KREFELD, GERMANY - MARCH 24: Fans of Turkey are seen during the UEFA U17 European Championship Elite Round match between Germany and Turkey at Grotenburgkampfbahn on March 24, 2011 in Krefeld, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Euro 2012 Qualifying: Turkey Vs. Austria, Northern Ireland Vs. Slovenia Are The Important Tuesday Fixtures

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Northern Ireland Vs. Slovenia, Euro 2012 Qualifying: 0-0 Full Time, I Guess 22 Guys Kicked A Ball Around For 90 Minutes Or Something

I've been told that Northern Ireland and Slovenia were playing a qualifying match for the Euro 2012 football tournament today. I'm assuming that, for a team to qualify for said football tournament, the qualification procedure would involve playing some football. I guess they could pick the teams for the tournament by playing darts, or having a pie eating contest, but it seems likely that playing football would be preferable. So, I fired up my computer and found a (totally legal!) feed of the contest in question. Much to my surprise, I didn't see a whole lot of football being played.

Okay, all jokes aside, the match between Northern Ireland and Slovenia wasn't very good. This shouldn't be all that surprising, seeing as both teams play very defensive and rigid styles. The thing is, in the cases of both teams, their opponents usually get really frustrated, start cheating on defense, and then are susceptible on the counter-attack. When they play each other, no such thing happens. So, we just got to watch two teams defend and kick long balls for a while. Slovenia tried to play some creative attacking football at times, once they realized that Northern Ireland were never coming out of their shell, in addition to being an inferior side. They just weren't that good at it.

Serbia, a Group C rival of both of these teams, was the victim of an 85th minute equalizer by their opponents today, Estonia. So, the group standings haven't changed at all, and all three teams, along with Estonia, still have a chance to make the Euros.


Netherlands Vs. Hungary: Robin Van Persie Injury Forces Striker Off Pitch

Robin van Persie's inability to stay healthy looks like it will continue, not that anyone really expected it to stop. The Arsenal striker took a knock in the first half of the Netherland's Euro 2012 qualifier against Hungary and eventually was subbed off at halftime. This isn't anything new for van Persie, the Dutch striker who has played more than 25 matches in a season just twice since moving to Arsenal in 2004 and who has never played 30 matches in a season.

After van Persie picked up the knock he spent the last 10 minutes of the first half ineffectually limping around to the amusement of any non-Netherlands and non-Arsenal fans watching. Of course, while the neutrals were laughing at the awkward nature of van Persie's limping, it sent Arsenal fans into a frenzy about their stroke of bad luck, again.

The Gunners are chasing Manchester United for the English Premier League title and now they may be faced with playing matches while their top striker watches on from the sidelines. There has been no word on the extent of van Persie's injury, but missed time has become the norm for him.


Northern Ireland Vs. Slovenia: 0-0 Halftime, A Dull Affair Thus Far

Unless your idea of football is ankle injuries and dudes getting elbowed in the face, you probably wouldn't find the Euro 2012 qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Slovenia to be particularly entertaining. It's been kind of crap, to be honest, but it's not like anything more should have been expected from these two teams. Slovenia play a very rigid and defensive style of football, while Northern Ireland are simply not very good going forward.

After their loss to Italy, Slovenia are in need of a win here. Serbia will be climbing up the Group C table, and they're currently 1-0 up on Estonia. Slovenia have good forward-thinking players, even with the injury to Josep Ilicic, and their back line should be able to handle the Northern Ireland attack without a whole lot of defensive assistance from the midfield. They will lack ambition in the second half at their own peril.


