October 2011: All the top nations at EURO 2012

All the continent’s top footballing nations are included in the 12 teams that have definitely qualified for the European Championships 2012 in Poland and Ukraine include. Of the nine previous European champions, eight have qualified for the 14th finals since 1960 by winning their groups.

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Gianluigi Buffon with thumbs up after Italy ended their EURO 2012 qualifying campaign with a 3-0 win against Northern Ireland in Pescara. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


After qualifying for the European Championship finals (8 June - 1 July) back in September, Germany (3 titles), Spain (2), the Netherlands (1) and Italy (1) were eventually joined after the final two matches on 7 and 11 October by France (2), Greece (1), Denmark (1) and Russia (1960 winner as USSR). In addition, England and Sweden have also booked their tickets to 2012’s tournament where the new European Champions will be crowned. Poland and Ukraine were automatically qualified as hosts.

Eight group runners-up will contest the play-offs on 11/12 and 15 November for the final four places to complete the line-up of the best European sides. The draw on 13 October in Krakow produced the following pairings: Turkey - Croatia, Czech Republic - Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina - Portugal and Estonia - Ireland. Having won the title together with Slovakia back in 1976, the Czech Republic can therefore become the ninth former European champion to book a berth in the finals.

Montenegro and Estonia are the new boys in the play-offs and had, as newly formed states, never previously participated at a European Championships tournament. It was Montenegro’s first ever appearance in the qualifying competition and they caused a sensation straight away. A total of 51 teams took part in EURO 2012’s preliminary stage of the European Football Union (UEFA) run  competition. The draw for the four groups will take place on 2 December in Kiev where the European Championships final will also be staged on 1 July 2012.

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Referee Stark shows Wayne Rooney the red card after a foul in the 2-2 draw in Montenegro. England is through to the EURO 2012 but Rooney has been handed a 3-game ban. (Photo: Getty Images)


With Poland and Ukraine already qualified, the first team to assure themselves of a place in the finals was Germany. The European Championships runners-up and winners in 1972, 1980 und 1996 notched up ten wins in ten games. Another side with a 100 per cent record was world and European champions Spain who played two games fewer. Three nations additionally remained unbeaten - England (5 wins/3 draws), Italy (8/2) and Greece (7/3). The Netherlands, who had already qualified, dropped their first points of their campaign in their tenth and final match when losing 3-2 to Sweden. Though finishing behind the Dutch, the Swedes nevertheless booked their EURO ticket as the best group runners-up.

Norway, Switzerland, Serbia just miss out

It was very tight in some groups. Norway just missed out on a play-off place in Group I after finishing equal on points (16 ) with Portugal and three behind Denmark. One point separated Switzerland (11) and a spot in the play-offs after they finished third in Group G behind England and Montenegro (12). In Group C Estonia (16), who came second behind Italy on 17 points, were one point to the good of Serbia (15) who blew their chances in the final match by losing 1-0 to Slovenia.

In two groups, there were showdowns in Paris and Copenhagen on 11 October for top spot and with it a definite place at the European Championship finals. A hard-fought 1-1 draw against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Group H was enough for France to advance. In Group D, Denmark beat Portugal 2-1 to leave their opponents facing two play-off matches. Whilst everything went to the wire in the two groups, Germany (13 points ahead of second-placed Turkey), Spain (11 in front of the Czech Republic) and Italy (10 in front of Estonia) all comfortably reached the EURO tournament.

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A 1-1 draw in Paris against Bosnia Herzegovina gave Samir Nasri and France a place in the EURO 2012 finals. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


The final eight qualifying matches promise high tension. The duel between Turkey and Croatia came about because the 2008 European Championships semifinalist was not seeded in the draw for the play-offs. The two also met at EURO 2008 when Turkey went through on penalties after a dramatic match ended 1-1 with the goals coming in the 119th and 122nd minutes. And the encounter between Portugal and Bosnia is also a repeat. The teams faced each other in the play-offs before the 2010 World Cup – the Portuguese won both matches 1-0.

Estonia really is a surprise package, and not only because they have made it to the play-offs where they will be up against the Czech Republic. In contrast to some great performances like the 3-1 win in Serbia, there was also a 1-1 draw against Liechtenstein and a 2-0 away defeat against the Faroe Islands. Ireland, who can reach the finals for the first time 1988 are the favourites. After relegating Scotland to third place in Group I, the Czech Republic, are also favourites against Montenegro whose team is made up of little known players who earn their living in the smaller European leagues.