Today, we found out what the four playoff matchups for Euro 2012 will be.
The four matchups are as follows:
Ireland vs. Estonia
Portugal vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Croatia vs. Turkey
Czech Republic vs. Montenegro
All eight of these sides were impressive in qualifying, and all four of these matchups have the possibility of providing a classic playoff.
Here's my preview of each playoff matchup.
Its the first time that these two sides have met each other since World Cup qualifying in 2002, where Ireland defeated Estonia 2-0 both times that they met.
Ireland got this matchup after finishing second behind Russia in Group B. Estonia, who finished second in Group C, have never qualified for a major tournament.
History is not favoring the Irish in this matchup.
Ireland have now been to seven playoff rounds in their history, and only in 2002 did they qualify for a tournament after they defeated Iran in a playoff.
In this matchup, Ireland are the favorite, and I expect that they will advance onto Euro 2012 with wins in both legs.
In a rematch of the 2009 World Cup qualifying playoff, Portugal will look to once again beat Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach a tournament.
Portugal got into this spot after failing to hold onto their lead in Group H on the final day with a loss to Denmark. Meanwhile, Bosnia and Herzegovina were held to a draw in Paris on their final day of qualification.
This matchup will be interesting to see after they met in a playoff several years ago, but I see Portugal beating Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach Euro 2012 in this matchup.
Considering the history between these two sides, Portugal will probably defeat Bosnia and Herzegovina in Portugal in the second leg to reach the tournament after a tough first leg in Zenica.
The last time that these two sides met each other, it was in the quarterfinals of Euro 2008 in what turned out to be one of the best matches ever in a European championship.
In this instance, Turkey were able to come back from the death yet again to score a tying goal in extra time stoppage time after Croatia scored just minutes before. Turkey went on to win on penalties to reach the semifinals.
This time around, Turkey got into this position after beating out Belgium on the last day to finish second in Group A, while Croatia finished second to Greece in Group F.
The matchup between these two sides has the potential to be the best matchup out of all four qualifying playoffs.
Unfortunately for Croatia, Turkey will once again get the best of them here after playing well to close out the tournament.
Sadly, we probably won't see such a close matchup between these two sides again like we saw in 2008.
After getting eliminated by Turkey in Euro 2008 in the final minutes of the group stage, the Czech Republic will face a Montenegro side that has never qualified for a major tournament.
The Czech Republic were able to beat out Scotland to reach this tournament after winning in their final Group I match. Meanwhile, Montenegro were able to beat out Switzerland from some strong results in the middle of their qualifying run—making it this far is, in itself, a victory.
I see the Czech Republic taking care of Montenegro with ease in this matchup after putting together a fantastic performance in Prague in the first leg.
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