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Form guide for the eight play-off nations

Published: Thursday 13 October 2011, 13.15CET
The UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying group action is over but four finals places remain available and looks at the play-off history of the eight teams who will contest them.
Form guide for the eight play-off nations
Republic of Ireland's Robbie Keane has scored in three separate play-off matches ©Getty Images
Published: Thursday 13 October 2011, 13.15CET

Form guide for the eight play-off nations

The UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying group action is over but four finals places remain available and looks at the play-off history of the eight teams who will contest them.

The UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying group campaign may be over but four finals places still hang in the balance, to be decided in November's play-offs. Here is a potted play-off history of the eight contenders.

Turkey v Croatia

From 2000 to 2006, Turkey figured in four consecutive play-offs, with mixed results. UEFA EURO 2000 – their triumph against the Republic of Ireland prefacing a run to the quarter-finals – and the 2002 World Cup were both accomplished missions yet later attempts met with failure.

The most recent success came against Austria in 2002 World Cup qualifying: after a 1-0 away victory, Turkey were 5-0 winners in Istanbul courtesy of goals by Yildiray Bastürk, Hakan Sükür, Okan Buruk and an Arif Erdem double. Şenol Günes's side went on to catch the eye in Korea/Japan where they managed a best-ever third-place finish, following a narrow semi-final defeat by Brazil. However, they subsequently missed out on UEFA EURO 2004 because of a surprise reverse against Latvia. Having lost 1-0 in Riga to Maris Verpakovskis's goal, Turkey went two up on home soil through İlhan Mansiz and Hakan Sükür, before further goals from Jurijs Laizans and Maris Verpakovskis sent Latvia through.

More misery followed when Turkey again threatened a recovery after losing their 2006 World Cup play-off first leg 2-0 in Switzerland and conceding a second-minute penalty in the sequel. Ateş Necati's spot kick and a Tuncay Şanlı hat-trick took Turkey into an aggregate lead only for Marco Streller's late strike to ensure Switzerland progressed on away goals.

Croatia have been involved in two previous major tournament play-offs, and won both. With a place at the 1998 FIFA World Cup at stake, Croatia faced Ukraine in a double-header that will provide happy memories for Bilić, who scored the first of two unanswered goals in the home leg, Goran Vlaović getting the other. In the Kyiv return, the visitors were rocked by Andriy Shevchenko's early strike, but Alen Boksić's leveller eased the visitors' nerves as well as their safe passage to France. The adventure did not end there: Miroslav Blažević's men making it all the way to the semi-finals, where they went ahead against the hosts only to concede two Lilian Thuram goal and ultimately finish third.

Six years later they faced neighbours Slovenia for a berth at UEFA EURO 2004. Despite Dado Pršo's early goal in Zagreb they were held 1-1 but the striker's goal in the Ljubljana return decided the second leg in Croatia's favour. They fell in the group stage in Portugal.

Estonia v Republic of Ireland

Estonia must still be pinching themselves at reaching a first play-off given they endured a five-match losing streak this year, including a 2-0 defeat by the Faroe Islands in June.

Republic of Ireland
The good news for Ireland is that they are on familiar ground, having featured in five separate play-offs. The bad news is that they have prevailed only once. Their first time was in December 1995 when they lost 2-0 to the Netherlands, Patrick Kluivert scoring twice in a one-off fixture at Anfield. Two years later Ireland fared little better against Belgium under the new two-legged format. After a 1-1 Dublin draw, Ray Houghton's equaliser made for a thrilling return match, but Luc Nilis's winner took the Diables Rouges through to the 1998 World Cup.

Ireland hoped it would be third time lucky against Turkey yet their UEFA EURO 2000 bid also ended in tears. The damage was done by a late Tayfur Havutçu penalty in the home first leg, again drawn 1-1, which would take Turkey through on away goals. The play-off curse was finally lifted when Mick McCarthy's team overcame Iran 2-1 on aggregate in a UEFA-AFC tie to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. First-leg goals by Ian Harte and Robbie Keane rendered Yahya Golmohammadi's header academic in the return. A penalty shoot-out defeat by Spain then stopped Ireland reaching the last eight in Korea/Japan.

In their fifth play-off foray France stood between Giovanni Trapattoni's side and the 2010 World Cup, and the Irish were facing an uphill struggle once Nicolas Anelka scored with a deflected shot in Dublin. However, Keane struck back in the second leg to level matters, only for William Gallas to break Irish hearts in extra time.

Czech Republic v Montenegro
Czech Republic

This will be the Czechs' third play-off assignment and supporters will want to revive memories of November 2005 rather than of four years earlier. The first instance was a 2-0 aggregate win against Norway which booked Karel Bruckner's team a trip to Germany, after Vladimír Šmicer netted in Oslo and Tomáš Rosický in the return. Although the Czechs disappointed at the 2006 World Cup, failing to advance from their group, their play-off victory represented redemption for a nation who had been on the losing end in November 2001, with successive 1-0 defeats by Belgium.

Montenegro are making their play-off debut having showed great character to bounce back from successive reverses against Albania and Wales to snatch a last-gasp draw with England, having trailed Fabio Capello's side 2-0

Bosnia and Herzegovina v Portugal
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina have participated in just one previous play-off, having got that far in qualification for the 2010 World Cup. They were not disgraced either, Miroslav Blažević's charges going down 1-0 in both legs to Portugal, a result they can now aim to reverse.

Portugal will hope that recent experience serves them well as they prepare to engage in a second successive play-off. Their previous winner-takes-all contest came two years ago when they overcame Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach the 2010 World Cup. Both legs were close affairs which Portugal edged 1-0, thanks to Bruno Alves's first-half goal in Lisbon and Raul Mereiles's second-half strike in Zenica. They would fall to Spain in the last 16 in South Africa.

Last updated: 06/11/11 16.26CET

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