All four of the home nations tasted victory over the first half of the international weekend as the probability of qualification for the Euros increases.
England thrashed Lithuania 4-0, Scotland beat Gibraltar 6-1, Wales were sensational in winning 3-0 in Israel and Northern Ireland beat Finland 2-1 at Windsor Park.
Here are three reasons why all four teams can rendez-vouz in France next year!
Scotland in prime position to claim play-off spot
Sitting in third in a group featuring Germany, Poland and Ireland, Scotland have done themselves plenty of favours at the halfway stage. Gordon Strachan’s men currently occupy the highest position in the third-place rankings, a spot that would ensure qualification without the requirement for a play-off. If they can hold off the challenge from Ireland, and crucially avoid defeat in Dublin when they meet again in June, Scotland could be dreaming of a first major tournament since France 98!
Euro 2004 champs Greece hopes all but over in Group F
Top seeds in Group F, Greece, have won none of their five games so far and face a near-impossible challenge to make the finals. This has been great for Northern Ireland, who sit in second place after their thrilling win over Finland on Sunday. Initially drawn as fifth seeds, Michael O’Neil’s men have recorded four victories and stunned Europe in their fight to qualify. This group doesn’t feature a European power struggling to get going, therefore Northern Ireland won’t fear a resurgent Hungary, Romania or Greece, and are set to become the most surprising qualifier from the British Isles.
Wales, with a golden generation featuring Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, know that they are good enough to make France 2016, and the win in Israel was proof of a decent group of players coming together. Northern Ireland too know that they have a weak group and have shown tremendous character to win all but one of their games to date, whilst Scotland have shown decent organisation under Strachan, if not coherent performances. Not only that but that expansion to 24 teams makes this European Championships the most open ever, and has afforded the likes of Wales, Ireland and Scotland to believe they can qualify. It has been an outstanding first half for all of the British Isles, who could all make the short journey across the Channel to compete in France!