Bosnia, Portugal battle for Euro place
Two years after losing out to Portugal in a playoff for the World Cup, Bosnia-Herzegovina finds the same opposition standing in the way of its first major international tournament.
In the tightest of the four playoffs for the 2012 European Championship, Portugal returned from a testing trip to Sarajevo with a 0-0 draw from Friday's first leg.
The result makes Portugal favorite to reach next year's finals, but Bosnia proved its credentials by taking France right to the wire in their qualifying group and memories of a 2-0 aggregate defeat by the Portuguese in the 2010 World Cup playoffs are still fresh.
''The time has come for this generation to go to a major competition and I sincerely hope that we will achieve our goal,'' said Bosnia striker Vedad Ibisevic, who missed his side's best chance in the first leg.
Much of Tuesday's focus will center on the Portugal-Bosnia match because the other three playoffs have virtually been wrapped up.
Ireland thrashed Estonia 4-0 in Tallinn while Croatia eased past Turkey 3-0 in Istanbul, leaving both victorious sides in dominant positions ahead of their return matches on home turf.
The Czech Republic is also well-positioned to qualify for its fifth straight European Championship after a 2-0 victory over Montenegro but must travel to Podgorica for the second leg.
''It wouldn't be right to think that we've already advanced,'' Czech Republic coach Michal Bilek said. ''I am very satisfied with the first-leg effort but we have to repeat it on Tuesday.''
Germany and the Netherlands - two of the favorites for Euro 2012 - meet in the most high-profile of Tuesday's friendlies, while world and European champion Spain looks to bounce back from a 1-0 defeat to England on Saturday when it travels to Costa Rica.
England hosts Sweden and Italy is at home to Uruguay on the same night.
Despite sitting in joint-eighth place in the FIFA rankings, Portugal's current side is a shadow of the one that reached the final of Euro 2004 and the semifinals of both Euro 2000 and the 2006 World Cup.
Cristiano Ronaldo has often been accused of failing to transfer his sensational form for Real Madrid onto the international stage, but he and fellow winger Nani remain Portugal's most lethal attacking weapons.
''All teams go through rough patches. It's all about cycles,'' Ronaldo said after the first leg, when he failed to add to his five goals scored in the qualifying campaign.
''We have to take on the mantle of favorites because we're a team that always has a chance of winning. There's no point in just talking about it and not proving it in matches.''
Bosnia will look to Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko, the second leading scorer in the Premier League this season, to fire the team's goals in Lisbon.
Ever present at the Euros since 1996 and the winner of the tournament in 1976, the Czech Republic's team has also seen better days but it had far too much for Montenegro in Prague on Friday, with Vaclav Pilar and Tomas Sivok grabbing the goals.
Arsenal playmaker Tomas Rosicky should be available for the Czechs despite injuring his foot in the first leg while striker Milan Baros is expected to return from a muscle injury, but defensive midfielder Tomas Hubschman remains suspended.
Montenegro is attempting to reach its first European Championship since becoming independent in 2006.
''There are 90 more minutes to be played, and we are still hopeful,'' Montenegro assistant coach Savo Milosevic said.
Ireland should canter into its first major finals since 2002 thanks to its huge first-leg lead, the return from suspension of striker Kevin Doyle and the fact that Estonia has center backs Andrei Stepanov and Raoi Piiroja plus goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko suspended for the match.
Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni has warned against complacency, saying: ''Estonia will come with a different mentality, a different attitude and a different performance. The cat is in the sack, but the sack is not closed.''
Croatia's memories of a heartbreaking defeat to Turkey in the quarterfinals of Euro 2008 were erased by convincingly beating Guus Hiddink's side on Friday.
Hiddink's decorated CV includes guiding South Korea to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup and Russia to the last four of Euro 2008, but this latest task may be beyond him.