The five British representatives in the Euro 2012 competition kick off their qualifying matches tonight and four of the countries face tricky away ties.
Scotland have a difficult task in Lithuania, and manager Craig Levein has opted for a strong Glasgow Rangers contingent in the hope of getting some cohesiveness in the squad. Lee McCulloch, who has not been in the squad since 2007 will join team mates Steven Naismith, Allan McGregor, Steven Whittaker, Kenny Miller and David Weir in a strong domestic core. Unfortunately James McFadden is injured so they will start with an unconventional 4-1-4-1 formation comprising:
McGregor, Hutton, Weir, McManus, Whittaker, McCulloch, Naismith, Brown, Fletcher, Robson, Miller.
This is a game Scotland cant afford to lose if they are to have any chance at qualification , given they have World Champions Spain and the strong Czech Republic in the group. Their second game on Tuesday night against group whipping boys Liechtenstein is also crucial as goal difference may come into play. Anything less than 6 points from these two games will make qualification an uphill task.
Wales who have been drawn with England & the Swiss will also know that nothing short of 3 points will be enough when they travel to Montenegro, who are the Europe’s newest footballing nation, having played their 1st match in March 2007. The teams have met once in 2009 when Wales lost 2-1 and Montenegro are ranked 9 places higher by FIFA.
The Welsh squad is mainly comprised of Premier League fringe or Championship players, however they do have Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, and Craig Bellamy to add a little class to the mix.
Montenigro will be without leading striker Stevan Jovetic, however they will be hard to beat and Wales might be lucky to come away from this game with a draw.
Northern Ireland will travel more in hope than expectation to Slovenia who despite missing out on a last 16 place in the 2010 World Cup, showed enough to suggest they could figure significantly in the group. A draw in this one will be a great result for the Irish.
The Republic of Ireland have a winnable tie in Armenia and with a tie against Andorra on Tuesday they will be expecting to be top of their group with 6 points next wee. Defeat in either game is not an option if they are to challenge Russia and Slovakia in what looks a quite open group B.
England should have few problems against Bulgaria who although a solid team don’t look good enough to qualify from this group. Providing England set about their task with purpose a 2-3 goal victory looks likely. They will need this though as they have to travel to Switzerland next week and the Swiss will probably be their main challengers.
British Teams 2012 European Championships Qualifying Matches
Armenia v Rep of Ireland
Montenegro v Wales
Lithuania v Scotland
Slovenia v Northern Ireland
England v Bulgaria
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
Rep of Ireland v Andorra
Switzerland v England
Scotland v Liechtenstein