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On this week’s report we focus on the four play-off ties that will decide the last four spots in next summer’s European Championship finals in Poland and Ukraine. This report has a transcript below, as well as explanations of key vocabulary (in bold) can be found at the foot of the post, while other key phrases (in blue) also have meanings explained.

Introduction

With 12 teams already qualified for next summer’s European Championships in Poland/Ukraine the remaining four spots will be filled early next week. Here we take a look at the eight sides involved in the upcoming two-legged games between the best runners-up in the qualifying groups and pick out the four teams we think will make it to the finals.

Ireland vs Estonia

Ireland, who travel to Talinn for the first leg are slight favourites to overcome an Estonian side that is attempting to reach their first ever major tournament. The Irish, under Italian coach Trapatonni, have lots of injury worries and will be relying on captain and top scorer Robbie Keane to bag the goals that should see them through. After the heartache of missing out for the South Africa World Cup, the Irish will be hoping to make amends this time round and experienced players such as Damien Duff, Robbie Keane, goalkeeper Shay Given and defensive stalwart Richard Dunne all know that this may be the last chance for them to get through. Estonia came second behind Italy in their group – a group that included Serbia – so they will be no pushovers. They have brought controversial midfielder Joel Lindpere out of retirement for this play-off and the New York Red Bulls player will be hoping for a better result than the last time he faced Robbie Keane: last week’s MLS lay-off defeat to Keane’s LA Galaxy. It will be close, it will not be pretty but Ireland should scrape through.

Portugal vs Bosnia

On paper this seems an easy tie to predict, after all one of the world’s greatest players Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Portugal. However their rivals tonight and next Tuesday are no longer regarded as minnows. Bosnia are only in the play-offs after France equalised late on in Paris to deny the Bosnians a win which would have sent them through for the first time in their short footballing history. Of course the Bosnians are aiming to gain some revenge as it was Portugal who knocked them out at the same stage two years ago in a World Cup play-off. The Portuguese have some injury worries and may lack the team spirit and organisation of their opponents – I fancy a shock here and Bosnia to make it.

Croatia vs Turkey

Turkey, under Dutch manager Guus Hiddink, host Croatia tonight in a tie that is extremely difficult to call. Turkey were edged out by Germany in the group stage while Croatia came second behind Greece – somewhat of a surprise considering the players in the Croatian side. Tottenham’s Luka Modric will again be pulling the stings for Croatia but he will be missing his club colleague Niko Krancjar who is out through injury. Both home games will be played in intimidating atmospheres and whichever away side holds strong will be key. I am going for Croatia – but only just!

Czech Republic vs Montenegro

Montenegro came second behind England in their qualifying group, in fact, they drew both games, but the lack of firepower meant that they could not finish off so-called weaker teams. They play an experienced Czech side that beat out Scotland to finish second behind Spain in their group. The Czechs will have familiar faces in keeper Čech and captain Rosický. Montenegro have never qualified for a major tournament – they have only been an independent nation since 2006 – but have dangerous strikers in Vučinić and Stevan Jovetić. Unfortunately for them I do not think they will have enough – the Czech Republic to make it.

Vocabulary

the heartache: The disappointment

defensive stalwart : A great and tough defender; experienced

they will be no pushovers: Despite being seen as weaker they will not be defeated easily

should scrape through: Should just about win but it will be close

host: Are at home

be pulling the stings for: Will be organising the game

intimidating atmospheres: Hostile – very emotional

the lack of firepower: They do not score many goals

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