Enthralling Euro 2016 qualification reaches half way point
After another thrilling round of Euro 2016 qualifying clashes, all nine groups have reached the half way stage, with international action set to continue again later this year.
With nine group winners and runners-up, as well as the best third-placed nation, qualifying for the tournament in France next summer, there is still all to play for in the remaining five fixtures.
In Group A, the Netherlands have dropped off the pace, stumbling down to third position after losing two and drawing one of their opening five games.
Guus Hiddink had the daunting task of taking over from current Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal after last year’s World Cup in Brazil, and he has struggled to make an instant impact, with his side falling five points behind Iceland, who are second.
Nevertheless, the faltering Dutch are still 5/4 favourites with Coral to finish top of the pile, despite only securing a poor 1-1 draw with Turkey in their previous outing. Current table toppers Czech Republic are 13/10 to finish in top spot, after so far remaining unbeaten.
It’s a lot closer at the top of Group B, with World Cup quarter-finalists Belgium climbing to the summit ahead of Chris Coleman’s Welsh outfit. Wales are 9/2 to secure a place at the top, having won three and drawn two of their first five games and, with Gareth Bale in fine form again, anything is possible.
Reigning European champions Spain are the obvious favourites to clinch pole position in Group C, but they face stiff competition from Slovakia, who currently sit three points clear above the second placed Spaniards. The present leaders are 11/2 to remain in that position and qualify top, ahead of Vicente del Bosque’s 2010 World Cup champions.
Scotland and the Republic of Ireland are involved in a heated battle to qualify from Group D, with Martin O’Neill’s Boys in Green sitting in fourth place, while the Scots occupy third. Gordon Strachan’s men are 11/10 to secure qualification, after an impressive showing so far, while the Emerald Isle are15/8 chances to do so.
Group E has been a stomping ground for England, rallying to a perfect record so far, after securing five consecutive victories. Their closest challengers are second placed Slovenia, who are joint on nine points with Switzerland, and they are 6/4 to qualify.
Northern Ireland have been one of the shock teams in qualifying, having rallied to second in Group F, after four wins and just a single defeat so far. O’Neill’s men are 5/2 to finish top of their group, after climbing to within a point of current leaders Romania.
Italy recently secured a 1-1 draw with Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions and will need a huge turnover in form to stay on course for qualification. Antonio Conte’s Azzurri are odds-on 5/6 to finish top, while Croatia are odds-on 10/11 to do so.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal have made hard work of their attempts to qualify as usual, but they still sit top of Group I. They are odds-on 2/7 to stay there and finish top, while their closest rivals Denmark are an 11/4 chance to cause a shock and steal top spot.