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For the second night in a row, FC Barcelona players played prominent roles in leading their national teams to all-important victories in the home stretch of qualifying for the 2016 UEFA European Championships, to be held in France next summer. On Friday night, a quartet of Barça internationals helped Spain stamp their ticket to France, while on Saturday night, midfielders Ivan Rakitic and Arda Turan helped Croatia and Turkey avoid having their tickets ripped up and tossed into the rubbish bin.
The two were instrumental in keeping their countrymen's hopes alive as qualifying goes down to the wire. At the Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb, Rakitic scored in the 2nd and the 42nd minutes to lead hosts Croatia to a 3–0 victory over Bulgaria in Group H play. Nikola Kalinic added a goal just nine minutes from time. Rakitic played all 90 minutes in the win.
The Croatians are comfortably in third place in Group H and, at the very least, have clinched a birth in the playoff round, where eight third-place teams will battle it out for the final four spots. Nevertheless, they would prefer to beat last-place Malta on Tuesday night and get help by having leaders Italy topple second-place Norway, which would hand Croatia the second slot and a guaranteed ticket to France.
Meanwhile, in Group A action on Saturday night, FC Barcelona summer signing and Turkey captain Arda Turan played 86 minutes as his team, currently in third place, beat second place Czech Republic at the Generali Arena in Prague. Selçuk İnan scored on a 62nd minute penalty kick and Hakan Çalhanoğlu capped the scoring for Turkey in the 79th. The Turks are barely hanging onto a playoff slot, just two points ahead of fourth-place The Netherlands, who won 2–1 at Kazakhstan, also on Saturday night.
The final qualifier for both teams is on Tuesday as Turkey host Group A leaders Iceland while the Netherlands head back to Amsterdam to take on the Czech Republic. With the top two teams already having clinched, things could get a little crazy on Tuesday as either Turkey or Holland could be in or out depending on what happens.
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