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After the Home Nations who aren't England met their traditionally disappointing ends, what does the nature of their failures tell us about their futures?
The playoff draw for UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying has been made, with a rematch between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Portugal highlighting the fixtures.
Hands up if you didn't have Spain winning Group I. If your hand is up, put it down. It's not ironic or funny and nobody likes you.
Anyway, with Lithuania and Liechtenstein propping up the group, things looked all set up for a shootout between the Czech Republic and Scotland for second place, and Scotland at one point drew to Lithuania, which left them needing to go to Spain and win in order to secure a playoff spot. Needless to say, that wasn't going to happen, and it's the Czechs who emerge from Group I alongside the world champions.
In what will appear to some casual football fans as a minor upset, Denmark was able to defeat Portugal at home on the final matchday of Euro 2012 qualifying, securing their place in this summer's finals. They were the better team for much of their 2-1 home victory, with Cristiano Ronaldo's goal for the visitors coming deep in stoppage time. Morten Olsen has been manager of the Danish national team since 2000, and once again showed off his tactical acumen as Denmark were more organized and more prepared-looking for Tuesday's big game. Here's the final table.
The final results are a bit harsh on Norway, who had a solid campaign and probably deserved better. In many groups, they would have been good enough to nick second place. Instead, that honor goes to Portugal. In disappointing fashion, just like with the 2010 World Cup, they will need to qualify via the playoffs. They are one of the seeded teams and cannot draw Croatia, Ireland, or the Czech Republic.
Anyone worth their footballing salt would have had Montenegro as dark horses to challenge Switzerland for runners up behind England in Group G, but I don't think anyone expected the ease at which they dealt with claiming a playoff spot - they'd already wrapped up second before losing to Switzerland on the final matchday, and they acquitted themselves very well against the leaders with draws in London and Podgorica.
Elsewhere, England did their usual trick of oscilating between good and disappointing, with the most crucial result for them yet to come - this week will see the length of Wayne Rooney's group stages ban revealed following the Manchester United striker's straight red against Montenegro. Switzerland could have done better but simply couldn't recover after losing two of their last three. Wales and Bulgaria, unsurprisingly, were both bad.
In what was almost certainly the weakest qualifying group in Euro 2012 qualification, Greece was able to squeak through in dramatic fashion, winning Group F on the final day to qualify for the finals this summer. Croatia led Latvia for the entirety of their match, while Greece trailed Georgia early. However, an injury after they had already used all three subs took Georgia down to ten men and Greece pounced, coming back to win 2-1 away in Georgia to take the group. Here are the final group standings.
Croatia will have to qualify for the finals through the playoffs after finishing in second place. They are one of the seeded playoff teams, and cannot draw fellow second place sides Ireland, Portugal and the Czech Republic.
The Netherlands cruised through qualification and nearly emerged with a 100 percent record, although Sweden managed to trip them up in Stockholm on the last day to put an end to that. It was a bit too easy for the Dutch in a group that included both Moldova and San Marino, which is some pretty stupid scheduling by UEFA, if anyone wants my opinion.
Anyway, Sweden, with eight wins and two losses, managed to clinch the coveted 'best runner up' position, which came with automatic qualification to the summer tournament. Hurray Sweden. Boo rest of group! Especially San Marino and it's -53 goal differential. If you want to become an international footballer, I'd suggest moving there and naturalising. Perhaps you could overthrow the government and become a captain-regent too.
France were hardly impressive on the final day of qualifying, but they did enough to secure a point against Bosnia-Herzegovina on the final matchday of Euro 2012 qualifying, securing themselves a place in the finals. Romania were once one of the better sides in Europe, but they've since been passed by Bosnia in quality by quite some distance and were never really a factor in qualifying. Here's the final table.
Though Bosnia were the much better team for the opening 60 minutes of their last match against France, they eventually conceded an equalizer after starting 1-0 up and will have to qualify for Euro 2012 via the playoffs. They are an unseeded team, meaning they will play one of Portugal, Croatia, Ireland or the Czech Republic.
