We look back at the qualification campaigns of all four teams in Group B as the final countdown to this summer's tournament in Poland and Ukraine beginsWith three world powerhouses as well as 1992 European champions Denmark drawn together, Group B is set to be the standout at Euro 2012.
World Cup finalists Netherlands are expected to battle it out with long-running foes Germany for top spot in the group, with both having come through their respective qualification campaigns with relative ease.
Trying to stop them will be a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portuguese team who overcame a determined Bosnia & Herzegovina side in the qualification play-offs back in November. Denmark, past-winners of this tournament, are the group underdogs but have enough quality within the ranks to give any of the sides around them a stern test in Poland and Ukraine.
With the tournament proper only a month away, Goal.com has looked back in detail at the qualification stories of each side to see what we can possibly expect in Group B this summer.
Having not missed out on qualification for the Euros since 1984, the Dutch immediately fancied their chances of making it to Euro 2012 after being drawn in Group E alongside Sweden, Hungary, Finland, Moldova and San Marino, even more so after their successful run to the final of the 2010 World Cup.
Netherlands started their qualification campaign with an away game against San Marino, and unsurprisingly recorded a comfortable victory over the minnows. A Klaas-Jan Huntelaar hat-trick and goals from Dirk Kuyt and Ruud van Nistelrooy resulted in a 5-0 win for Oranje.
Things would be less smooth in the following game, though, as Oranje only just managed to bag the full points against Finland. An early Huntelaar double got Holland off to a flier, but Mikael Forssell made it 2-1 shortly after, and the away side came close to leveling the scoring on a number of occasions.
The World Cup finalists then recorded another hard-fought win over Moldova as Huntelaar’s 37th-minute goal proved to be decisive.
However, Holland would then turn on the style in the home match against their biggest rivals for a ticket for the finals - Sweden. Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay helped Bert van Marwijk’s men to a 2-0 lead at half-time, before the duo again found the net after the interval to make it 4-0. Andreas Granqvist pegged one back in the closing stages of the game, but it was too little, too late for the Scandinavians.
Oranje treated their fans to yet another superb showing in March 2011 when they thrashed Hungary 4-0 in Budapest. Rafael van der Vaart and Afellay found the net before half-time, with Kuyt and Robin van Persie adding their names to the score-sheet after the interval.
The Dutch hosted Hungary four days later in a match that showed their defensive vulnerability. Van Persie opened the scoring for Holland in the first half, but two quick goals from Gergely Rudolf and Zoltan Gera provided the guests the advantage. Wesley Sneijder and Van Nistelrooy then restored Oranje’s lead, but again Gera made it 3-3 shortly after. Netherlands’ quality eventually shone through, though, as Kuyt netted a double to help the home side to a 5-3 win.
Goals from Van Persie (4), Sneijder (2), John Heitinga, Kuyt, Huntelaar (2) and Georginio Wijnaldum then helped the Euro 1988 winners to an 11-0 record win over San Marino, before they booked their place for Euro 2012 with a 2-0 away victory over Finland courtesy of goals from Kevin Strootman and Luuk de Jong.
Oranje ended their campaign with a narrow 1-0 win over Moldova courtesy of the unstoppable Huntelaar, before losing their unbeaten status against Sweden. Strikes from Huntelaar and Kuyt were not enough as the Swedes cruised to a 3-2 victory.
Netherlands consequently ended first in Group E with 27 points from 10 games, three points ahead of Sweden.
The Danes were handed a tough qualifying group for Euro 2012 after being paired with dark-horses Portugal and regional rivals Norway, while Iceland and Cyprus appeared to be obstacles they would be expected to overcome without any noteworthy problems.
The Euro 1992 champions started their campaign with a hard-fought home win over Iceland as they needed a late Thomas Kahlenberg goal to bag the full points in Copenhagen.
Denmark’s second game was one to forget as they were outclassed by Portugal from start to finish. Two goals from Nani helped the Portuguese to a comfortable lead at half-time, although Ricardo Carvalho’s 79th minute own goal handed the guests a lifeline in Porto. Nevertheless, Cristiano Ronaldo put the match to bed shortly after as he made it 3-1.
Head coach Morten Olsen’s men bounced back four days later with a routine victory over Cyprus. Although Danish Dynamite failed to impress, second-half goals from Morten Rasmussen and Kasper Lorentzen fired them to an important 2-0 home win.
The Danes were dealt another blow in the away game against Norway in March 2011, though. Veteran winger Dennis Rommedahl broke the deadlock for Denmark in the 28th minute, but they were unable to hold on to their lead, and Erik Huseklepp eventually equalised in the closing stages of the game.
