The International Break takes place this weekend and will see 30 countries competing for the chance to play in France in two years time. In a new move by Fifa, the top two and the best third-placed side qualify. The other eight third-placed teams play off for four spots. Most qualifiers will be played in pairs on Thursday and Sunday, Friday and Monday, or Saturday and Tuesday.

Obviously Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland’s chances of qualification will be boosted by the news and all have a decent chance of doing so, but what other nations can realistically hope to gatecrash the usual sixteen. Well my own tip is Slovakia. Winning away at Ukraine was an outstanding result and will give them renewed optimism against Spain.  The quartet in midfield are all comfortable receiving the ball and create chances at will. Meanwhile the task of leading from the front is Adam Nemec’s, standing at 6’3 he is the powerful link up player for Slovakia to play off.

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Ján Kozak, Slovakia coach

Taking questions from the Bratislava media, Jan Kozak is a realist. The one time player knows the task at hand if his side are to prosper in group C and organises his team accordingly. He says”We were up against very strong opponents tonight and we were made to defend most of the time, especially in the second half”’. ”I can’t say we controlled the game because we didn’t plan to sit so deep after the break. Ukraine are really tough at home, and I admit we had some luck winning here”.

He added that ”this result would have been impossible if we had not played so well in the first half-hour. We pressed them, we forced mistakes and we got the goal we deserved. My team worked very hard, all the attacking players defended with discipline and organisation – just look at Marek Hamšík, who worked for the team and not for himself. He put everything into this game”. There are no aires or graces about this bunch of players and it is this squad mentality that will take Slovakia far.

Speaking of his match winner, he said ”Róbert Mak didn’t surprise me”. ”We told him to be prepared for a very hard game and play as effectively as he could. He scored a beautiful goal and, in general, won his battle with [Ukraine left-back] Vyacheslav Shevchuk, who is a very good player”.

Like his unit of players, Kozak is impassioned with football and is saavy in every teams strengths and weakness as he tells in his own words,“I’ve seen matches with France, Spain and Macedonia because it is expected that they fielded, who will also play against us in Liverpool. Belarusians I watched several times in five matches since their players so I do not know. We do not have as wide a calibre of such quality players to play our game in every match., but certainly we want to establish our weapons. To what extent this works out, proves itself to match, “ said Kozak.

C1Slovakia11003
C2Spain11003
C3Belarus10101
C4Leuxembourg10101
C5FYR Macedonia10010
C6Ukraine10010

Czech Republic

They used to be one country and I am backing Pavel Vrba’s men to do the business and have their coach  getting the beers in. What do you mean? Well the enigmatic and confident manager has only gone and made a wager ahead of the matches against Turkey and Kazakstan. If the Czech’s defeat the duo he will buy every supporter at the next match versus Iceland, a beer. I  am sure he won’t be going back and forth to the bar twenty thousand times but you get my drift.

However, if they fail to reach the four-point marker, Vrba will find himself clocking on for a shift at the brewery.

But the former Viktoria Plzen boss has the utmost confidence in his players after they opened their campaign with an impressive 2-1 victory over Netherlands last month.

“Just as I believed in this team for the match with the Netherlands, so I trust them in the matches against Turkey and Kazakhstan,” he said.

“If we succeed, the fans will drink free beer in the match with Iceland and hopefully be satisfied.

“If we get six points, then I will probably go directly to the brewery for a keg.”

Vrba’s men will be out to avoid a repeat of their Euro 2008 clash, when Turkey denied the Czechs progression to the quarter-finals in dramatic fashion.

The Czech Republic led 2-1 heading into the final three minutes of their final group encounter, but Nihat Kahveci netted twice in as many minutes to turn the scoreline on its head.

 

Euro 2016 Qualifiers Group Standings
GroupPositionTeamPlayedWonDrawnLostPoints
A1Czech Republic11003
A2Iceland11003
A3Kazakhstan10101
A4Latvia10101
A5Netherlands10010
A6Turkey10010

 Romania

A staunch core of steely players make the Eastern European country famed for dracula a team with bite. In midfield they have the tough tackling Pintili and Southampton’s Gardos provides a calm assurance to the spine of this side. Securing a one nil victory against Greece was a result that can be revered in the country.

Despite this one Romanian fan vented his frustration on an online forum, claiming that it doesn’t matter if we have new players born if we still have the same coaches around. As someone who played in Romania, for Poli AEK and UM Timisoara when they were in first div I can tell you this all stems from coaching. Kids arent taught how to play modern play. Most coaches are still teaching 1-2 touch soccer and running running running. 1-2 touch is great, but you have to know how to dribble and control play as well. Typically Romanian coach mentality is if we can outrun them we will win, but it doesn’t matter how good your cardio is if the other team controls the play the whole game.

He has a point in that Romania are more conservative than expressive. They are more resilient than anything and dare I say, very Greek in their approach to qualification. They want to keep the goals out and get the odd goal which is admirable in many ways and we all know how Greece faired in the Euro 2012. Still the red card for the goal scorer Marica was absolutely wreckless and it is this temperament that could cost the Romanians dearly.

Poland

I don’t want to dismiss the Republic of Ireland and Scotland from qualification, I am merely making you aware of Poland’s squad and new front man and yes I am aware that the Scot’s gained a one nil friendly victory last March.The person in question is Milik arkuduis of Ajax. He is the next big thing in Holland’s Edervisie and it is only a matter of time before he is snapped up by a Premier League or Bundesliga side.

DateHome teamAway teamResultEvent
2014-09-07GibraltarGibraltarPolandPoland0:7 cEuro 2016 – Group D
2014-06-06PolandPolandLithuaniaLithuania2:1 cFriendly
2014-05-13GermanyGermanyPolandPoland0:0 cFriendly
2014-03-05PolandPolandScotlandScotland0:1 cFriendly
2014-01-20MoldovaMoldovaPolandPoland0:1 cFriendly
2014-01-18PolandPolandNorwayNorway3:0 cFriendly

Lewandowski

“Maybe they will be too confident after winning the World Cup. Maybe they will oversleep a little and we will be able to take advantage. I hope so,” said Lewandowski in quotes reported by Uefa.com.

“We know their qualities, but we will not park a bus in our penalty area.”

Poland started their campaign last month with a resounding 7-0 win against minnows Gibraltar, in which Lewandowski scored four times, while the Germans enjoyed a nervy 2-1 win at home to Scotland.

The news that Mezut Ozil is out of the encounter is a boost to the Poles.

Albania

Seeing Christiano Ronaldo’s Portugal deflated at home to Albania was something I didn’t imagine happening. Not least because the away side have been indifferent form of late. Their key performer in that victory was Taulent Jaca of FC Basel. He speaks of how  after defeating ”Portugal we  have gained a greater confidence and are able to overcome every country in the world” . ”Football is very interesting and in many cases small teams win against big teams . I believe that will give the maximum for a positive result in the next two matches” , said Jaca. ‘ He calls friends not to fall for provocations that will be made in the Serbian capital .

Kosovo Tension

He wants the team to be resilient in the face of the Kosovo divide between Serbian and Albanian communities. He commented that ”If we are quiet , do not fall for provocations and give the maximum , then I believe that victory will be of Albania and the fans who do not know whether it could be in the stadium , but the victory will be for the all Albanians wherever they are” , claimed Jaca .