Well that was pretty easy for Italy, wasn't it? Ten matches, two goals scored per match on average, two goals conceded in total, enough for 26 points and a ten-point lead at the top of Group C. Despite the debacle at South Africa last summer, Italy still boast an extremely strong team and will probably give a good showing of themselves in Poland/Ukraine this summer.
Second place brought us a real surprise as Serbia found themselves pipped by tiny Estonia, perhaps in part due to the 3-0 loss they were punished with in Italy after their fans ran riot. That's not to take anything away from Estonia, however - they managed to earn wins against every team in the group save Italy, including a key 3-1 victory in Belgrade that in retrospect was the major result in the group.
There were interesting stories in slots 4-6, with Slovenia ensuring Serbia wouldn't take second place and a playoff spot thanks to a second-half penalty save to earn a 1-0 win in the final matchday, while the Faroe Islands managed to notch a rare international win by beating... Estonia, weirdly. What a strange little group this was.
Russia is into Euro 2012 after defeating Andorra on the final matchday of the campaign, while the Republic of Ireland will enter the playoff draw thanks to a victory over Armenia. Macedonia had been counted out of the running long ago, while Slovakia were eliminated from contention late in qualifying in disappointing fashion. Surprisingly, Armenia controlled their own destiny as far as gaining a playoff spot until the very end, but they couldn't get a result away to Ireland. Here's the final Group B table.
Ireland will be one of the seeded playoff teams, and cannot draw Croatia, Portugal, or the Czech Republic.
There was never much doubt about which team would end up triumphant in Group A - Germany were third place in last year's World Cup and beaten finalists in the 2008 European Championships. It therefore came as no surprise that they crushed their way to the top with a perfect record and a great +27 goal differential - all this in a group with no real minnows.
The Turkey-Belgium fight, on the other hand, was an fascinating one, and although Turkey ended up edging things in the end had Belgium been a little bit more careful not to, say, draw 4-4 at home to Austria, the young team may well have found themselves with a place in the playoffs. Instead, that goes to Guus Hiddink's side, who are still alive for a place in Euro 2012.
None of the rest of the teams in the group were particularly bad, but Kazakhstan were a relative disappointment after a spirited showing in qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup. Still, picking anyone out of Austria, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to emerge from this group with three clearly superior teams ahead of them would have gotten you a hit on the head with the ensaneing stick. Reality agreed.
The Euro 2012 field is 75 percent set after Tuesday's action, while four spots still remain to be decided. Six teams joined previously qualified Germany, Netherlands, England and Spain in the final matchday, along with the two hosts Poland and Ukraine. Here are all of the teams who have qualified for Euro 2012 thus far.
Poland - Tournament co-hosts
Ukraine - Tournament co-hosts
Germany - Group A winners
Russia - Group B winners
Italy - Group C winners
France - Group D winners
Netherlands - Group E winners
Greece - Group F winners
England - Group G winners
Denmark - Group H winners
Spain - Group I winners
Sweden - Group E runners up, best runners up
Eight teams will contest the playoffs, with four teams advancing to Euro 2012 after a home and away aggregate series. UEFA will determine the teams' final coefficients, then conduct a draw with four seeded teams and four unseeded teams. Those eight teams are:
Well, that was a bit of a let-down. France struggled for the opening 60 minutes of their Euro 2012 qualifying match against Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Stade de France, but the visitors were only able to manage one goal from that period of success. With around 30 minutes left and desperation setting in, France stepped on the gas. Samir Nasri was poor for most of the game, but with one great move he was able to draw a penalty, which he converted in the 78th minute to give his team a 1-1 draw.
Nasri was absolutely fouled by Emir Spahic during the sequence that led to the penalty, but it appeared that the foul occurred outside the box. France was far superior from the 60th minute until the goal and it felt like an equalizer was always inevitable - especially when Asmir Begovic made a number of stunning saves between the 69th and 75th minutes - but Bosnia will not be happy with the penalty decision.
