After the qualifying group campaign ended on Tuesday, UEFA.com looks back over a year of excitement with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Hamit Altıntop among the star performers.
Article top media content
Goal: Hamit Altıntop
With Turkey 1-0 up in their opening qualifier against Kazakhstan last September, Hamit – lurking on the right-hand edge of the penalty area – met Emre Belözoğlu's corner from the opposite flank with the sweetest of right-footed volleys to double his team's advantage. It earned him the 2010 FIFA Puskás Award – presented for most beautiful goal of the year. "It's not that bad to make a bit of history like this," said the midfielder. "It might not have been my most important goal but it was certainly the most spectacular."
Little wonders: Montenegro and Estonia
Europe's youngest football nation, Montenegro only made their international bow in 2007, but came from 2-0 down against England to earn a historic point to book a play-off place in their penultimate Group G fixture. "I think I am the happiest man on the planet," said Branko Brnović after his first match as his country's coach. Estonia were also among the second-bottom seeds in their pool but also made it into the play-off draw after Serbia lost their final Group C fixture 1-0 in Slovenia. "We don't care who we meet in the play-offs," said midfielder Martin Vunk. "I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight."
First XI: Netherlands 11-0 San Marino
Robin van Persie scored four as the Oranje registered the biggest win in their history, eclipsing 9-0 successes against Finland and Norway from 1912 and 1972 respectively. Leading 3-0 at half-time, Bert van Marwijk's men went goal crazy after the break on their way to a seventh successive Group E win. "I did not know it was a record," Van Persie said. "But, yes, it is something I am very proud of."
Opening goal: Jóan Edmundsson (Faroe Islands)
The first goal on the road to Poland and Ukraine was scored by Newcastle United FC striker Edmundsson on 11 August 2010 in Tallinn. The then 19-year-old's effort gave the Faroe Islands a lead they held until added time against Estonia, who turned the game on its head with two goals in as many minutes from Kaimar Saag and Raio Piiroja. Brian Kerr's side would get their revenge in the reverse fixture, however, with a 2-0 victory − the Faroes' first UEFA European Championship win since beating San Marino in October 1995.
Perfect records: Spain and Germany
The holders and the 2008 finalists negotiated their way through qualifying with unblemished records, Germany winning ten games and Spain eight. Only three teams – France en route to the 1992 and 2004 finals, and the Czech Republic on the road to UEFA EURO 2000 – had previously enjoyed perfect campaigns.
Spain's golden boy: David Villa (Spain)
A scorer of great goals and a great scorer of goals, Villa's dual talents both came to the fore on one memorable night in Granada. Trailing the Czech Republic midway through the second half, Spain needed something fast and Villa was the man to provide it. A thumping equaliser made the FC Barcelona striker his country's all-time leading scorer – eclipsing Raúl Gonzàlez's tally – on 45 and, just for good measure, he soon added a winner from the spot. He rounded off qualification with his 50th international goal, in the 3-1 win against Scotland.
Top scorer: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Netherlands)
Northern Ireland's David Healy set a new high when he scored 13 times in UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying, but Huntelaar came perilously close to matching that achievement, with 12 of the Netherlands' 37 Group E goals. The top scorer in qualifying and perhaps the wiliest fox in any of the world's boxes, Huntelaar once drew praise from Louis van Gaal, who said: "Huntelaar is the best striker in the world in a tight area; there is no one like him."
Keane eye for goal: Robbie Keane (Republic of Ireland)
Just over a month shy of his 31st birthday, Keane hit his 50th and 51st international goals in a 2-0 win against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to become the first player from the British Isles to score more than a half-century for their country. "My goal was to reach Niall Quinn's record [of 21]," he said of his first target as an international striker. "When I first came into the Ireland squad, Niall Quinn said to me I would get 50 goals, so it's probably down to him."
In addition to the Oranje's 11-0 win, Hungary and Finland both beat San Marino 8-0, but there were five more thrilling games where teams shared out eight goals more evenly.
Belgium 4-4 Austria
Germany 6-2 Austria
Netherlands 5-3 Hungary
Portugal 4-4 Cyprus
Portugal 5-3 Iceland
Oldest player: David Weir (40 years and 155 days)
Scotland v Spain, 12/10/10
Oldest scorer: Jari Litmanen(39 years and 272 days)
Finland v San Marino, 17/11/10
Youngest player: Romelu Lukaku (17 years and 112 days)
Belgium v Germany, 07/09/10
Youngest scorer: Václav Kadlec (18 years and 145 days)
Liechtenstein v Czech Republic, 12/10/10
"If my son does not support the team that his father coaches, I will stop his pocket money."
Bulgaria's German coach Lothar Matthäus lays down the law for his son by former Miss Switzerland Lolita Moreno after being asked whether young Loris would be supporting Bulgaria or Switzerland when the sides met on 26 March.