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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

EURO 2012 Play Offs : Preview (Part Two)

Czech Republic Vs Montenegro

The Czech need to keep their fans away from this!
Granted full membership by UEFA just half a decade ago and Montenegro are currently on the verge of qualifying for Europe's most prestigious international tournament. They have indeed come a long way and will be greatly supported by their 250,000 odd nationals. On the other hand, the Czech have hit a new low. Group toppers in the qualifying stage for EURO 08 and EURO 04 and are currently on the verge of being denied a spot in the 2012 edition.

Fans must have seen both Wales and Switzerland finish ahead of Montenegro in Group G but the Montenegrins proved them wrong. A memorable draw in Wembley and a remarkable comeback against England in Pogdorica has seen this little country come so close to a spot in the group stage of EURO 2012.
The Czech Republic had no hopes of finishing in first place in their group. With Spain as clear favourites in Group I, the Czech had to rely on being the best second placed team in all groups but failed to do so. After a remarkable performance in EURO 2004, the Czech have failed to get past the group stages of the following European Championships and World Cups. Their defence was fairly resolute in the qualifying stage but will be in for a real test against the Montenegrians.

Montenegro will look to Serie A superstars Stevan Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic for a few valuable away goals on Friday. With just Savic, Jovanovic and Vukcevic plying their trade in major European clubs, a relatively unknown yet efficient bunch will be at Brnovic's disposal.

The Czech Republic lack an efficient striker and will most importantly need to maintain a clean sheet. This will require shot stopper Petr Cech and experienced Mainz right back Zdenek Pospech at their best. With 59 goals between them, Milan Baros and Tomas Rosicky will have to hit the back of the net at least once(even one in the second leg might prove to be enough).

Players to watch out for : Mirko Vucinic(Montenegro); Jaroslav Plasil(Czech Republic)

My prediction : Czech Republic 1-2 Montenegro

Estonia Vs Ireland
Ireland's most recent play-off memory is one they will want to forget. A victory over Estonia on aggregate will see Ireland qualify for just their second ever European Championship. If Estonia manage to upset the Irish, we could see three teams(Estonia, Bosnia and Montenegro) making their first appearance in a major international tournament.

It'd be awful to see another Green heartbreak

Estonia managed to scrape through the group stage by finishing a point above Serbia and 2 points above Slovenia. A 3-1 win over the Serbs in Belgrade was the turning point come the end of the group stage of qualifying. Estonia have the 2nd best attacking and defensive record in their group but will need to control the Irish attack if they are to take something with them to the second leg in Ireland.

Ireland will be very disappointed with their 3-2 loss at home against Russia. Even a draw in that game could have seen Ireland grab the top spot and pack their bags for Poland and Ukraine. The Boys in Green have had a very successful 2011( 1 loss in 13 games) and will be looking to end the year on a high by booking a spot in the group stage of EURO 2012.

Estonia will rely heavily on midfielder Konstantin Vassiljev to score against the Irish. Their most experienced player, Raio Piiroja, will have to be a wall in defence and make sure that he doesn't concede any own goals as he did against Northern Ireland in the group stage.

Ireland have a superior squad on paper and have played in a play-off very recently. Captain Robbie Keane will look to further himself as Ireland's top goalscorer against Estonia on Friday night. Boasting a squad consisting of English Premier League stars like Damien Duff, John O'Shea and Shay Given, Giovanni Trapattoni will know that his squad just needs to play a disciplined game to get the job done.

Players to watch out for : Konstantin Vassiljev(Estonia); Aiden McGeady(Ireland)

My prediction : Estonia 0-3 Ireland

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