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Focus turns to EURO qualifying

Estonia and the Faroe Islands kick off UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying on Wednesday in Tallinn, as other teams across Europe put the finishing touches to their preparations with friendlies.

Laurent Blanc prepares for his first game as France coach
Laurent Blanc prepares for his first game as France coach ©Getty Images

Preparations for UEFA EURO 2012 step up a gear this week with the first international friendlies of the new season, although for Estonia and the Faroe Islands the countdown to qualifying is almost over.

While the rest of the 51 teams vying to reach Poland and Ukraine start their campaigns in early September, Group C rivals Estonia and the Faroe Islands have the honour of kicking off the qualifying competition in Tallinn at 19.00CET on Wednesday. Predominantly, however, the focus will be on fine-tuning ahead of next month's big kick-off, not least for those countries beginning life under new coaches.

France, now under the guidance of Laurent Blanc, will seek a positive result and performance following their disappointing FIFA World Cup showing when they face Norway in Oslo. Turkey, led by Guus Hiddink for the first time, host Romania, while Hiddink's most recent employers, Russia, begin a new era under Dick Advocaat with a home encounter with Bulgaria.

Spain – returning to action a month to the day since they were crowned world champions in Johannesburg – have the longest journey of the European sides in action with a trip to Mexico, whereas their opponents in the World Cup final, the Netherlands, visit UEFA EURO 2012 co-hosts Ukraine. Poland, the tournament's other host side, face Cameroon.

Fresh from signing a two-year contract extension to continue as coach of Germany, Joachim Löw takes the World Cup semi-finalists to Denmark. Several of the other European sides who competed in South Africa are in action, too. England and Slovakia, who both reached the last 16, are at home to Hungary and Croatia respectively, Slovenia play Australia and Serbia welcome a Greece side playing their first game under Otto Rehhagel's successor, Fernando Santos.

Elsewhere, the Republic of Ireland play host to Argentina for the official opening of the Dublin Arena, venue for the 2011 UEFA Europa League final, while Switzerland visit neighbours and fellow 2008 hosts Austria.

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