Twelve of the teams taking part in next summer’s European Championships have already confirmed their places in the competition; however, the remaining four spots for Poland and Ukraine have still to be decided via two legged play-offs. The first legs took place on the evening of Friday November 11, here is a summary of the action and, of course, the all-important scores.
Czech Republic 2-0 Montenegro
The Czechs took a huge step towards assuring their qualification on Friday night after running out 2-0 winners in the home leg of their play-off against Montenegro. Boosted by the fitness of Petr Cech in goal, the Czechs dominated possession for large parts of the game, although it took them until the 63rd minute to break down Montenegro’s well organised defence. When the goal finally came, it was worth the wait; a fine right footed drive from 20 yards out, which Pilar buried in the far corner, a really classy strike. Czech Republic continued to press for a second, with captain, Thomas Rosicky , at the heart of everything good, it was his perfectly flighted free-kick which allowed Tomas Sivok to head a crucial second goal in stoppage time. Montenegro had a couple of long range efforts at the beginning of the second half, but overall, nothing to really trouble Cech. Final score 2-0, the Czechs look good to qualify.
Turkey 0-3 Croatia
Croatia stunned Turkey in Istanbul on Friday night with an exceptional counter attacking performance, piling the pressure on Turkey boss Guus Hiddink. It took just a minute and a half for Croatia to take the lead, Olic tapping in from close range after Volkan, the Turkish keeper, failed to deal with a low cross. The visitors double their lead on 32 minutes when Mandzukic nodded in a far post cross, with keeper Volkan again seemingly at fault, this time with his positioning. The game was wrapped up after just 51 minutes, when Vedran Corluka of Tottenham escaped his marker to head in from a free kick. Although Turkey dominated possession for large parts of the game, they really struggled against a compact, disciplined Croatia, failing to create any real, noteworthy opportunities in the match. Boos from the home fans rang round the stadium at the final whistle, along with calls for Hiddink to go. Revenge for Croatia, after losing cruelly to Turkey in a shoot-out at Euro 2008. Barring a catastrophe, they look certain to qualify, final score: Turkey 0-3 Croatia.
Estonia 0-4 Republic of Ireland
Ireland all but confirmed their progression into Euro 2012 proper with an emphatic victory over Estonia in Tallinn on Friday. Taking the lead after 13 minutes with a header from Andrews, Ireland didn’t look back. Estonia responded brightly, Vassilijev causing the Irish defence some problems, however, the loss of centre back Stepanovs on 32 minutes for a mistimed tackle on Robbie Keane which earned him a second yellow card, effectively ended the game as a contest. After the break, Ireland were too strong for 10 man Estonia, Jonathan Walters capping a fine personal performance with a headed goal to make it 0-2 on 66 minutes. Moments later Robbie Keane scored a typical poacher’s goal, Andrews swerving free-kick parried by the keeper, Keane, following up, tapped in the rebound from close range. Estonia felt hard done by after 76 minutes, when the referee reduced them to nine men, sending off Piiroja, the other centre back, for a deliberate handball. Insult was added to injury when Ireland were awarded what looked like a soft penalty late on; Keane made no mistake from the spot. Final score: Estonia 0-4 Rep. of Ireland, Ireland can book flights for Poland and Ukraine.
Bosnia 0-0 Portugal
Bosnia and Portugal left their play-off tie very much in the balance after playing out a goalless draw on a less than perfect pitch in Bosnia on Friday. The Portuguese had the best of the game with Ronaldo coming close on four occasions, and Helder Postiga blazing a good chance over the bar in the first half. The home side came alive in the final quarter of the game, Edin Dzeko coming close with a long range effort. Indeed Bosnia might have won it had substitute Vedad Ibisevic’s finishing been better, Ibisevic missed two great chances late on in the game, the first the result of a poor first touch, the second demonstrating a lack of composure as he blazed the ball over the bar having been put through by Pjanic. The two teams meet again on Tuesday in Portugal in what is sure to be a hard fought encounter, Portugal will be favourites, but Bosnia possess enough quality to cause them serious problems.
Twelve of the teams taking part in next summer’s European Championships have already confirmed their places in the competition; however, the remaining four spots for Poland and Ukraine were decided on Tuesday evening as the second legs of the qualification play-offs took place. Here is a round-up of all the action and results.
