The final 16 teams for the 2012 European Championships have now been sorted following tonight’s final play-offs.
The first leg of these two-legged matches were played on Friday with Croatia defeating Turkey 3-0 in Istanbul, Czech Republic getting the better of Montenegro 2-0 in Prague, Republic of Ireland cruising past Estonia 4-0 in Tallinn whilst Bosnia-Herzegovina held Portgual to a 0-0 draw in Zenica.
Tonight the return legs were played and there were not any surprises with Croatia and Turkey playing out a scoreless draw in Zagreb allowing Slaven Bilic’s Vatreni through to the finals in Poland and Ukraine next summer with a 3-0 win on aggregate.
In Podgorica, Petr Jiracek’s 81st minute goal put the Czech Republic through to the final 16 as they won 1-0 against Montenegro to salute 3-0 on aggregate as the Republic of Ireland were held to a 1-1 draw by Estonia in Dublin but qualified for their first major tournament in a decade.
Stephen Ward made it 1-0 on the night in the 32nd minute before Estonia’s Konstantin Vassiljev hit back with a stunning long range strike just before the hour-mark but the Irish had an unassailable lead from the first leg and got through 5-1 on aggregate.
Following a scoreless draw on Friday, the pressure was on perennial underachievers Portugal to perform and they came up with the goods courtesy of a 6-2 result in Lisbon over Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Star man Cristiano Ronaldo kicked things off with a brilliant strike from range in the 8th minute before Nani doubled the home side’s advantage with a 24th minute volley. Zvjezdan Misimovic got one back for the visitors when he converted from the penalty spot four minutes prior to half-time before teammate Senad Lulic was shown a red card and then things were soon back on track for the Portuguese when Ronaldo made it 3-1 with a neat left-footed finish from close range in the 53rd minute.
From there on, the goals poured in with Emir Spahic getting another back for the Bosnians in the 66th minute but Paulo Bento’s men kicked into gear with Helder Postiga grabbing a late double either side of Miguel Veloso’s 80th minute strike to move emphatically into the finals with a massive win at Estadio da Luz.
These four teams will now join hosts Poland and Ukraine, Germany, Russia, Italy, France, Holland, Greece, England, Denmark, Spain and Sweden in the finals which kick off on June8, 2012.