The road to Euro 2012 is coming to an end and soon the finals line-up will be completed. First however, there remains a playoff round to reach Poland/Ukraine for a number of hopefuls who found topping a qualification group a step too far.

With the likes of Estonia, Republic of Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal, Turkey, Croatia, Czech Republic and Montenegro in the fray, there are still many goals, twists and turns in store before a ball at Euro 2012 is kicked.

We run down the Euro 2012 playoff ties:

   Estonia vs Republic of Ireland    

Veteran Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni has a great chance of steering Ireland to Euro 2012, booking a date with destiny in the process. After the controversial 2009 defeat in a World Cup playoff to France, with the now infamous “coup avec la main” from Thierry Henry, the Irish hope to see off lowly Estonia, and in so doing book a spot in their first major finals since the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

Trapattoni is keen to play a traditional 4-4-2, including forward Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), and – due to injury niggles forcing Shane Long (West Brom) out – Jon Walters (Stoke) up front.

Ireland’s boss is taking nothing for granted, despite Estonia’s status as underdogs. “We know that Estonia are not minnows”, said the Italian. “They are a good team and did very well in a group with Italy, Serbia and Slovenia.”

Despite the former Bayern Munich coach’s words, Ireland fans are well aware that they have been handed the best possible draw to reach Euro 2012.

Estonia on the other hand reached the playoffs without almost realising. The Baltic country only started to believe a playoff spot was possible after beating Northern Ireland at the start of September. And while it is also true that the side won in Serbia and Slovenia, they were also beaten (2-0) by the Faroe Islands.

Coach Tarmo Ruutli usually deploys a 4-2-3-1 formation and attacking midfielder Konstantin Vassiljev, who turns out in the Russian Premier League with Amkar Perm, is the side’s top star. Vassiljev bagged important goals for Estonia in Belgrade and Ljubliana as well as a double in Belfast against Northern Ireland.

For the Estonians, there is nothing to lose.

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   Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Portugal   

Safet Susic’s boys performed very well in qualifying and even managed to take the lead in the Stade de France through Edin Dzeko, before France equalised last on from the penalty spot, ensuring their spot at Euro 2012.

Bosnia must now face Portugal again after coming face to face with Cristiano Ronaldo and co. in November 2009, during the playoffs for the 2010 World Cup. Portugal, with two 1-0 victories, came through that time.

Susic usually opts for a 4-2-3-1 with Miralem Pjanic, Zvjezdan Misimovic and Senad Lulic (who is starring for Lazio) just behind lone striker Dzeko. The Manchester City hitman plays an important role in Susic’s attack and Bosnia will rely on his goals to fire them to Euro 2012.

In the Portugal camp, rumours flew that the country’s players wanted Jose Mourinho on the bench for this playoff, but neither the Real Madrid boss nor the Portuguese FA confirmed a desire for change.

And thus former Sporting Lisbon coach Paulo Bento will drive Portugal forward. Bento likes a 4-3-3 with Raul Meireles a key man deep in midfield, with both Joao Moutinho and Carlos Martins in front. Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani operate further up the pitch, with only striker Helder Postiga ahead.

For Portugal it is hard to escape the fact that so much depends on Cristiano Ronaldo. A problem however is that the forward appears a different – and less effective – player in the red of Portugal than in the famous white of Real Madrid. Ronaldo turned in a torrid performance in Copenhagen against Denmark, a game which ended the side’s chances of reaching Euro 2012 automatically.

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   Turkey vs Croatia   

Turkey coach Guus Hiddink decided to leave Nuri Sahin in Spain for this crucial playoff because the midfielder was not considered fit. However, Sahin turned in a top notch performance for Real Madrid in their 7-1 thrashing of Osasuna recently.

Hiddink will send out a system that can more comfortably be labelled a 4-1-2-3 than a 4-2-3-1, with Burak Yilmaz, Kazim Kazim and Arda Turan in the front positions.

Turkey were not impressive in the group stages, easily being overrun by Germany twice, and being lucky to escape with a draw from a meeting with Belgium. For Hiddink’s men, the first leg in Istanbul looks decisive here.

Slaven Bilic, in the Croatian camp, can consider himself unlucky, losing the likes of Mladen Petric, Ivan Strinic and Niko Kranjcar before the clash in Istanbul. But, despite a long injury list, Bilic can at least call upon Ivica Olic, the out-of-favour Bayern Munich striker, who is desperate to remind club coach Jupp Heynckes of his qualities.

Croatia finished second in a group topped by Greece and beat off a challenge from Latvia from the all-important playoff spot. The Croatians look weaker than four years ago, when they ensured England would not travel to Euro 2008 and ended the reign of Steve McClaren in the process.

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   Czech Republic vs Montenegro   

When playing in a group with Spain, second place becomes the new first, and the Czech Republic duly finished as runners-up, losing both qualifiers against the Spaniards.

Boss Michal Bilek can be expected to play a 4-3-2-1, with Jaroslav Plasil (Bordeaux) and Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal), the team’s key men. Goalkeeper Petr Cech (Chelsea) remains a doubt for both games due to a fractured nose.

The Czech Republic reached the semi-finals in Euro 2004, but were knocked out in the group stages three years ago in Austria and Switzerland. The country will feel it is time that their side returned to a finals tournament as genuine contenders.

Montenegro were the biggest surprises – along with Estonia – in the Euro 2012 qualifiers. The Balkan nation count striker Mirko Vucinic (Juventus), Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina) and Stefan Savic (Manchester City) as notable stars and at one point even looked able to pip England to top spot in their group.

Branko Brnovic’s men play at home in the second leg and this could be crucial in what is a well-balanced tie.

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