Croatia 0-0 Turkey
Goals from Olic, Mandzukic and Vedran Corluka in the first leg in Turkey last Friday evening had all but secured Croatia’s qualification for Poland and Ukraine, however, manager Slavan Bilic still believed that there was work to be done last night. Turkey streamed forward in a desperate bid to pressurise Croatia from the start, Colin Kazim Richards hitting the post after four minutes and having another shot saved in the early stages of the game. It didn’t take long for Croatia to produce chances of their own though, Olic the first to come close. As the half progressed, Turkey were restricted to efforts from range, Altintop testing Pletikosa from thirty yards, before missing with another effort. Croatia finished the opening period stronger, Rakitic missing two great chances, Modric denied by Bolat, with Srna and Mandzukic firing over the bar. The second half never really got going, Turkey resigned to their fate, offered little in the way of quality and it was Croatia who looked the more likely to score with Rakitic, Srna and Perisic coming close. Final score Croatia 0-0 Turkey, Croatia go through 3-0 on aggregate.
Republic of Ireland 1-1 Estonia
The final result of this tie was never in doubt after the Irish ran out 0-4 winners in the first leg in Estonia, all Estonia could really hope for in Dublin was to salvage some pride. Ireland came flying out of the blocks, Robbie Keane missing two great early chances to put them in front. Estonia rallied, Vassiljiev trying to dictate the play for them in the midfield, but were unable to create any real chances before Stephen Ward scored for Ireland. The goal came I5 minutes before half-time, Ward pouncing on the rebound after Kevin Doyle’s header, from Duff’s corner, had been saved. In the second half the Estonians pressed Ireland more effectively, and got the reward their perseverance deserved on 54 minutes, Vassiljiev striking a swerving shot from 25 yards which Given allowed to go under his body- an uncharacteristic error. There was to be no come-back however, Given was forced to make one further save of note 15 minutes from the end, after that the game played out with no surprises. Final score Ireland 1-1 Estonia, Ireland through 5-1 on aggregate.
Montenegro 0-1 Czech Republic
The Czech Republic came into this match with a 2-0 lead from the first leg on Friday but were given more than a couple of hairy moments by an energetic and committed Montenegrin side, who can count themselves unlucky to have lost this game. The first half was characterised by the teams cancelling each other out, neither producing any real clear cut chances. The second half saw Montenegro push forward in search of the goals they so desperately needed. Within the first five minutes Vucinic had a shot blocked before Damjanovic almost found the corner but was thwarted by Petr Cech. Five minutes later Vucinic headed a chance over the bar, and in the 71st minute Vucinic again forced Cech to pull off heroics in the Czech goal, this time with a double save. Motenegro also smashed a shot against the crossbar in a frantic fifteen minute spell. The sucker punch came in the 83rd minute, Jiracek latched on to a pass from Popesch to fire the ball home for the Czech Republic. Final score Montenegro 0-1 Czech Republic, the Czechs qualify 3-0 on aggregate.
Portugal 6-2 Bosnia
Portugal booked their place in next summer’s finals in emphatic fashion on Tuesday night, thumping six past a Bosnian side reduced to ten men shortly after half-time. The first-leg between these two had been a fairly tight affair which ended 0-0, the second leg however, exploded into life when excellent long range strikes, the first a free kick from Ronaldo, the second from Nani, put the hosts 2-0 up inside half an hour. Bosnia pulled one back before the break, Misimovic scoring from the spot after Coentrao had handled. Ronaldo restored the two goal advantage minutes into the second half, this time rounding Begovic to slot home, Lulic was sent off for violent conduct moments later. The ten men managed to get themselves back into the game, Spahic scrambling the ball home on 68 minutes. Portugal put the game to bed four minutes later when Helder Postiga rifled a shot past Begovic from the edge of the box. Portugal scored again ten minutes from time, another wonderful free kick, this time from Veloso before Postiga tapped in his second of the evening to wrap up an impressive display. Final score Portugal 6-2 Bosnia, Portugal win 6-2 on aggregate.
This article was commissioned by and published on http://www.euro-2012-blog.com/ . First published 11/11.