With the international football break now concluded and the UEFA European Championship 2016 qualifying stage arriving at the half-way stage, it is evident that a couple of teams have almost guaranteed their entry to the finals in France barring any serious loss of form. Slovakia and England can still boast 100% records from five matches yet it is a far different story in Group A where four of the six teams still retain genuine hopes of qualifying with Netherlands facing the prospect of several difficult fixtures to ensure their progression to the summer tournament.
Czech Republic currently lead the group by one point from surprise team Iceland with Netherlands just leading Turkey in vying for that final elusive third place in the group but several points adrift of Iceland. The Netherlands were grateful for added time equaliser by Klass-Jan Huntelaar to salvage a 1-1 draw against Turkey in Amsterdam on Saturday evening, which does offer them some hope of securing one of two automatic qualifying places in Group A. Yet the absence of both Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie in attack clearly affected the Dutch performance against Turkey.
Netherlands will be particularly hoping for a positive result when they visit Latvia during June at the same time as Iceland host Czech Republic. The Iceland team have already beaten both the Dutch and Turkish teams in Reykjavic and a home victory on June 12th would greatly enhance their prospects of appearing in France during the summer. They have yet to qualify for a major tournament and just narrowly failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals when beaten over two legs in the UEFA playoffs by Croatia.
However, further important Group A fixtures are scheduled for both September and October when Netherlands are set to host matches against Iceland and Czech Republic while also visiting Turkey. Meanwhile, Iceland could seal their passage to France by avoiding defeat in their away games with both Turkey and Netherlands but three points secured from home matches against Kazakhstan on September 16th and then Latvia on October 10th will be their ultimate priority.
With the Czech Republic also destined to play the two bottom teams of the group during September, the qualification prospects for a Dutch team which finished in third position during the 2014 World Cup could be described as uncertain.
The final positions for all four teams aiming for qualification from Group A may ultimately be decided by the last set of fixtures on October 13th when Netherlands host Czech Republic and Iceland travel to Turkey. Iceland will not wish to visit Turkey needing a result while the Dutch may need to beat the Czech team during an anticipated tense evening in Amsterdam.
Predicting the eventual outcome of Group A will be an extremely difficult task.
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