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Euro 2012 playoffs approach

Euro 2012 Playoff Predictions

By | 7th November 2011

All but four countries have booked their ticket to next summer’s finals in Poland and Ukraine, but the quality among the eight undecided sides have created some intriguing ties, with the prospect of going on a run a la Greece always ever-present.

The play-off’s two legs will be played on the 11th and 15th of the coming month, with the following countries paired against each other in the final decisive battles of the qualifying phase.

Turkey v Croatia

Both sides will remember the classic Euro 2008 quarterfinal which saw Turkey overcome the Balkan side among great drama. Croatia’s midfield runs through Luka Modric, and the Tottenham star is one of Europe’s best pivot men, and with Darijo Srna and Ivan Rakitic accompanying him, Guus Hiddink may have a few sleepless nights ahead yet.

But with Real Madrid combo Nuri Sahin and Hamit Altintop among their ranks, Turkey will not be stood aside either, and their home crowd will be a formidable venue for the tie’s first leg. Slaven Bilic’s side have a massive talent pool to choose from, and a failure to qualify for a second consecutive tournament will be a profound disappointment especially given the extreme success of Croatian players in Europe’s top leagues.

Prediction: Croatia 2-1 (over two legs)

Estonia v Republic of Ireland

Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland have again managed the play-offs with courage, determination, and perhaps some native luck in abundance. His system is rigid and his squad selections may fly in the face of popular opinion, and the aesthetic is more Barnsley than Barcelona.

But the Italian has brought his adopted country to 25th in the world, and Ireland must be favoured. Estonia completed a whirlwind comeback to snatch second spot on the final match-day of qualification, beating Serbia and Slovenia to a play-off berth.

Taarmo Ruutli may juggle his national team job with his domestic duties as manager of FC Nomme United, but his side have thrived in the clutch thus far.

The second leg in Dublin will undoubtedly be the biggest event in the newly-opened Aviva Stadium for some time. The prospect of finals football since the first time since the 2002 World Cup will spur on Ireland’s last mainstays of a generation, and the will of Given, Dunne, Keane, etc, should prove too much for 59th ranked Estonia.

Prediction: Ireland 1-0 (over two legs)

Montenegro v Czech Republic

Montenegro proved themselves a dangerous opponent when matched with England, and with Mirko Vucinic and Stevan Jovetic up front, even the great Petr Cech will surely have to be at his best.

Michal Belik has been Czech Republic boss since 2009, and his side do have a more experienced disposition even given a cursory look at their ages. Zlatko Kranjcar made seemingly good progress, but the Football Association of Montenegro deemed that he didn’t meet their requirements, and long-time assistant Branko Brnovic has been at the helm since.

Tomas Rosicky and Milan Baros each have more than 80 caps, as does Cech, and the Czechs are far from the easiest team to draw. But Montenegro’s confidence and attacking ability should give them the edge.

Prediction: Montenegro 4-Czech Republic (over two legs)

Portugal v Bosnia-Herzegovina

With Lionel Messi’s recent disappointment with Argentina at the Copa America perhaps fresh in his and the media’s memory, Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal have the squad depth and quality to legitimately consider themselves potential winners.

But any potential heroics will be on the other side of 180 minutes against a Bosnian side who narrowly failed to qualify for South Africa, and one that just missed gaining automatic qualification against a strong France side.

Edin Dzeko’s scintillating form at Manchester City has seen him emerge as one of Europe’s hottest strikers, and Ricardo Carvalho’s decision to retire from the side mid-qualification could prove to have negative consequences. Asmir Begovic will also prove a tough nut to crack, even for a prolific offense like Portugal’s.

Portugal’s talent beckons, but Bosnia’s resilience will provide the  defining challenge.

Prediction: 3-3 (Portugal to progress on penalties)

Reader Comments

The below views are those of our readers and do not reflect the opinions of Premiership Talk or its employees.
  1. Pabz says:

    Some interesting predictions there…. Good article ;)

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