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Four take-aways from first leg

By | 13th November 2011

After the first leg of the Euro 2012 play-offs, there were a wide variety of results to compare and analyze before the second leg on Tuesday. Some ties already look finished, while some are still very much alive.

We take a look at one thing we learned from each match.

Croatia remain world class

A 3-0 demolition of Turkey reaffirms that despite missing out on the World Cup, Croatia are still a team with enough quality and talent to win the European Championships. Slaven Bilic’s side went ahead in the 2nd minute through Ivica Olic, and further strikes from Mario Mandzukic and Vedran Corluka meant the result was never in doubt.

Guus Hiddink will have to provoke a miracle from his side Tuesday if they are to somehow get to Poland and Ukraine next summer, but it will be an uphill battle, to say the least, and the home fans will expect another Croatia victory after their magnificent display in Istanbul on Friday.

Czech experience is key

Despite changing managers in the middle of the campaign, Montenegro’s strong showings against England and the other teams in their group meant that no one was looking forward to drawing the side containing Mirko Vucinic, Stevan Jovetic, and Stefan Savic, among others.

But it was a poised and mature display from the home side that gave them a 2-0 advantage going back to the Balkan nation; Tomas Rosicky was influential in midfield, Petr Cech kept a clean sheet, and Tomas Sivok’s goal to make it 2-0 in injury time showed why Montenegro may have to wait a while longer to get to a major tournament, despite showing promise.

Irish end heartbreak

After the much-referenced tragedy of their World Cup 2010 play-off failure against France, Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland side knew Estonia was the best possible draw to end their 10 year major tournament absence, and progress from a play-off for just the second time in their seventh attempt.

Trap’s sides have been a lot of things, but the four goals the Irish scored surprised everyone, and the return leg on Tuesday should serve as a party celebrating qualification, considering Estonia will be missing two players who were red-carded, and their starting goalkeeper who has accumulated too many yellows. Robbie Keane again led the way, with an assist and two goals to bring his total to 53 for his country.

Portugal and Bosnia still have everything to fight for

Portugal failed to put a goal past Bosnia-Herzegovina in Zenica, and the return leg in Lisbon will have supporters from both sides on edge. The Bosnians lost in the play-off stage for the 2010 World Cup, and barely missed topping their group thanks to a Samir Nasri penalty which saw France take first.

The Portugese may have more top-level players, but this Bosnia side are well-organized and have a real belief in their abilities. You would probably bet on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Raul Meireles, and Joao Moutinho to get at least a goal in front of the home fans, but in that case, count the Balkan visitors led by Edin Dzeko out at your own risk. This tie is still very much on a knife-edge.

Reader Comments

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

    I agree with you Tony. Ronaldo has been showing his ignorance and cockiness for way too long. I really do hope Bosnia (my motherland) defeats the Portugese on my birthday. Being Bosnian, of course I am a little biased, but fuck all those comments about the pitch. Both teams played on the same pitch, and yes, our players are also used to nice stadiums of big teams and leagues that they play in. However, our home teams do not have the money to build magnificent stadiums, and I really am eager to watch the game in Lisbon as it will be advantageous to both sides (when it comes to the quality of the surface). I believe this is finally our time to shine. We don’t have superstars, but we stand as a team, and hopefully we will be the stronger side at the end. (Fun fact – as a country with 4 mil population – we had 15 000 fans in Paris cheering our side.. Portugal had 0 in Bosnia.. it simply proves how much this matters to the entire nation).. we want our steak of world class tournament joy.. enough of the arrogant CR7s.. time for UNICEF ambassador, smiley and genuine DZEKO or the humble youngster Pjanic.. or even the talented (better looking than Ronaldo) Begovic (who shares the last name with me) to show their capacities at a world class stage. (YES, this is a SHAMELESS PLUG.. and thanks for reading.. even bigger thanks if you’re sympathetic with the Bosnian 11 – it’s hard to be when all the news about us are based on war, terrorism and general balkans backwardness (most of which is untrue).

  2. Tony says:

    The Croats and Irish did well to win away, the Montenegrins were probably playing of their heads when they changed managers and are soon to be dispatched. The Portugese on the other hand are an enigma. They have talent but Ronaldo is such a poor leader that team cohesiveness may be lacking. I find the primadonna attitude and arrogance distasteful and I hope Bosnia pulls through- what a feal good story that would be! Yes the Portugese are accurate in lamenting the poor quality pitch in Bosnia but let us not forget that Bosnia is a poor country that needs this tournament for so many reasons. On the other hand there is Ronaldo who thinks we dislike him because he is rich and handsome.. His words, his arrogance, and Portugals shame. Go Bosnia! They need a Wayne Rooney of their own me thinks!

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