After 13 months of qualifying, 19 teams have booked their tickets to join the hosts at next year's Euro 2016 in France. Eight more teams will contest two-legged playoffs next month to determine the final four entrants.
Among those eight will be Asmir Begovic's Bosnia and Herzegovina, who eked out a 3-2 win in Cyprus today to finish third in Group B behind automatic qualifiers Belgium (more on them later) and Wales. It wasn't the greatest game ever played by the current Chelsea starting goalkeeper, but it got the job done. And in the end, that's all that matters. Bosnia (as a seeded team) will find out Sunday which of the four unseeded teams (Norway, Denmark, Ireland, or Slovenia) they will have to beat in the playoffs to qualify.
Belgium will have no such worries after finishing their qualification campaign on a high note, beating Israel rather comprehensively. Goals from Dries Mertens, Kevin De Bruyne, and Eden Hazard led the way -- Chelsea's talisman had a much, much better game today than it's been his norm recently -- and there could've been a few more, too. Israel did come close early, Eran Zahavi hitting the post and Simon Mignolet getting away with a foul in the box thanks to the attacker being offside by the tiniest of margins, but Belgium made their superior quality pay off eventually. They are, in fact number one in FIFA's rankings (or will be, whenever the new ones come out), for whatever little that is actually worth.
Elsewhere, Tomas Kalas was a late substitute for the Czech Republic as the visitors put hosts Netherlands out of their qualifying campaign misery with a 3-2 win. Robin van Persie scored the winning goal with one of the funnier own goals you'll ever see.
To his credit, though, it's a textbook example of letting the pace of the cross do the work: http://t.co/2Ab77lWyGo— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) October 13, 2015
The Dutch are easily the highest profile name to miss out on the expanded field at Euro 2016, which will include first-time qualifiers Slovakia and a rather surprising Northern Ireland and Albania as well. Hungary were all set to qualify automatically as well, until Turkey scored an 89th-minute winner against Iceland to grab the best-third placed spot (an opportunity that was enabled by Kazakhstan's unlikely 1-0 win in Latvia). The once Magical Magyars will have to contest the playoffs to try to make it to their first major tournament in 30 years.