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Oct, 13, 2011

Euro 2012 play-off draw

Republic of Ireland have landed the ideal Euro 2012 play-off draw as they take on Estonia, while Portugal face Bosnia, Czech Republic play Montenegro and Turkey take on Croatia in a rerun of the Euro 2008 quarter-final.

Having lost four of their last five play-offs for a major tournament, the Irish cannot take the Estonians, who edged out Serbia in Group C to second place, at all lightly.

Their last appearance ended in acrimony when they were knocked out by France following a controversial handball by Thierry Henry ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

Former Republic of Ireland striker John Aldridge, though, believes Giovanni Trapattoni's men are well placed to progress.

Asked if he thought Ireland would go through, he told Sky Sports News: "Yes. We've got the greatest travelling fans and it would be great to see them on the road again. It was probably the easiest of the four (seeded teams to draw). We travel better than we play at home - we've had better results away than we have had at home."

On his hopes for the first leg in Estonia, he added: "They will try to get a clean sheet, try to get a win which would set us up nicely."

Ireland beat the Estonians home and away during the qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup finals, but Trapattoni admitted he is not underestimating the threat they pose to his side's hopes of reaching the finals.

He said: ''It is extremely positive for Ireland that we will play the first leg away. We should not underestimate our opposition, or any team, including Estonia. To have made it through to the play-off, they must have quality and mental fortitude.

''Our build-up to this stage of the competition has shown us the importance of organisation, attention to detail and self-belief. That will be vitally important to us as we prepare for these games in November.''

The Portuguese face the same opponents they defeated in play-off qualification for the 2010 World Cup but Bosnia goalkeeper Asmir Begovic is hopeful it will be a different story this time around.

"It will be hard - that's probably clear to everyone," he told SuperSport. "However, I saw Denmark get the better of Portugal and, if they can do it, why can't we? We certainly can qualify.

"It is definitely a different situation [to the 2010 World Cup play-off]. I think we're now a much better team and we should remember the first leg in Portugal, where it was a simple case of bad luck."

Montenegro's delight at making this stage may be further lifted by taking on a Czech team who made heavy weather in finishing ahead of Scotland.

Croatia, meanwhile, have unfinished business after they were denied at the last Euro finals by a last-minute Turkish extra-time goal and in a shoot-out.

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