Euro 2012 Play-off Match Fixtures Announced

Posted on by SoccerPunter

Portugal, losing finalists in 2004, will face outsiders Bosnia in their Euro 2012 play-off while Estonia take on the Republic of Ireland following Thursday’s draw in Krakow, Poland.

In the other ties, 1996 runners-up the Czech Republic will take on Montenegro, who had only just achieved independence when the 2008 finals took place, and Guus Hiddink-coached Turkey will meet Croatia.

The first legs will be spread between November 11 and 12 with the returns all on November 15. The Bosnians, who came within 13 minutes of automatic qualification and forcing France into the play-offs, will enjoy home advantage for the home leg.

But they will then have to negotiate a tough trip to Lisbon to face Cristiano Ronaldo and company as the eastern Europeans attempt to reach the finals for the first time.

Portugal, who lost out in their group to Denmark having started off with a 4-4 draw at home to Cyprus, just edged out the same play-off opposition two years ago as they won both games 1-0 to advance to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

“I am not surprised by the way the draw has turned out,” said Portugal coach Paulo Bento.

“We have a strong team and now we must concentrate on beating Bosnia. It is very important for us to do so. I am confident next year we shall be playing in Poland and Ukraine.”

Former Polish international Zbigniew Boniek drew the names out of the hat.

The four play-off winners will join the 10 nations who went through automatically from the qualifying groups — Germany, Russia, Italy, Holland, Sweden (as best runners-up), Greece, England, Denmark, holders Spain and France, as well as Poland and Ukraine who qualify as co-hosts.

Aljosa Asanovic, assistant manager of Croatia, admitted his team would have preferred a weaker play-off opponent.

“We are ready to play with Turkey, but I’m not happy about the draw result. For us it is a big game and I’m looking forward the final result,” he said.

Grzegorz Lato, head of Poland’s football association PZPN and who was also top scorer at the 1974 World Cup, said despite appearances all eight teams could fancy their chances.

“Looking at the draw, you can see the Turks are disappointed, and the Irish are happy but nothing’s going to be easy,” he said.

“You have to remember that there are no weak teams, so the results of the play-off could bring some real surprises.”

Former Republic of Ireland striker John Aldridge begged to differ after Giovanni Trapattoni’s team drew what he believes is the easiest option.

Asked if he thought Trapattoni’s side would go through, he told Sky Sports News: “Yes. We’ve got the greatest travelling fans and it would be great to see them on the road again.

“It was probably the easiest of the four (seeded teams to draw).

“We travel better than we play at home, we’ve had better results away than we have had at home.”

Ireland and Estonia have met twice before, in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup, with Ireland winning both games 2-0.

The draw for the finals will be held on December 2 in Kiev, with the finals starting on June 8 next year and running to July 1.

The 2012 finals will be the last to comprise 16 teams with the format being extended to 24 for the 2016 edition in France.

Euro 2012 Play-off Draw:

Turkey v Croatia

Estonia v Republic of Ireland

Czech Republic v Montenegro

Bosnia v Portugal

Note: First-named team at home in first legs on November 11 and 12. Second legs on November 15.

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