Domestic football might have taken a break for the summer across most of Europe, but the continent’s international players face some important Euro 2016 qualifiers this weekend before enjoying real rest. There are nine groups and the top two from each will book a Euro 2016 spot, accounting for 18 of the 24 places. Here are four key matches taking place this weekend which could prove crucial in the qualifying campaign.
Republic of Ireland vs. Scotland
Republic of Ireland will find themselves almost out of contention should they lose against Scotland. Shaun Maloney was the match winner for Scotland back in November, but the two sides are even when it comes to head-to-heads, with both sides collecting four wins a piece. The ones to watch will be striker Steven Fletcher who could line up against club team-mate John O’Shea following a disappointing season with Premier League.
Wales vs. Belgium
Both of the sides are unbeaten in the group, on the same points, with Belgium top virtue of a superior goal difference. Victory for either side will be a huge fillip for their chances of qualifying for the tournament in France next year. The recent meeting of the teams to find the last time Wales beat Belgium was in 1993 when Ryan Giggs and Ian Rush goals gave the side a 2-0 victory. Belgium have talent all over the pitch in all shapes and sizes. They have the height and power of Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke and Eden Hazard to be watched.
Northern Ireland vs. Romania
It has been an impressive campaign so far from Northern Ireland and they will go top of Group F should they beat Romania at Windsor Park. The last friendly match won by Northern Ireland was back in 1994. Northern Ireland boss O’Neill wants nothing less than for his side to top the group. “We want to keep the momentum going and get ourselves in a stronger position,” he said. “Regardless of what happens, we will still be second in the group, but we will be preparing with the aim of taking three points from the game.
Latvia vs. Netherland
A games. Having won just twice so far, the Oranje lie five points adrift of an automatic qualifying spot. Latvia have a huge task ahead of them if they are to qualify, having collected just three points from their five games. The Latvians are virtual unknowns, compared to their heavyweight compatriots. Memphis Depay should get a start after impressing in the 4-3 defeat against USA.