Bosnia's goal came from Edin Dzeko on an absolutely brilliant curling shot, but it didn't help them in the end. They will now head to the playoffs, while France go through to Euro 2012.
It's amazing, really, what a little bit of a domino effect can have on a tiny team that has never before qualified for either the World Cup or the European Championships. It probably all started when Serbia forfeited their match against Italy last October, giving gli azzurri all three points. Estonia did their best to keep Serbia in contention, losing three in a row before getting frustrated and winning their final three matches.
Still, the playoff spot was Serbia's to lose. They could have clinched it with a win over Italy on Friday, but all they could find was a comical, practically unintentional goal by Branislav Ivanovic. And they could have seen off Slovenia, but instead it was the home side that took the lead, off a strike from distance by Dare Vrsic. Serbia could have pulled themselves back in, but Nemanja Vidic missed a penalty -- although a simple draw would have seen Estonia go through, anyway, based on a superior head to head record.
So congratulations to Estonia, and best of luck on getting through the playoffs and into Euro 2012 proper.
Things we have learned today:
Things we already knew and didn't need explained to us by watching this match: Spain are much better than Scotland.
Yeah, anyway - Spain and Scotland had a match today in Spain. Scotland needed to win, which sounded kind of funny because it's like Swansea City going to Old Trafford needing three points - i.e. never happening. David Silva made sure the visitors were aware of the futility of their quest with a sixth minute goal before making things even more painful with a lovely second on the edge of halftime.
When he provided David Villa with an assist shortly after the break, it was starting to get to the point of rudeness, so Victor Valdes took some pity on them by fouling whoever Craig Mackail-Smith is in the area to give Scotland a penalty, which Craig Goodwillie converted to make it 3-1. Sympathy over, Spain went back to ripping their visitors apart. It was slightly odd that they didn't score again - Santi Carzola and Fernando Llorente both had excellent chances to make it 4-1, but three goals was more than enough. Spain are through to the finals with a 100 percent qualifying record, and Scotland are out.
Italy already secured automatic qualification for Euro 2012 last month, based on having the best record in Group C. Northern Ireland had nothing left to play for, sitting second to last in the group, but (as far as I know) there's no mercy rule in European Championship qualification, and this match had to be played. Is there little wonder, then, that Italy won 3-0?
There was, however, a man on the pitch with a point to prove: Antonio Cassano, who wasn't part of the Azzurri's 2010 World Cup squad. Cassano scored his first against Northern Ireland with a volley from a perfect Daniele De Rossi pass. His second, provided by Alberto Aquilani, hit the inside of the post and bounced in. With his brace in today's match, Cassano has scored the most goals for Italy during Euro qualification, with six in ten matches. It's probably safe to say Fatanonio is on his way to Poland / Ukraine.
PS -- Italy's third? It came courtesy of Goal, Own, playing for Northern Ireland.
Sweden and the Netherlands have both qualified directly for Euro 2012 after an amazing game of football in Stockholm which saw two teams forego anything in the way of defending and just batter each other for ninety minutes. The Dutch didn't much care what happened in the match, of course - they were already guaranteed of the top spot in Group E, but the hosts could ensure automatic qualification with a win and they made it clear that they were going for one from the start.
Kim Kallstrom got them off on the right foot with a 25 yard strike past Swansea City goalkeeper Michel Vorm, but that goal was quickly cancelled out through Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's header ten minutes later. After half time, things got really interesting, with Dirk Kuyt knocking home a rebound to spark a crazy period that saw three goals scored in as many minutes. Straight from the kickoff, Sweden won a penalty thanks to Jeffrey Bruma handling the ball in the box, and no sooner had Sebastian Larsson swept it home than the hosts had added another goal, this time with Ola Toivonen stroking home from the edge of the box after the ball broke lose.
