IRELAND’S VICTORY IN Tallinn has spared Giovanni Trappatoni’s men the pre-match jitters usually attendant upon a tournament qualifier, but with three other deciders taking place on Tuesday evening, others have been decidedly less fortunate.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (0) vs. (0) Portugal
Portugal journeyed to Sarajevo in the hope of dispelling mounting public uncertainty about the pedigree of manager Paulo Bento and the captaincy of Cristiano Ronaldo, but did little to help their cause, failing to record an away goal.
Returning to the Estádio Nacional this Tuesday for a final, dice-roll of a match with a determined and organised Bosnian side, the Iberians are flirting with an ingnominious exit from the competition.
Not only that, but with national catastrophe looming on the horizon, home advantage is likely to count for little.
Croatia (3) vs. (0) Turkey
Next to Ireland, Croatia look the side most likely to snatch a place in the Euro 2012 group stages.
The Balkans comprehensively dismatled Guus Hiddink’s Turkey in the tie’s first leg, with goals from a Ivica Olić, Mario Mandžukić and Vedran Ćorluka doing nearly enough to put the final result beyond doubt.
Turkey have looked a shadow of their 2008 selves over the course of the qualifying campaign, but they do have the requisite technical ability to trouble a top-class defence should Fortune decide to favour their cause.
Montenegro (0) vs. (2) Czech Republic
Prior to Friday’s first leg, it was widely suspected that the Czech Republic, a squad atrophying around its Premier League stars Petr Cech and Tomáš Rosický, would struggle to unlock a notoriously frugal Montenegran defence.
Instead, they take a two-goal advantage to Podgorica courtesy of efforts from Tomas Sivok and striker Václav Pilař.
Branko Brnovič’s men, whose defensive organisation tends to compensate for struggles in the final third, have their work well and truly cut out for them.