By Nate Jacobson
The qualifying process for Euro 2012 started a month after the 2010 World Cup and spanned until November 2011. With only 14 spots open, two go to the hosts, it is a great accomplishment to make the tournament. Star players need to stay in form and healthy, and teams need to play up to their potential during the 15 months. There are several countries that will be watching Euro 2012 from home, but have the talent to compete with the big countries in Europe. These teams might have a rich history in major tournaments or exciting players that are fun to watch. Here are the top five teams that fans will miss this summer:
1. Belgium- When the qualifying draw came out for Euro 2012, Belgium knew they faced a tough test. They drew a group that featured Germany and Turkey. Regardless, the expectations for Belgium were high as their young players finally grew up and were ready to start qualifying for major tournaments. Belgium has many players under 26 who are playing in top clubs around Europe. Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Marouane Fellaini (Everton), Moussa Dembele (Fulham), Axel Witsel (Benefica), and Romelu Lakaku (Chelsea) are all part of a golden generation for Belgium. There were hearting breaking results that prevented Belgium from finishing second in their group. A 4-4 draw to Austria at home was painful because Austria scored an equalizer deep into second half stoppage time. The match that really ended the Belgians Euro 2012 hopes was a 1-1 tie in Azerbaijan last September. Belgium was a team with the potential to make a deep run at Euro 2012, but will be taking in this tournament from their couches.
2. Turkey- Turkey finished in second place behind perfect Germany (10-0-0) in Group A. In the qualifying playoff they drew Croatia, which was the highest seeded side out of the second place teams. Turkey lost the first leg at home 3-0, essentially ending their Euro 2012 hopes. The second leg was a scoreless stalemate in Zagreb. Turkey is a team that has provided memorable big tournament moments. They finished third in the 2002 World Cup. Turkey reached the semifinals in Euro 2008, after improbable victories over the Czech Republic in the group stage and against Croatia in the quarterfinals. Atletico Madrid attacker Arda Turan is a dangerous player, who could’ve made an impact this summer.
3. Bosnia and Herzegovina- The Bosnians must feel unlucky that they missed Euro 2012. They were 12 minutes from winning their qualifying group, but a Samir Nasri penalty kick sent Bosnia and Herzegovina to the playoffs. They drew Portugal and lost the second leg 6-2 in Portugal, which was also the score line on aggregate. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a well-organized team and they posses a top-class striker in Edin Dzeko (Manchester City).
4. Slovakia- The summer of 2010 was memorable for a country that is mostly associated with ice hockey. Slovakia reached the round of 16 in South Africa before falling to the Netherlands. Slovakia’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign started great with victories against Macedonia and Russia in September 2010. However, emerging Armenia beat Slovakia twice by a combined scored of 7-1, including a 4-0 beat down in Slovakia. Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik is the star of Slovakia and his unique hairstyle will certainly be missed.
5. Wales- The Welsh got off to a nightmare start to qualifying. They were never able to recover in a group that featured England and improving Montenegro. Wales hasn’t made a major tournament in 36 years, but if they were to get there they would be fun to watch. Tottenham winger Gareth Bale is one of the top players in the EPL, and Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) and Craig Bellamy (Liverpool) are solid Premiership players.
Euro is going to expand to 24 teams in 2016, so these teams might find better luck four years from now.
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