Turning the score from 1-2 to 3-2 in their favour failed to curtail Sweden's attacking instinct and they continued to bomb forwards whenever they could, although Holland were mostly giving as good as they got in a match that just wouldn't stop happening. Huntelaar had a possible equaliser well saved by Andreas Isaksson and Rasmus Elm saw an audacious 50 yard free kick tipped over by Vorm before Cuneyt Cakir signalled for three minutes of injury time - minutes that were successfully navigated by the hosts to put them through as the best second place team in Euro 2012 qualifying.
Denmark are through to the finals of Euro 2012 as winners of Group H, while Portugal will have to enter the playoff draw. Morten Olsen has proved his worth as a tactician once again while Denmark has kept their 100 percent home qualifying record intact, defeating Portugal 2-1 in the final round of Euro 2012 qualification. Only a Cristiano Ronaldo goal deep into stoppage time stopped Denmark from shutting out all opponents at home during qualifying.
Michael Krohn-Delhi scored the opener on a deflected shot in the 13th minute, scoring the only goal in the first half as Denmark went into the locker room up 1-0. Portugal pressed for an equalizer late in the half, but came up empty despite numerous chances.
Nicklas Bendtner solidified his team's lead with a goal in the 63rd minute, assisted by veteran Dennis Rommendahl. At this point, Olsen begin to solidify his team and shut up shop, bringing holding midfielder Christian Poulsen off the bench in the 70th minute. His strategy worked as Portugal was contained for the remainder of the match, failing to score until stoppage time, when Cristiano Ronaldo scored a fantastic, but ultimately meaningless goal.
Remember all of those things Laurent Blanc was supposed to change about France? All the negative things they did under Raymond Domenech like looking disorganized and unmotivated? So far in their massive Euro 2012 qualifying match against Bosnia-Herzegovina, he's been unable to accomplish that. Les Bleues have looked absolutely abysmal thus far, and Edin Dzeko's wonderful 40th minute strike gave Bosnia no less than they deserved, as they lead 1-0 at halftime.
The away team has done all of the attacking thus far at the Stade de France, and it's going to take a major turnaround from France for this result to turn. If Bosnia wins, they qualify directly for Euro 2012 while France goes to the playoff round.
Bosnia have had all of the ball and all of the chances in the early going, with France showing little organization and even less creativity. Holding midfielder Yann M'Vila, a player who has been fantastic for France even in their poor showings, was the man who was most responsible for Dzeko's goal - not to take anything away from the curling 20-yard strike. If M'Vila isn't on his game, France lacks structure, and without Franck Ribery and Matheu Valbuena in the team, they lack creativity. Unfortunately, the options on the bench are unlikely to give them either.
Slovenia have made things interesting in Group C by taking a 1-0 lead over Serbia just before the halftime whistle. Dare Vrsic took a shot from about 35 yards out, surprising everyone, including Serbia keeper Bojan Jorgacevic. The ball sailed into the left corner of the net to give Slovenia, who are already unable to qualify for the Euro 2012 playoffs, a surprise lead.
Serbia, who already made a mess for themselves last year when the behavior of their fans saw their match against Italy forfeited, with Italy awarded a 3-0 win, will find themselves out of Euro 2012 contention if they can't produce a win in Slovenia. Estonia, who have already played all ten matches, have a superior head to head record over Serbia, and will go through even if Serbia draw.
45 minutes left, Serbia. It may be time to calm down and stop firing off random shots. Make Samir Handanovic work for it, y'know?
They certainly didn't make it easy on themselves, but the Republic of Ireland are through to the playoffs in Euro 2012 qualifying, thanks to their 2-1 home win over Armenia. Had Armenia been able to secure a road win it would have been lights out for the Irish, but some good luck and timely goals have given them a chance at qualification.
Armenia goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky was sent off in the 25th minute, completely altering the match. Up until his intentional handball outside of the box and in the minutes immediately afterwards, Armenia were the much better side. However, everything changed in Ireland's favor in the 41st minute.
