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EURO qualifying to start in earnest

Spain, Germany and the Netherlands are among the 49 teams who begin their campaigns next month after Estonia beat the Faroe Islands in the first game of UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying.

Estonia (blue) left it late to defeat the Faroe Islands
Estonia (blue) left it late to defeat the Faroe Islands ©Getty Images

Having taken a back seat as Estonia and the Faroe Islands kicked off UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying on Wednesday, the rest of the 49 countries in the race to reach Poland and Ukraine enter the fray next month.

Estonia triumphed 2-1 in Tallinn against their Group C rivals thanks to added-time goals from Kaimar Saag and Raio Piiroja in the first game on the road to the final tournament. Qualifying starts in earnest, however, on Friday 3 September – this follows a decision by FIFA in September 2009 to change the days of double dates in the international match calendar from Friday or Saturday and Wednesday to Friday or Saturday and Tuesday. Holders and FIFA World Cup winners Spain get their Group I campaign under way with a trip to Liechtenstein while the Netherlands, beaten finalists in South Africa, go to Serravalle to take on San Marino.

Germany, who lost to Spain in the World Cup semi-finals having succumbed to the same opponents in the UEFA EURO 2008 showpiece, launch their quest for a fourth European title by visiting Brussels to play Belgium. Laurent Blanc and Cesare Prandelli undertake their first competitive engagements as the new coaches of France and Italy with games against Belarus and Estonia respectively. New Greece coach Fernando Santos commences his attempt to emulate Otto Rehhagel's remarkable feat at UEFA EURO 2004 with a home fixture against Georgia in Group F.

Elsewhere that night, England and Portugal will look to kick-start their revivals after unexpectedly early World Cup exits when they entertain Bulgaria and Cyprus respectively. Indeed, of the 13 European teams who reached the World Cup, all bar Switzerland and Denmark see action on 3 September, those two countries kicking off their schedules with home matches on Tuesday 7 September.

A full list of qualifying fixtures can be found here.

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