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Saturday, April 04, 2020

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Iceland celebrate Euro spot, Italy win again
Reuters
Iceland’s 0-0 draw with Kazakhstan sparked jubilant scenes as they qualified for the finals of a major tournament for the first time Sunday with a place at Euro 2016. The result ensured they would finish in the top two in Group A as they stand seven points ahead of third-placed Turkey with only two rounds of matches to play.
 
Knowing a point would be enough to ensure qualification for the finals in France, the home crowd urged their side on with chants of “Afram Island!” on a rainy night in Reykjavik.
 
They were rewarded with a typically committed, battling performance filled with chances but no goals.
 
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson all went close for Iceland but the ragged Kazakhs stood firm to take their second point in the campaign.
 
Iceland are level on 19 points with the Czech Republic while Turkey have 12 points after beating visitors the Netherlands 3-0 earlier Sunday.
 
Belgium’s Eden Hazard struck five minutes from time to earn a 1-0 victory away to Cyprus meaning Group B leaders Wales must wait to secure a place at Euro 2016.
 
An unmarked Hazard fired past ’keeper Antonis Giorgallides after Dries Martens had pulled the ball back with Belgium having caught out the tiring Cypriots on the counter-attack.
 
After eight matches Wales have 18 points, after being held to a 0-0 draw by Israel in Cardiff earlier, with second-placed Belgium on 17 and Israel on 13. Cyprus have nine.
 
The match appeared to be heading for a goalless draw as Belgium flattered to deceive, only testing Giorgallides with long-range efforts, and Cyprus will feel hard done by after holding their own for large portions of the game.
 
Marc Wilmots Belgium side, ranked second in the world, looked sluggish from the start and it was no surprise when Christian Benteke was taken off at halftime.
 
His replacement, Liverpool teammate Divock Origi, fared no better as the service from Belgium’s creative players was close to non-existent but Hazard’s close-range strike ensured Cyprus were again undone by a late goal.
 
Daniele De Rossi converted an early penalty and was later sent off as Italy beat Bulgaria 1-0 in a Euro 2016 qualifier which saw goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon win his 150th cap for the hosts.
 
De Rossi scored with a twice-taken penalty in the sixth minute but blotted his copybook early in the second half when he was dismissed after clashing with Iliyan Mitsanski, who was also sent off.
 
Buffon, who won his first cap in a World Cup qualifier away to Russia in 1997, rescued Italy with a difficult save from Giorgi Milanov in stoppage time.
 
The win took Italy top of Group H with 18 points from eight games and kept them on course for a top-two finish which would ensure a place in France next year.
 
They are followed by Norway (16) and Croatia (15) while Bulgaria are fourth with eight points and two games left.
 
Playmaker Andrea Pirlo was left out as coach Antonio Conte made several changes following his team’s much-criticized, lackluster performance in their 1-0 win over Malta.
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