The home side was able to head into halftime with a lead they hardly deserved on an own goal. Valeri Aleksanyan was the man who gave Ireland the lead, inexplicably poking home a poor half-cross, half-shot by Kevin Doyle.
Ireland doubled their lead through a Richard Dunne header, assisted by Aiden McGeady in the 60th minute. At that point it appeared that it would be smooth sailing for Ireland, but they made things difficult on themselves by allowing Shakhtar Donetsk star Henrik Mkhitaryan to haul one back just a minute later.
Kevin Doyle would pick up a second yellow card and get himself sent off in the 81st minute, putting the game into some doubt, but Ireland were able to hold onto their 2-1 win to secure a spot in the playoffs.
Scotland aren't playing quite as badly as we might expect considering they're away to the defending European and World Champions, but that's hardly consolation for the fact that they're 2-0 down to Spain and need a win to get into the playoff rounds. David Silva was the man to break the deadlock after just six minutes, drilling home from close range with a finish that left Allan McGregor with no chance.
Since then, well, Spain were much better than their guests, but Scotland had a few bright moments and looked like they might have a chance to come back into match, but then Silva went and buried them on the very edge of halftime. With Scotland's defence massed, Silva danced past at least five players while playing a 1-2 with Barcelona's Pedro, cut back onto his left foot to create shooting space and planting a delicate finish into McGregor's bottom corner. That's game over, then. Unfortunate for Scotland.
It's been a bit of a back and forth match between the Netherlands and Sweden in Stockholm. The Dutch don't have much to play for save maintaining a 100% qualifying record - they've got first place completely sewn up. Sweden, however are in a rather more interesting situation: No matter what, they finish second, but a win here would mean that they qualify automatically rather than going into the playoffs, and so they're really going for it here.
Scoring a 14th minute goal is a good way to get things off on the correct foot, and it was midfielder Kim Kallstrom who got the Swedes off to the perfect start, hammering a 25-yard shot past Michel Vorm to give the hosts a 1-0 lead. That wouldn't last long, however - a Klaas-Jan Huntelaar header had drawn Holland level, and in general the visitors have had the better of things. That's hardly a surprise considering the quality the Netherlands have to offer, but it sure isn't a good sign for Sweden's hopes of automatic qualification. It's 1-1 at the half.
Only 45 minutes have passed, but things are not going Portugal's way in the early going. The favorites to win Group H have just another 45 minutes to get a goal and do just that. At the moment, they trail Denmark 1-0 at halftime, and they're currently on the outside looking into Euro 2012. If the result holds, Denmark will win Group H and capture an automatic qualification spot, while Portugal will have to qualify for the tournament through the playoffs.
Denmark had a goal on a set piece disallowed curiously in the sixth minute, but they were able to find a go-ahead goal just seven minutes later. Michael Krohn-Delhi, a wide player who is very adept at finishing scored the goal in the 13th minute, getting a little bit of help from a deflection. Portugal's defense looked poor in the beginning of the match, and Denmark continued to look like the better side shortly after their goal.
However, Portugal came into the match late in the half and were certainly the better side in the final 10 minutes of the period. Cristiano Ronaldo had a couple of attempts on goal, while Nani had a miss just before the end of the period. It appears that an equalizer is coming, but Morten Olsen is terrific at making halftime tactical adjustments.
In what was one of the most boring football matches ever to be played (ok, at least one of the most boring in today's round of Euro 2012 qualification, even including such pointless matches as Kazakhstan - Austria), Turkey managed a 1-0 win over Azerbaijan to claim the playoff spot in Group A.
The pivotal moment in the match turned out to be the substitution of Kazim-Kazim. The forward had been, quite frankly, crap, firing quick shots to nowhere. With his strike partner out of the way, it was time for Burak Yilmaz to shine. The Trabzonspor forward had a headed goal disallowed for offside, but just a minute later, took a through-ball around the Azerbaijan defense and easily slotted in for Turkey's only goal.
