Wales still knocking on door, Iceland gain entry

Gareth Bale is exasperated after his goal is disallowed. But Wales just need two more points from their two remaining matches to qualify for Euro 2016.
Gareth Bale is exasperated after his goal is disallowed. But Wales just need two more points from their two remaining matches to qualify for Euro 2016. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • There was disappointment for Wales and joy for Iceland after Sunday's round of Euro 2016 qualifying matches.

Wales manager Chris Coleman said his players could not disguise their disappointment after squandering a chance to qualify for the finals in France following a goalless draw with Israel.

Victory at the Cardiff City Stadium would have taken Wales to a first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup Finals.

But, despite dominating, they were repeatedly thwarted by Israel goalkeeper Ofir Marciano.

Wales require only two points from their final two games, away to Bosnia-Herzegovina and at home to minnows Andorra, to qualify.

But, while they remain masters of their own fate, Coleman had been banking on a different outcome.

"You can sense a bit of disappointment on their faces," said the former Wales centre-back.

"We've all been thinking about it - celebrating after the game with the Welsh public."

With Israel adopting an unfamiliar five-man defence and packing men behind the ball, Wales were allowed to control possession.

But when they did pierce the visitors' defence, they found Marciano in their way.

Coleman felt Wales were denied a "blatant" penalty in the second half when a cross from Gareth Bale struck Eytan Tibi on the hand. He criticised the goal-line assistant, standing 3m away, for not flagging.

"I still don't know what they (goal-line assistants) do, to be honest," he said. "Maybe they're talking in the referee's ear, but when they're in a better position than the referee, they need to make the call.

"That's what they're there for."

Israel coach Eli Guttman dismissed Wales' protests, claiming it was "not at all" a handball.

He also brushed off concerns about his side's inability to create chances and said they had fulfilled their objectives for the game.

Iceland became the smallest nation to qualify for the finals of the European Championship, thanks to their point from a goalless draw with Kazakhstan.

The Nordic nation boasts an estimated population of around 329,100. And 23 of them will be selected to compete at Euro 2016 in France next summer.

Six wins from their previous seven games proved to be a solid foundation. And a further Group A point, against Kazakhstan in Reykjavik, got Iceland over the line.

Previously, Slovenia had been the smallest nation to reach the finals when they qualified for Euro 2000.

The population was estimated at 1,988,292 in July last year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2015, with the headline 'Wales still knocking on door, Iceland gain entry'. Print Edition | Subscribe