Euro 2016 qualifiers: Coral’s Home Nations team of the weekend
The majority of the Home Nations have now decided their Euro 2016 fate after the final set of qualifying group fixtures, with England, Northern Ireland and Wales assuring a place in France next summer and the latter are 66/1 from Coral to triumph overall with Gareth Bale in their ranks.
However, the Republic of Ireland have plenty of work to do in the play-offs as they await their next opponents in this month’s draw, while Scotland’s hopes were shattered as they dejectedly failed to qualify.
Following further enthralling weekend action, Coral bring you our Home Nations team of the weekend. Do you agree with our selections?
Goalkeeper: Michael McGovern
Having been thrust into the Northern Ireland starting line-up this summer to replace an injured Roy Carroll between the sticks, this Fermanagh-born stopper has been able to secure the number one jersey since.
Helping Michael O’Neill’s side overcome a 30-year wait of reaching a major tournament, the Northern Irish goal guard was superb against both Greece and Finland, making several great saves as they incredibly earned a spot in France next summer.
Centre back: Richard Keogh
One of three Derby County stars featuring in the Republic of Ireland’s sublime 1-0 victory over world champions Germany, Keogh was a warrior in the backline alongside Sunderland’s John O’Shea.
Bravely diving in front of every German shot, the Rams defender produced arguably his best Irish display, whilst donning a head bandage throughout, which only added to the heroics surrounding his performance.
Centre back: Craig Cathcart
Northern Ireland’s solid central defender was another who shone for O’Neill’s men on his 23rd outing, and was able to dispatch his first ever international goal against Finland during a 1-1 draw, deputising for the injured Jonny Evans.
Centre back: Chris Smalling
Although it was against poor opposition in the form of Estonia, England and Manchester United’s towering defender put in another great shift to earn a clean sheet during his nation’s comfortable 2-0 home victory.
Right midfield: Raheem Sterling
Towards the end of England ninth successive group stage triumph, Manchester City wideman Sterling capped off another impressive personal showing with a close-range effort strike, after great work by Jamie Vardy.
Centre midfield: Ross Barkley
The star of that victory over Estonia was undoubtedly Everton playmaker Barkley, with the promising Liverpudlian putting in a man of the match performance for Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions.
Toffees boss Roberto Martinez will be glad to see his young midfield maestro regaining his threatening attacking form and coming through unscathed, as Barkley looks ready to take Euro 2016 by storm next summer.
Can he be the pivotal player for England in France? Hodgson’s men are 11/1 to go all the way next year in what could prove to be an exciting tournament for the qualified Home Nations.
Centre midfield: Steven Davis
Southampton midfielder Davis struck a deadly double on that memorable night for Northern Ireland, leading by example as captain and being part of history by firing his nation to their first ever Euro finals.
Attacking midfield: Wes Hoolahan
Constantly overlooked by former Irish boss Giovanni Trappatoni, Norwich City maestro Hoolahan has now relished being given that key number 10 role under Martin O’Neill.
The little Canaries creator was simply sensational in the win over Germany and will hope to star again in the play-offs for his country as they aim to reach France next year.
Left midfield: Matt Ritchie
Although he faced eventual disappointment with Scotland, Bournemouth winger Ritchie performed defiantly against Poland, with his superb 45th-minute strike giving Gordon Strachan’s men hope, before cruelly being dismissed.
Striker: Steven Fletcher
Another defiant Scot Fletcher was one of his nation’s star performers in both their final two qualifying clashes, netting four times across those fixtures, including a hat-trick in a 6-0 mauling of minnows Gibraltar.
Striker: Shane Long
Saints striker Long was the goal scoring hero of that sensational triumph over Germany in Dublin, clinically firing past Manuel Neuer from a difficult angle after latching onto a lofted ball forward from stand-in goalkeeper Darron Randolph.