Of course, Belgium did their part in allowing the Turks to go through to the next round, falling apart at the hands of perfect group leaders Germany. Belgium managed a consolation goal late in the match, but Germany's 3-1 victory means Belgium are out.
Truth be told, there wasn't that much hope for Belgium going into their match against Germany. They needed to better Turkey's result against Azerbaijan (in Istanbul) to qualify for the playoff rounds, and that probably wasn't going to happen against a Germany side with a 100% record in the group. In Dusseldorf, no less.
Things actually started reasonably for the visitors, with the midfield exercising control against a Bastian Schweinsteiger-less Germany, but after half an hour disaster struck, with Belgium failing to clear a corner properly and allowing Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil to latch onto the ball 25 yards out. Ozil made no mistake with his first-time shot, which crashed off the underside of Simon Mignolet's crossbar and into the back of the net to make it 1-0. Andre Schurrle doubled that lead seconds later with a sweetly-taken goal on the break, and from then on Belgium were lost.
Mario Gomez had wasted two easy chances for Germany in the first half but made the most of his third shortly after the break, crashing home after slipping free of Vincent Kompany, and although the visitors did manage a late goal through Marouane Fellaini, it was never going to be enough, especially after Turkey went ahead in their match. Disappointment for this young Belgium side, then - they'll be watching this summer's tournament at home.
Germany, meanwhile, won all ten of their group stage games for the first time in history, and have surely cemented their place as one of the favourites to win the 2012 European Championships.
The Republic of Ireland is currently on their way towards securing a playoff spot in Euro 2012 qualifying, but they can't say they truly deserve their lead. A couple of bad mistakes for Armenia is Ireland's good luck, and the home side has a 1-0 lead at halftime despite the fact that they haven't exactly played very good football. Armenia has been playing with 10 men since the 25th minute, but was the better side for the majority of the first half regardless.
Goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky was the man who picked up the red card as he challenged Simon Cox for a 50-50 ball outside of the box, punching it with his hand in the process. While the call looks a bit shaky upon watching slow-motion replay, it's very easy to see how the referee could have believed that Berezovsky intentionally handled the ball outside of the box. If that's what the referee believed he saw, he had to show red.
Armenia were the better side for the next 15 minutes, but absolutely gifted Ireland a go-ahead goal when Valeri Aleksanyan poked in an own goal off of a cross (or possibly errant shot) by Kevin Doyle. Aleksanyan had plenty of time and space to make a clearance, and his team wouldn't have been in too much trouble had he simply let the ball roll by.
The visitors now have a long way back, and it would take an incredible collapse for Ireland to miss out on a playoff spot.
Denmark have secured a 1-0 lead over Portugal in the first half of their final Euro 2012 qualifying match, and it's well deserved. The home side had actually previously scored what appeared to be an opening goal just six minutes into the match, but their set piece score was disallowed for a bit of a phantom foul. In any event, justice has now been served as the team who has been superior from the start has taken the lead, with Michael Krohn-Delhi scoring in the 13th minute.
He got a bit of help on the goal, as his shot from outside of the penalty area took a fairly wicked deflection before it sailed past Rui Patricio and into the back of the net. Portugal's defense has been extremely poor in the opening 15 minutes, and that's kept their dangerous attackers from having a serious influence on the match. There's plenty of time for Portugal to turn it around and they only need a draw to win the group, but their start has been downright bad.
France and Bosnia-Herzegovina are both at least in the playoffs for Euro 2012 qualifying, but they're fighting for one automatic qualifying spot in Group D. France sit on 20 points, while Bosnia sit on 19, meaning Les Bleues will progress to the finals with just a draw. Sitting back and playing for just a draw won't be the best course of action, though, as Bosnia have players who can create goals out of absolutely nothing. Here are the lineups.
