1 and are level on points with Denmark.
• Serbia and Armenia are six points adrift of Denmark and Albania.

13 June: Armenia v Portugal, Denmark v Serbia

Spain, Italy and Belgium in international for victory


La Roja travel to Amsterdam for a friendly with the Netherlands, the Azzurri host England in Turin and the Red Devils are on the road to Israel, who were recently thrashed at home to Wales, for a Euro 2016 qualifier.
All three top FIFA-ranked teams featured in this treble are either odds-on or short-price favourites for victory, and here are more reasons why you should back this ?
Netherlands v SpainSpain face the nation whose hopes they dashed at the 2010 World Cup final, as an Andres Iniesta goal saw the Dutch off 1-0 that day to earn his side glory. La Roja are 6/4 favourites for victory again, and 9/1 to do so by that scoreline.
Juventus striker Alvaro Morata netted last time out for his country against Ukraine, and is 7/4 to strike again anytime. The likes of Premier League stars David Silva, Cesc Fabregas and Santi Cazorla could also feature, and are respective 2/1, 10/3 and 7/2 chances in the same market.
Italy v EnglandThe Azzurri are also up against a team whose hopes were dashed at a World Cup, the most recent one in Brazil, and they beat the Three Lions 2-1 in the group stages. They are 11/8 favourites to win again, and 9/1 to do so by that scoreline once more.
Mario Balotelli got the winner that day, but has been replaced in the squad by in-form Southampton striker Graziano Pelle, who is 5/4 to net anytime. Other players Roy Hodgson’s side will need to look out for are Ciro Immobile and Brazilian-born Eder, who are 5/4 and 7/4 respectively.

Israel v BelgiumIsrael host Belgium, who are ranked fourth in the world rankings following their rise in the international game thanks to their current crop of Golden Generation stars. The Red Devils just thrashed Cyprus 5-0 in another Euro 2016 qualifier, and are odds-on favourites at 8/15 to win in Jerusalem too.
Marouane Fellaini bagged a brilliant brace against Cyrus, while Eden Hazard was also on t

Spain seek World Cup redemption in Netherlands clash


Reigning European champions Spain will travel to Amsterdam aiming to avenge the 5-1 demolition they suffered at the hands of the Netherlands at last summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
The Amsterdam ArenA will host a repeat of the 2010 final, as the Dutch, Vicente del Bosque’s La Roja.
Guus Hiddink’s hosts will have no fear against these fellow European heavyweights, having romped to a famous 5-1 triumph over the Spaniards last year, submitting the Iberian outfit to a humiliating group stage defeat. 
However, 2010 World Cup winners La Roja,  come into this mouth-watering friendly encounter in the better form, having secured a 1-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win over Ukraine. 
Meanwhile, the Dutch stuttered to a 1-1 draw with Turkey in their latest qualifier; as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s lucky late leveller earned a vital point.
The form of Clockwork Orange will give their Spanish opponents a boost of confidence, having lost four of the seven games since Hiddink took over from Louis van Gaal last year. There will be nothing friendly about this latest anticipated encounter, with both nations set to name strong starting line-ups.
Robin van Persie scored the pick of Holland’s five goals in the World Cup coup last summer, but is missing through injury this time out, along with Arjen Robben, who also bagged a brilliant brace in that victory.
For the visitors, Bayern Munich’s Juan Bernat is expected to replace injured former Valencia teammate Jordi Alba at left back. Manchester United number one David De Gea, meanwhile, is pushing for a start ahead of a faltering Iker Casillas, so Spain have options. 
Del Bosque could also hand debuts to young Malaga marksman Juanmi and Sevilla wideman Vitolo during proceedings.
Juventus hitman Alvaro Morata was the hero on his maiden international start, instinctively securing Spain all three points against Ukraine. The Old Lady’s sprightly attacker  in Amsterdam, having done so on his first international start. 
The hosts will be hoping Schalke sharpshooter Huntelaar can continue his rampant run of form on home soil, after netting his 16th goal of the season against Turkey when diverting in Welsey Sneijder’s shot. 
Prolific Bundesliga poacher Huntelaar is  off this game. 
Both nations will be keen to end the international break on a high, with Spain seeking to avenge their torrid thrashing in Brazil last year. A repeat of that famous 5-1 scoreline in Brazil is a whopping 200/1 chance to be repeated in Amsterdam.

Mats Hummels has admitted he wants to leave the Bundesliga.

Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels has admitted he wants to leave the Bundesliga.
The former Bayern Munich star has been linked with a move away from Dortmund in recent months and is understood to have attracted interest from a number of clubs.
United manager Louis van Gaal is a big admirer of the centre-back, who joined Dortmund in 2009.
And the 26-year-old has put the Dutchman on red alert by revealing that he has plans to leave Germany.
He told Kicker: "Some days I think I would definitely like to move abroad but then, other days, I think I don't fancy it at all."
"Basically I think moving abroad would be good for my professional and personal well-being. Eventually, I'd like to leave the Bundesliga.".
Radamel Falcao, who is being tracked by Chelsea, has insisted he is fully committed to Manchester United.
The Colombian, who is currently on a season-long loan from Monaco, is reportedly a target for Italian champions Juventus.
Well respected FIFA agent Giovanni Branchini claims the Old Lady are keen on the former Atletico Madrid hitman and has suggested they could try to lure him to Italy this summer.
However, Falcao, 28, has dismissed talk of a move to Turin and has insisted he is focused on performing well for United.
Arsenal are willing to let Carl Jenkinson leave the Emirates.
Jenkinson, 23, is currently on loan with the Gunners' Premier League rivals West Ham.
And Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is expected to tell the former Charlton defender that he is surplus to requirements once his loan spell at Upton Park expires.
Chelsea are considering a summer move for for former Arsenal favourite and West Ham midfield enforcer Alex Song.
According to Sport, Jose Mourinho has been impressed with the Cameroonian's performances, and will offer £7.3m for his services.
Manchester United defender Chris Smalling hailed manager Louis van Gaal, and committed himself to the club despite interest from Arsenal.
Smalling spoke with the media ahead of England's clash with Italy, he said: "I have always enjoyed playing for United…if I can contribute then I am happy to stay as long as they want me."
Manchester United are willing to rid themselves of injury prone striker Robin Van Persie to sign Uruguayan ace Edinson Cavani.
According to the Sun, the Dutchman will consider an offer from Turkish outfit Fenerbahce, with Cavani the favourite to replace him.

Why Dutch and Italians are struggling on road to Euro 2016 ?


Late draws for both the Netherlands and Italy in their recent respective Euro 2016 qualifiers have papered over some pretty big cracks that have appeared in these major continental footballing forces.
Clockwork Orange coach Guus Hiddink clings to what might be his last job in management, after Klaas-Jan Huntelaar diverted in Wesley Sneijder’s shot to pinch a home point from a tasty tie against Turkey.
Five points adrift of a guaranteed place at the European Championship finals at the halfway stage in Group A, the Dutch are behind Iceland, who continue to be a surprise package, and a far from vintage Czech Republic outfit that top this pool.
Against the Turks, a combination of dodgy defending from 23-year-old centre backs Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi, who both earned moves off the back of Orange exploits under Louis van Gaal at the World Cup last summer, and profligacy up top explain two dropped points.
Dutch faith in youth remains ironclad and ingrained into a culture that produced Total Football. Country follows clubs in this regard, but highly-rated winger Memphis Depay missed key chances and PSV Eindhoven teammate Luciano Narsingh did the same when he came on.
When we think that back to the so nearly Netherlands team that were runners-up at successive World Cups (1974 and 1978) and make comparisons to now, however, pundits would be hard pressed to find all-round defenders like Ruud Krohl.
Successive generations have had solid performers at the back. Current Southampton boss Ronald Koeman combined silk with steel when playing, then there was the terrifying presence of Jaap Stam:
Soccer - European Championships 2004 Play-Off - First Leg - Scotland v Holland
De Vrij’s contribution to 11 clean sheets in his debut season with Serie A side Lazio is certainly more impressive than Martins Indi helping Porto do the same in a weaker league. Translating this form over to internationals appears to have deserted this defensive duo.
Bert van Marwijk was often criticised for his own overly defensive take on traditional Dutch 4-3-3 tactics, but Hiddink by contrast has surely been too open in his approach. Nigel de Jong was the only sitting presence in the front six and Ibrahim Afellay has been ineffectual in big games since being brought back into the fold.
A draw in Amsterdam with Turkey should be couched in terms of the Dutch missing record scorer Robin van Persie and Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben, who has really added goals to his game in recent years.
These star names are both north of 30 now, though, so the rest of Hiddink’s team need to take some responsibility their next outing.
Injuries are also hampering Azzurri coach Antonio Conte, especially in the engine room, which is always vital to any Italian set-up.
Centurions Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo join the latter’s Juventus teammate Claudio Marchisio in missing a prestige friendly with England. As well as those midfield absences, highly-rated Torino defender and rumoured Manchester United target Matteo Darmian misses out too.
He played in the 2-2 Euro 2016 qualifier in Bulgaria, but picked up a problem. Despite leading through an early own goal, the Azzurri fell behind with Ivelin Popov netting a low driven equaliser and Ilian Micanski heading home following a swift counter.
Bulgaria were smart enough to exploit a rusty-looking Andrea Barzagli for that second goal, after the Juventus centre back recently returned from eight months out with heel and ankle problems.
Italy were fortunate not to be further behind when Popov rattled the bar from a free-kick, though Liverpool target Ciro Immobile spurned several opportunities and later sub Manolo Gabbiadini looked a better foil for the out-of-favour Borussia Dortmund forward than Simone Zaza.
Brazilian-born Sampdoria striker Eder, another off the Azzurri bench, came to Conte’s rescue making a real impact on his debut. Shooting on the turn from similar range to Popov’s leveler, his late equaliser was the pick of the four goals.
Bulgaria Italy Euro Soccer
Including Serie A players as yet uncapped by other nations does seem to be part of Conte’s plan for Italy. Palermo’s Argentine-born midfielder Franco Vazquez could make his Azzurri bow against England, while another engine room operator Roberto Soriano grew up in Germany and was in Bayern’s academy.
Apart perhaps from in defence, there is no longer the strength in depth of the 2006 World Cup winning vintage, or even the Euro 2012 runners-up side, during what looks a transitional time for Italy.
Conte is keen to change the culture, but death threats from fans of his former club Juventus over Marchisio’s injury in national training suggest he will be hard-pressed to win over his critics.
The Azzurri have drawn their last two qualifiers, allowing Croatia to go clear at the top of Group H, bringing Norway, who the four-time World Cup winners face last at home in October, into the picture. Despite Italy’s patchy form