Turkey Vs. Austria, Euro 2012 Qualifying: 2-0 Full Time, I Guess Guus Hiddink Still Has A Job

Guus Hiddink promised to resign as Turkey's manager if his side didn't seal a victory today, but he won't have to do that. His side is very much in contention for second place in Group A of Euro 2012 qualifying after a 2-0 home win against Austria. Turkey were superior to their visitors in every way, and both of their goals were absolutely class. Arda Turan scored the opener in the 28th minute, weaving two defenders and finishing from 15 yards out after a throw-in, while Gokhan Gonul scored the second goal in the 77th minute with a great left-footed shot to the near post, assisted by Semih Senturk.

Turkey's main rivals for second place in the group, now that they've taken all three points from Austria, will be Belgium. They're in a match that they should win against Azerbaijan, and if they do take all three points, they will maintain a slight points advantage over Turkey, though the Turks have a game in hand. At the time of this posting, Belgium is ahead, but they did have to deal with a scare when Azerbaijan scored a surprise goal.


Northern Ireland Vs. Slovenia: Palermo's Josep Ilicic Injured, Removed From Game

Slovenia attacking midfielder Josep Ilicic, who plays his club football at Palermo in Italy's Serie A, picked up a knock early in his team's Euro 2012 qualifying match against Northern Ireland, and has been subsequently removed from the game. Ilicic picked up the knock early and attempted to run it off, but was eventually removed 30 minutes into the game and replaced by Zlatan Ljubijankic. This represents a slight drop-off in quality for Slovenia, but in more long-term news, it could seriously affect Palermo's chances at reaching Europe next year.

Palermo have experienced a serious drop-off in the last couple of months after a long period of sitting in European places, but they're still only seven points out of a guaranteed place in next season's UEFA Europa League. Thankfully for Palermo, Fabrizio Miccoli wasn't called up for Italy and Javier Pastore did not start for Argentina, so they're unlikely to go into straight crisis mode, but Ilicic could be a potentially big loss.


Turkey Vs. Austria, Euro 2012 Qualifying: Gokhan Gonul Goal Seals The Deal

Turkey have been the superior side for the entirety of their Euro 2012 qualifying match against Austria, but their victory was in doubt for the majority of the match. They created plenty of opportunities and dominated possession, but it took until the 77th minute for them to put the game beyond doubt, thanks to a great strike by right back Gokhan Gonul. It's uncommon enough to see fullbacks score, but the fashion in which Gonul scored his goal was particularly impressive.

Dropping back into the midfield, substitute Semih Senturk picked up the ball and played a great through ball to Gonul, who was making an overlapping run down the right flank. He cut inside onto his left foot and took a low left-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area. Surprisingly, the shot was powerful and precise, beating Jurgen Macho at his near post. It was a rare near post goal that can hardly be attributed to a goalkeeping mistake; the finish was simply brilliant.


Turkey Vs. Austria, Euro 2012 Qualifying: 1-0 Halftime, Arda Turan Goal Not The Only Difference

Arda Turan scored a stunning goal for Turkey in the 28th minute of their Euro 2012 qualifying match against Austria, but it's hardly the only difference between the two sides. Turkey have been superior in every aspect of the game, spending much of the first 45 minutes in Austria's third of the pitch and keeping the ball for nearly two-thirds of the period. Austria came out to defend and go for a clean sheet, and that decision has ultimately hurt them.

The visitors did have one great opportunity just minutes before the Turan goal, through David Alaba. The Turks had a quick lapse in judgment in the back, leaving Alaba with an open shot opportunity on the edge of the penalty area. Though Alaba is just 18 years old, anyone who's seen him play for Hoffenheim this season probably expected him to hit the target. Instead, Alaba's shot went well over the goal.

Austria are going to have to make some attacking changes if they want points out of this match. Marko Arnautovic is sitting on the bench, and it seems likely that he could replace a midfield player.


Turkey Vs. Austria, Euro 2012 Qualifying: Arda Turan Goal Puts Hosts Ahead

Before a couple of disastrous league campaigns for Galatasaray, Arda Turan was one of the hottest properties in world football. Or at least, according to various blogs and rags. In any event, he's become less of a coveted commodity in recent years, thanks to Galatasaray's fall from grace and Turkey's inability to qualify for the 2010 World Cup has reduced his value a bit. After watching the goal that he just scored against Austria to put his team ahead in their Euro 2012 qualifying match, it's difficult to understand why.

