This week’s ‘The Corner’ is dedicated to the business-end of the qualification campaign for the European Championships.
Besides hosts France who qualify automatically, England became the first team to book their spot for next year’s Euros escaping unscathed from the group phase.
Iceland followed suit securing safe passage to a major finals for the first time while Netherlands fans were left scratching their heads in disbelief – again.
England and Iceland through
England confirmed their place at next year’s European championships with three games spare.
Roy Hodgson’s men swept aside minnows San Marino 6-0.
It was the Three Lions’ seventh win out of seven matches in Group D which they top on 21 points, 6 clear of their Tuesday night opponents – Switzerland.
Iceland joined England in early qualification.
It will be their first appearance at a major tournament finals.
Iceland all but secured their route to France with a 1-0 win over the Dutch last Thursday but sealed their berth with a rather uninspiring goalless stalemate with Kazakhstan.
Nonetheless the single point was enough to re-write footballing history for the Scandinavians.
Iceland top Group A on goal difference ahead of Czech Republic who also sealed their place with a 2-1 win in Latvia.
The Netherlands’ miserable Group A campaign continued and they now risk missing the finals altogether.
Danny Blind’s men stumbled to a humiliating 3-0 defeat to Turkey who leapfrogged the European powerhouse into third place and the qualification play-off spot.
Up and down
It was a week to remember for some players but one to forget for a few others.
Here’s our ‘Up & Down’ list from the past week’s action.
Wayne Rooney is on the up and nearly on his own as the England skipper equalled Bobby Charlton’s all-time scoring record of 49 goals for his country, hitting the net against San Marino.
He might well have surpassed that record if he wasn’t substituted after 58 minutes.
New Russia coach Leonid Slutsky joins Rooney on our up list after he got his stint at the helm off to a winning start.
Russia beat Sweden 1-0 on Saturday which keeps alive the nation’s hopes of qualifying for Euro 2016.
It was a week to remember for Didier Drogba who scored a hat-trick in his first Major League Soccer start.
The 37-year-old’s three goals (including the winner) helped Montreal Impact to a 4-3 win over Chicago Fire on Saturday night.
On the down and by no fault of his own is Nabil Fekir whose full France debut came to an unfortunate end on Friday.
The 22-year-old suffered a serious knee ligament injury during a friendly with Portugal that will keep him out for most of the season.
Road to Euro
We continue to look back into the history of the European Championships.
Today we take a look at the player who was instrumental in helping the Soviet Union to the title in the inaugural Euro-1960.
The first European Championship finals was dominated by a goalkeeper, as Lev Yashin led the Soviet Union to glory in France.
Nicknamed ‘The Black Spider’, Yashin was known for his athleticism in goal, his imposing stature and reflex saves.
Yashin earned iconic status for revolutionizing the goalkeeping position by stamping his authority on the entire defence.
In 1963 Yashin received the Ballon d’Or, the only goalkeeper ever to win this award.
He was voted the best goalkeeper of the 20th century by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS).
We might be wrong
Next weekend Europe’s domestic leagues resume following the international break. As usual we have attempted to predict the results of a few selected matches. Send us your predictions on Facebook and Twitter using #TheCornerScores.
Manchester United 2 – 1 Liverpool
Atletico 1 – 2 Barcelona
Internazionale 1 – 1 Milan
Paris-Saint-Germain 2 – 0 Bordeaux
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that football is not just about trophies and multi-million euro contracts.
It’s still a game that evokes profound emotions. Just watch how almost 20,000 fans of Betis welcomed back home their club’s legend Joaquin. (see clip above)