Brazil 1 - Chile 0: South American sunshine marred by Medel stamp on Neymar

The last time Brazil and Chile met, they played out one of the most memorable games of last summer's World Cup.
This time it was very different with the expectations of a sold-out Emirates Stadium deflated by a bad-tempered match of few chances and Roberto Firmino's 73rd-minute goal a rare moment to remember.
It would be no surprise to discover Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Brendan Rodgers and Chris Ramsey – the Premier League managers with players involved – watched the game through their fingers, before breathing a sigh of relief that there were no big injuries.
The result, though, was enough for Brazil coach Dunga to declare himself satisfied as his side continued to rebuild morale after the humiliating 7-1 semi-final loss to Germany at last year's World Cup.
But Dunga made it clear Atkinson's performance – and in particular the referee's failure to spot a first-half stamp by Gary Medel on Neymar – had failed to impress.
A week ago, the referee sent off Steven Gerrard for a stamp on Manchester United's Ander Herrera just 38 seconds after the Liverpool captain appeared as a substitute. But earlier this season, Atkinson failed to red card Burnley's Ashley Barnes for connecting with the shin of Chelsea's Nemanja Matic.
And Medel's sneaky move to stand on Neymar's leg would surely have seen Chile reduced to 10 men if Atkinson had seen it.
Dunga said: "The decision is the referee's and we can't talk too much about it. Chile have a great team, very dynamic, but some players make mistakes."
"These days we have 300 cameras focusing on the action so you have to play football."
"My players were not protected very much."
Neymar's reaction did the Brazilian no favours – but he was entitled to feel aggrieved after being sent tumbling by several fouls. Brazil gave as good as they got, though, with Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez also coming in for some full-bloodied treatment – and five Brazilians found their way into Atkinson's notebook.
These antics were at odds with the game's carnival atmosphere.  Sanchez was the standout figure, but Chile were unable to carve out a real chance and were caught cold when Hoffenheim striker Firmino rounded goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to secure an eighth win in eight matches for Dunga's side.
Firmino is one of the players blooded by Dunga in the wake of the World Cup and has been linked with a move to Arsenal.
Dunga said: "I have analysed  him for a long time and he can easily score goals. He can play for any team."

Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels wants to join Man Utd

Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels has admitted he wants to leave the Bundesliga.
The former Bayern Munich star has been linked with a move away from Dortmund in recent months and is understood to have attracted interest from a number of clubs.
United manager Louis van Gaal is a big admirer of the centre-back, who joined Dortmund in 2009.
And the 26-year-old has put the Dutchman on red alert by revealing that he has plans to leave Germany.
He told Kicker: "Some days I think I would definitely like to move abroad but then, other days, I think I don't fancy it at all."
"Basically I think moving abroad would be good for my professional and personal well-being. Eventually, I'd like to leave the Bundesliga.".
Radamel Falcao, who is being tracked by Chelsea, has insisted he is fully committed to Manchester United.
The Colombian, who is currently on a season-long loan from Monaco, is reportedly a target for Italian champions Juventus.
Well respected FIFA agent Giovanni Branchini claims the Old Lady are keen on the former Atletico Madrid hitman and has suggested they could try to lure him to Italy this summer.
However, Falcao, 28, has dismissed talk of a move to Turin and has insisted he is focused on performing well for United.
Arsenal are willing to let Carl Jenkinson leave the Emirates.
Jenkinson, 23, is currently on loan with the Gunners' Premier League rivals West Ham.
And Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is expected to tell the former Charlton defender that he is surplus to requirements once his loan spell at Upton Park expires.
Chelsea are considering a summer move for for former Arsenal favourite and West Ham midfield enforcer Alex Song.
According to Sport, Jose Mourinho has been impressed with the Cameroonian's performances, and will offer £7.3m for his services.
Manchester United defender Chris Smalling hailed manager Louis van Gaal, and committed himself to the club despite interest from Arsenal.
Smalling spoke with the media ahead of England's clash with Italy, he said: "I have always enjoyed playing for United…if I can contribute then I am happy to stay as long as they want me."
Manchester United are willing to rid themselves of injury prone striker Robin Van Persie to sign Uruguayan ace Edinson Cavani.
According to the Sun, the Dutchman will consider an offer from Turkish outfit Fenerbahce, with Cavani the favourite to replace him.

Bale bags brace as Wales go top of Euro 2016 group with win in Israel

Goals either side of half time in Haifa from Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, who later struck again, sent Wales top of Euro 2016 qualifying Group B as the Dragons knocked 10-man Israel from this pool’s perch.
Chris Coleman’s side are now unbeaten in five competitive outings in this campaign to reach the European Championship finals in France next summer, and their prospects of being there are now very real as they cannot be displaced from an automatic spot during this international break no matter what.
Israel’s excellent start to qualification unraveled in seven mad minutes around the interval. Early Welsh efforts through later scorers Ramsey and Bale went wide, while James Collins was relieved to see a raised offside flag spare his blushes after hitting fresh air when he had an open goal to aim at from point blank range.
Wayne Hennessey had to be on hand to turn behind from Eran Zahavi, as fine Israeli form and fortune deserted the hosts. They lost Omer Damari, top scorer in the group with five, who was helped off before the break, but there was still time for Wales to establish a half-time lead.
When Israel allowed a long punt upfield from Dragons stopper Hennessey to bounce in their own box, Bale and Ramsey combined in the air to punish this, with the latter looping his header home.
Eitan Tibi foolishly felled Bale on the edge of his own area after the interval, and the Real Madrid forward silenced some of his recent critics by doubling Wales’ lead by netting from the resultant free kick.
The hosts were swiftly reduced to 10 men thereafter with Israeli centre back Tibi not learning from his previous foul, giving the Slovakian referee little choice but to brandish a second yellow and send him off for two quickfire bookings.
Other openings and substitutions for both sides followed, most notably Hennessey thwarting Israel substitute striker Tomer Hemed. The Dragons sealed victory 13 minutes from time, though, with Ramsey pulling back for Bale to fire in.
Ex-Chelsea youngster Ben Sahar was denied by Hennessey, while Bale was prevented from hitting a hat-trick with the contest well won.
Coleman will rightly revel in this key victory, not least because the hosts may have underestimated his Dragons.
British-based engine room operators Nir Biton (Celtic) and Beram Kayal (Brighton) were left out of Israel’s XI, who instead went with an expansive 4-1-4-1 set-up incorporating CSKA Moscow’s Bibras Natkho and prolific Club Brugge attacking midfielder Lior Refaelov.
The tactical battle was won by the visitors, who deployed both Bale and Ramsey in the hole, in an inventive 3-4-2-1 formation. Late arrivals in the box were a feature throughout, especially evidenced in the third goal.
Wales have now knocked off a top 30 team in FIFA’s world rankings, and this was a first away victory in seven years against a nation among the elite 50 on that list. They thus must now be treated as serious contenders to reach Euro 2016.