The goal was assisted by a brilliant throw-in, combined with a terrible lapse in concentration by the Austrian defense. The throw went to Turan on the left wing, and he did well to turn it into a scoring chance. He cut inside from the left onto his right foot, beating a couple of defenders in the process. This set him up for a shooting opportunity from about 12 yards away from goal, and he finished well to give Turkey the lead.


Turkey Vs. Austria, Euro 2012 Qualifying: Lineups

Both Austria and Turkey have opted for 4-5-1 setups that should match up well against each other, but it's obvious that Turkey has a bit of a talent advantage, especially in the center of midfield. Guus Hiddink has opted to start Burak Yilmaz, who has had a great season for Trabzonspor, alone up top, leaving veteran Semih Senturk and youngster Cenk Tosun on the bench. Unsurprisingly, Nuri Sahin and Arda Turan get starts, and should be key players.

On the other side of the pitch, Austria has opted to play 6'8" giant Stefan Maierhofer as a lone striker, leaving Werder Bremen man Marko Arnautovic on the bench. Highly touted 18 year old Bayern Munich man David Alaba, who is currently on loan at Hoffenheim and playing well, will earn his sixth cap with a start tonight. The strongest part of the Austria lineup is their defense, and it wouldn't be surprising if their goal tonight was a 0-0 draw.

Turkey lineup (4-5-1): Demirel; Cetin, Balta, Gonul, Kesimal; Altintop, Turan, Sahin, Inan, Ekici; Yilmaz

Austria lineup (4-5-1): Macho; Pogatetz, Dag, Fuchs, Dragovic; Scharner, Harnik, Baumgartlinger, Pehlivan, Alaba, Maierhofer


Euro 2012 Qualifying: Turkey Vs. Austria, Northern Ireland Vs. Slovenia Are The Important Tuesday Fixtures

Most international teams are off or playing friendlies this Tuesday, but there is half a slate of Euro 2012 qualifying fixtures, with two games being of particular importance. Turkey and Austria are both in virtual must-win situations with Germany locking down first place in Group A and Belgium pulling into second place, while a similar situation exists for Northern Ireland and Slovenia, who are jockeying for second position behind Italy in Group C.

With the exception of Turkey, the other three of these teams are coming off of losses on the weekend. Despite that, Turkey boss Guus Hiddink is under the most pressure of any of these international managers, and he has stated that he will quit if his team does not defeat Austria. Though Turkey are favorites, with Austria's giant strikers, nothing is ever certain. Austria have Turkey beat for talent at fullback and for target strikers, but Turkey are superior in just about every other way. For them, all eyes will be on Borussia Dortmund central playmaker, Nuri Sahin.

Northern Ireland are not considered to have a great shot to make Euro 2012, but a win today would surprisingly put them in great position to qualify. They're strong in central defense and in the center of midfield, but there's a big question about who is going to score their goals. Slovenia held firm for the majority of their match against Italy, falling 1-0 on a second half goal from Thiago Motta, and it seems likely that they will be able to hold Northern Ireland to a shutout.

Here's the complete schedule for Tuesday's Euro 2012 qualifying action.

Czech Republic vs. Lichtenstein: 11:30 am ET

Sweden vs. Moldova: 1 pm ET

Israel vs. Georgia: 1 pm

Turkey vs. Austria: 1:30 pm

Romania vs. Luxembourg: 1:45 pm

Estonia vs. Serbia: 2:30 pm

Netherlands vs. Hungary: 2:30 pm

Northern Ireland vs. Slovenia: 2:45 pm

Belgium vs. Azerbaijan: 2:45 pm

Lithuania vs. Spain: 2:45 pm

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