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TOUGH NUTS TO CRACK

IRISH fans and players alike are already drawing up their lists of dream draws and dream destinations.

After last night's bout of activity in the Euro 2012 qualifiers, it's now clear that one possible game -- a re-match of Ireland v France -- is off the agenda as the French have qualified for the play-offs and Ireland know they will face one of Estonia, Turkey, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the play-offs.

The web-savvy fans who make their travels to see Ireland by budget airlines will start their homework today on possible routes to Podgorica, Estonia, Istanbul or Sarajevo, so here the Evening Herald gives you a guide to our possible Euro 2012 play-off opponents.

Poland legend Zbigniew Boniek, who played under Giovanni Trapattoni and alongside Marco Tardelli at Juventus, will help conduct the play-off draw in Krakow at noon Irish time tomnorrow, and it's thought that Trapattoni will not travel to Poland for the draw, but will instead follow it on TV.



BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

FIFA RANKING: 22

RECORD v IRELAND: Never played at senior or U21 levels. Most recent international meeting was in Bulgaria this week as a classy Bosnian side beat Paul Doolin's men 2-0.

RECENT FORM: Very good. Bosnia had a slow start to the campaign with just two wins from the first five games and a very poor 3-0 loss to Romania, but they regrouped and won four in a row, finishing off with a draw in France last night.

FOOTBALL VIEW: A real trip into the unknown. Players like Edin Dzeko (Manchester City) Asmir Begovic (Stoke) and Sasa Papac (Rangers) are known from the British leagues but they also have classy players with clubs like Lazio, Roma and Seville.

FANS VIEW: Attractive draw for the more intrepid supporters and a chance for fans to cross off yet another of the UEFA nations on their list of countries visited in the line of national duty. A slight problem is the fact that Bosnia tend to play their home games in the city of Zenica, 70km north of the capital Sarajevo. Also, flights to Bosnia will not be cheap and some fans may try and travel overland.

ESTONIA

FIFA RANKING: 58

RECORD v IRELAND: Perfect record. Played them twice at senior level in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers and Ireland got two wins with two clean sheets. We also got three wins and a draw from four games at U21 level.

RECENT FORM: Indifferent, and some of their best results in the qualification campaign came against Northern Ireland. Estonia were a mixed bag at the start of the qualifiers -- they struggled to win at home to Brian Kerr's Faroe Islands and then lost at home to Italy and Slovenia. They did get a stunning win away to Serbia, but then went and lost away to the Faroes.

FOOTBALL VIEW: The most winnable of the ties. If Ireland can't beat a side like Estonia they don't deserve a place in the finals.

FANS VIEW: The ideal draw for the fans as Tallinn is easily accessible from Dublin, has great nightlife and is not expensive, as Shamrock Rovers fans can say from their trip there in the Champions League in the summer.

MONTENEGRO

FIFA RANKING: 26

RECORD v IRELAND: We have only played the Balkan nation twice and they were both 0-0 draws in the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup. The point gained in Podgorica early in the campaign was seen in some quarters as a disappointing result, but Montenegro have recently shown how solid they are at home, and the scoreless draw in Dublin was a nothing game as Ireland had already secured a play-off place.

RECENT FORM: Montenegro have been poor recently, in comparison with their stunning form at the start of the campaign. They began in some style, with three wins and four clean sheets from the first four games, including a 0-0 draw away to England, but showed some real nerves after that, losing away to Wales and Switzerland.

FOOTBALL VIEW: Ireland struggled to break down Montenegro over 180 minutes in the World Cup campaign and there's little to suggest that another clash would be anything different this time around. Winnable but not easy.

FANS VIEW: Attractive trip for the fans in some ways as supporters were able to enjoy the beaches of Montenegro's resorts when they visited for that qualifier in 2008, but there's not an awful lot to do in the capital Podgorica, and with no direct flights from Dublin, it won't be an easy trip.

TURKEY

FIFA RANKING: 27

RECORD V IRELAND: Most recent competitive meeting was in the play-offs for Euro 2000 when the Turks went through on away goals. Last meeting was a friendly in 2003, a 2-2 draw when Nick Colgan, Gary Doherty and David Connolly all started.

RECENT FORM: Turkey did ok in the qualifiers, struggling to cope with a rampant Germany side who ran away with the group.

FOOTBALL VIEW: One of the tougher opponents for Ireland, the Turks were solid without being spectacular in qualifying and an Irish win, especially in Istanbul, would have to be really worked for.

FANS VIEW: Not brilliant, but at least the fans should avoid the travel misery of our last trip here - fans and players alike needed to make part of the journey to Bursa by ferry in 1999 - as Turkey have played all their qualifiers in Istanbul.