France lineup (4-3-3): Lloris; Reveillere, Rami, Abidal, Evra; Nasri, M'Vila, Cabaye; Menez, Remy, Malouda
Bosnia-Herzegovina lineup (4-1-4-1): Hasagic; Mujdza, Spahic, Pandza, Papac; Rahimic; Pjanic, Misimovic, Medunjanin, Lulic; Dzeko
Edin Dzeko will be the key man up top, holding up the ball for his teammates and likely creating scoring chances for himself. The midfielders behind him are both technically and tactically adept, and they'll provide France with some serious problems.
Kickoff is at 3:00 pm ET, 9:00 pm local time. The game can be seen on ESPN3.com in the USA.
We've come to the final round of qualification for Euro 2012, and the playoff slot for Group I remains undecided. Spain, perfect in the group, clinched automatic qualification ages ago, but now Czech Republic and Scotland are battling for the right to go on to the playoff stages. Scotland have a one-point advantage over the Czechs, but, of course, have to face Spain, while their competition faces off against an "experimental" Lithuania side.
So will Spain go easy on the Scots? They are fielding an interesting lineup, while Scotland are sticking with the same squad that brought them a 1-0 victory over Liechtenstein. Personally, I'm excited to see how Alan Hutton fares against La Roja. I'm certain he'll be the one carrying Scotland's hopes.
The Netherlands have already qualified for Euro 2012 and Sweden are almost certainly going to take a playoff spot, but they can take their destiny into their own hands with a point against Holland on the final matchday. At the very least, this is going to be a good match between a couple of high-quality sides. Even on the road The Netherlands will be heavy favorites, as manager Bert Van Marwijk has named a very strong side. Here are the lineups.
Sweden lineup (4-4-2): Isaksson; Olsson, Majstorovic, Mellberg, Lustig; Svensson, Elm, Kallstrom, Larsson; Elmander, Toivonen
Netherlands lineup (4-3-3): Vorm; Van der Wiel, Bruma, Mathijsen, Pieters; Van Bommel, Strootman, Van Der Vaart; Kuyt, Huntelaar, Van Persie
Sweden have plenty of firepower up top, but their defense is going to have to play a truly spectacular game to contain Holland's attack.
Kickoff is at 2:15 pm ET, 8:15 pm local time. The game can be seen on ESPN3.com in the USA.
If there's one thing this Germany team is good at, even without Bastian Schweinsteiger in the lineup, it's counterattacking. And with Belgium needing goals in order to keep their faint hopes of a Euro 2012 place alive, they're getting their chances to do just that. The hosts are taking them, too - Mario Gomez has made it 3-0 after missing two one-on-one chances with Simon Mignolet in the first half.
A sweet one-two with Mesut Ozil wrong-footed Vincent Kompany, and Gomez was able to exploit the Manchester City man's turn to surge past him and rifle a shot into Mignolet's bottom corner. All three German goals here have been incredibly classy, but that won't make Belgium's pain any easier to bear. Half time substitute Romelu Lukaku isn't making up that deficit on his own, and the visitors now need Azerbaijan to win in Turkey to in order to get into a playoff positioning. That doesn't seem particularly likely right now, although it's goalless in Istanbul as it stands.
The madness that has been Euro 2012 qualifying's Group H finishes on Tuesday, when Denmark hosts Portugal in a massive fixture. Neither team will be eliminated from Euro 2012 contention after this game, but if there is a clear winner, that team will qualify directly for the tournament. Portugal will also qualify with an away draw. Denmark is an extremely formidable side at home, and they field a strong team. Here are the lineups.
Denmark lineup (4-2-3-1): Sorensen; Jacobsen, Bjelland, Kjaer, Silberbauer; Kvist, Zimling; Rommedahl, Eriksen, Krohn-Dehli; Bendtner
Young Christen Eriksen has been a serious difference maker for Portugal recently, so it will be important for Portugal's midfield three to minimize his time on the ball. Cristiano Ronaldo hasn't produced the same magic for Portugal as he does for Real Madrid in quite some time, but he'll still be a key man on the night.
