The Euro 2012 playoff draw was held Thursday in Krakow, Poland.
The winners of these four home-and-home series will get the final four berths at next summer’s tournament, joining the 12 teams that have already qualified. The entire tournament will be televised on ESPN networks. Here are notes and Soccer Power Index projections for the four matchups.
Turkey vs. Croatia
This is a rematch of their dramatic Euro 2008 quarterfinal, when Croatia’s Ivan Klasnic scored an apparent winner in the 119th minute. But Turkey’s Semih Senturk tied it in stoppage time, and Turkey advanced on penalty kicks. That game officially counts as a draw, so Croatia leads the series 1-0-3, including a win in the Euro 1996 group stage. ESPN’s Soccer Power Index considers this the closest of the four matchups, as Turkey (ranked 20th) and Croatia (13th) are two of the three best teams in the playoffs. SPI makes Croatia a narrow 56.1 percent favorite to advance.
Estonia vs. Ireland
After feeling robbed by a missed handball in the 2010 World Cup playoffs, Ireland will be thrilled to draw Estonia, which SPI ranks 96th, the worst team remaining. Ireland won both previous meetings by identical 2-0 scores in 2002 World Cup qualifying. Estonia has never reached a major tournament, or even a playoff, while hard-luck Ireland has lost four of its five playoffs. The Irish are well-positioned to reverse that fortune, as SPI rates Ireland a 73.6 percent favorite to reach its second European Championship, first since 1988.
Czech Republic vs. Montenegro
The Czechs have split their two previous playoffs, advancing past Norway to the 2006 World Cup but falling to Belgium in 2002 World Cup playoffs. Montenegro is in its first playoff, seeking its first berth at Euros. These countries have never met, and SPI considers Czech Republic a 74.8 percent favorite to reach Euros for the fifth consecutive tournament.
Bosnia vs. Portugal
Ranked fifth by SPI, Portugal is by far the best team in the playoffs. Bosnia-Herzegovina is rated 41st, fourth-best among the eight playoff sides and second-highest among the unseeded teams. These two countries will have déjà vu, as their only prior encounter was two years ago in the 2010 World Cup playoffs. Portugal won both legs 1-0, in the only playoff either country has ever played. Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal are the biggest favorite, according to SPI, with a 78.6 percent chance to reach their fifth straight European Championship.
Co-hosts: Poland and Ukraine
Group winners: Spain (holders), Germany, Russia, Italy, France, Netherlands, Greece, England and Denmark