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Ten things: EURO 2004 Qualifiers
Marc Shaw presents his ten-point, group-by-group guide to the EURO 2004 qualifying campaign.
Tuesday, 23 December 2003


1. France will be hard to beat
Les Bleus are not likely to give up their crown without a fight. They won all eight qualifiers against Slovenia, Israel, Cyprus and Malta, scoring 29 goals and conceding only two.

2. The Danes can sizzle
A 2-0 defeat by Bosnia-Herzegovina was Denmark's only qualification loss while a 5-2 win in Romania was the highlight of their campaign. Morten Olsen's side are a tad unpredictable but if Thomas Gravesen can unleash a few more 45-metre strikes then they may yet produce a shock.

3. The Czech Republic are dark horses 
Karel Brückner is yet to taste defeat since taking over from Jozef Chovanec in December 2001. That record proved crucial after a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands in Rotterdam was followed by a 3-1 victory in Prague that forced the Dutch into the play-offs.

4. Latvia can dream
Sweden won Group 4 to qualify automatically, but the real story was Latvia, who snatched a play-off place with an away win against the Swedes and then edged out FIFA World Cup semi-finalists Turkey over two legs.

5. Never write off the Germans
Germany recovered from draws against runners-up Scotland, Lithuania and Iceland to win Group 5. The Scots, meanwhile, had their hopes briefly raised by a 1-0 win in the play-off first leg against the Netherlands, but a 6-0 reverse in Amsterdam emphatically ended their challenge.

6. Spain still stutter
Usually so impressive in qualifying, Spain were overhauled by a Greek side who won six consecutive games to top Group 6. Defeat by the section winners and a goalless draw against Northern Ireland forced Spain into the play-offs, before they recovered sufficiently to comfortably see off Norway. 

7. England are resilient
A 2-0 home win against Turkey gave England the edge in Group 7, and Sven-Göran Eriksson's side confirmed their place at the top of the section as a resolute defensive display earned a goalless draw in Istanbul in the final qualifier that pushed Turkey into second place.

8. Bulgaria blend youth and experience
Plamen Markov's side were the first side to qualify for the finals after taking control of Group 8 that also included Croatia, Belgium, Estonia and Andorra. Bulgaria reached Portugal with a game to spare after impressive wins against Belgium and Croatia, while Croatia claimed second place with a final-day win against the Bulgarians and went on to eliminate Slovenia in the play-offs. 

9. Italian class could tell
Despite losing 2-1 in Wales, Italy regained control of Group 10 with a thumping 4-0 win in the reverse fixture and sent Mark Hughes' side into second position. Serbia and Montenegro never recovered from dropping four points to Azerbaijan, and Wales were undone by Russia in the play-offs.

10. Switzerland can be ruthless
The Swiss wrapped up Group 10 with a 2-0 win at home to the Republic of Ireland on the final day of qualification, while Russia overcame shock defeats in Albania and Georgia to salvage second place. Their 19-goal haul made them difficult opponents, and Wales were duly overcome in the play-offs.
- Marc Shaw




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