Kickoff is at 2:15 pm ET, 8:15 pm local time. The game can be seen on ESPN3.com in the USA.
In the final round of Euro 2012 qualifying, Ireland and Armenia both trail Russia in Group B with a chance at a playoff spot. Ireland technically have a chance to win the group, but that's only if Russia does the absolutely unthinkable and loses to a pointless Andorra side. Ireland are sitting on 18 points and Armenia have 17, so a draw would give Ireland a playoff spot. Still, Armenia will be satisfied with their showing, as very few believed that they would be in control of their own destiny come the final round. Here are the lineups.
Ireland lineup: Given; St. Ledger, Dunne, O'Shea, Kelly, McGeady, Whelan, Andrews, Duff, Doyle, Cox
Armenia lineup: Berezovsky; Hovsepyan, Mkrtchyan, Pizelli, Malakyan, Ghazaryan, Mkoyan, Aleksanyan, Mkhitaryan, Hayrapetyan. Movsisyan
Ireland's expected shape is a 4-4-2, while Armenia's shape will most likely be a 4-2-3-1. The home side are missing leading scorer Robbie Keane with an injury, but Kevin Doyle and Simon Cox make up a tough strike partnership. For Armenia, Henrik Mkhitaryan of Shakhar Donetsk and Yura Movsisyan of Krandosar are the key men.
Kickoff is at 1:45 pm ET, 6:45 pm local and the match can be seen on ESPN3 in the USA.
Belgium had started this must-win game the better side, but their spark had faded somewhat as the first half drew on and Germany were beginning to exert some dominance on their guests. However, as we got near the half-hour mark, neither team had had any real chances on goal, with Belgium's long-range efforts being charged down and Germany mostly kept out of the really dangerous areas.
That sure changed in a hurry - first a bad mistake by Vincent Kompany allowed deadly striker Mario Gomez to go one-on-one with Simon Mignolet, who somehow managed to keep the ball out. The subsequent corner, however, wasn't properly dealt with, and Mesut Ozil was fed the ball 25 yards out. The Real Madrid midfielder took the shot first time, crashing the ball off the underside of the crossbar to make it 1-0 with an absolute peach of a goal.
Things got worse in a hurry for Belgium. With the visitors pushing for an equaliser, they left too many bodies upfield on a corner and when Ozil got the ball, he quickly fed Gomez, who was then able to lay the ball off for Andre Schurrle for the 20 year-old to lay in a delightful chip over Mignolet from outside the box and make it 2-0. And to think things had started so promisingly for Belgium, too - Germany have just laid on a hammer blow for their qualification hopes.
Belgium are currently in position to take a Euro 2012 qualifying playoff spot, but to keep that spot, they'll have to defeat Germany or hope that Turkey commits a serious gaffe against Azerbaijan at home. While Belgium have the talent to gain an upset win over anyone and Germany will be resting a couple of stars, the Germans are arguably the best team in the world at present and have looked absolutely unbeatable so far in qualifying. Here are the lineups.
Germany lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Höwedes, Mertesacker, Hummels, Lahm; Khedira, Kroos; Müller, Özil, Schürrle; Gomez
Belgium lineup (4-3-3): Mignolet; Ciman, Kompany, Vertonghen, Lombaerts; Simons, Fellaini, Witsel; Dembelé, Hazard, Ogunjimi
Marvin Ogunjimi is not normally first choice, but he's stepping in at striker for Romelu Lukaku. When he's played, Ogunjimi has been fantastic, scoring four times in six appearances. Germany is opting to rest all of Jerome Boateng, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lucas Podolski, who are all various degrees of injured and could probably play if this was a must-win for the Germans.
Kickoff is at 1 pm ET, 7 pm local time and the game can be seen on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com in the USA.
England joins Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy in automatic qualification for Euro 2012, but what other five teams will go to Poland / Ukraine? And which squads will do battle in the playoffs?
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