Denmark now realised they couldn’t afford to slip up again and reacted favourably. Second-half goals from Eredivisie-based duo Lasse Schone and Christian Eriksen resulted in a comfortable 2-0 away win over Iceland.
With 10 points from five games, Olsen’s men hosted rivals Norway in what would be a crucial encounter, and Denmark didn’t disappoint. A Nicklas Bendtner double in the opening 45 minutes decided the match, and helped the Danes back in the race for a ticket for the finals in Poland-Ukraine.
Cyprus were unable to seriously threaten Denmark in their penultimate game as Lars Jacobsen, Dennis Rommedahl (2) and Michael Krohn-Dehli all found the net in the opening half-hour, before the hosts pegged one back in the 45th minute to make it 4-1.
The match against Portugal on October 11 would be decisive, and the Scandinavians produced the goods for their fans. Krohn-Dehli opened the scoring after only 13 minutes of play, with Bendtner pouring even more salt in the Portuguese wounds around the hour mark. Cristiano Ronaldo pulled one back well into stoppage time, but it was too little, too late for the Seleccao.
Denmark thus finished first in their group with 19 points from eight games, finishing three points ahead of Portugal and Norway.
After finishing third at the 2010 World Cup, Germany were immediately considered to be one of the favourites for the upcoming European Championship, and the draw for their qualification group didn’t worry them too much. Turkey, Belgium, Austria, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan deserved respect, but there was little doubt Joachim Low’s men would qualify.
Their opening game didn’t go as smoothly as the Nationalelf had hoped, though, as Belgium caused them plenty of problems in Brussels. However, the ageless Miroslav Klose came to the rescue as he did what he does best - scoring decisive goals.
The home match versus Azerbaijan only four days later didn’t contain any unexpected obstacles as Germany cruised to an impressive 6-1 victory. Goals from Heiko Westermann, Lukas Podolski, Klose and an own goal from Rashad Sadygov made it 4-0 for the Germans, before Rail Melikov pegged one back. Holger Badstuber and Klose (again) had the last word in Cologne.
Low’s team continued to impress in October 2010 as they beat Turkey 3-0 at home courtesy of a Klose double and a single Mesut Ozil strike, followed by an away win over Kazakhstan with the same score-line, with Klose, Mario Gomez and Podolski finding the net this time around.
Kazakhstan were again unable to cause an upset when they travelled to Germany in March 2011. Klose opened the scoring after only four minutes before Thomas Muller made it 3-0 at half-time with a double. Once more Klose found the net in the closing stages of the game to help Germany to a 4-0 win.
Austria then awaited in what proved to be a stern test for the Germans, but Low’s men were eventually up to the task, although only just. Gomez broke the deadlock in the first half, but an own goal from Arne Friedrich restored parity after the break. The Nationalelf wouldn’t drop any points, though, courtesy of a late Gomez strike.
Germany added three more points to their tally four days later by beating Azerbaijan 3-1 in another efficient performance. Ozil and Gomez gifted the former World Cup winners a two-goal lead, before Murad Huseynov presented them a late scare. However, Andre Schurrle decided the game well into stoppage time with a smart finish.
The Germans would then hammer Austria 6-2 to seal qualification for Euro 2012. Goals from Klose, Ozil (2), Podolski, Schurrle and Mario Gotze helped the DFB XI to an impressive victory at the Veltins Arena.
Although they had already booked their ticket for the finals, Germany would not slow down in their remaining two games. They beat Turkey 3-1 courtesy of goals from Gomez, Muller and Schweinsteiger, and then ended Belgium’s dreams of making it to Euro 2012 with another 3-1 victory - Ozil, Schurrle and Gomez adding their respective names to the score-sheet.
Germany thus ended atop of Group A with the maximum 30 points from 10 games, a whopping 13 points clear of the Turks.
After disappointing at the 2010 World Cup, the Portuguese were determined to prove their worth in the qualification campaign for Euro 2012. Although their group with Denmark, Norway, Cyprus and Iceland was by no means an easy one, the Seleccao were seen as the favourites to win their section.
Portugal got off to a disastrous start, though, as they were held to a 4-4 draw by minnows Cyprus in their opening game. Goals from Hugo Almeida, Raul Meireles, Danny and Manuel Fernandes were not enough for the Iberians as Andreas Avraam netted an equalizer in the 89th minute of the game in Guimaraes.
Things would only get worse in their second game, as a single Erik Huseklepp strike helped Norway to a surprising 1-0 home win over the Portuguese following a goalkeeping howler from Eduardo.
Paulo Bento then took over as head coach and brought with him some much-needed stability. Portugal beat Denmark 3-1 in October courtesy of two first-half goals from Nani and a late Cristiano Ronaldo strike.
Their resurgence continued four days later against Iceland as they recorded yet another 3-1 victory, this time away from home. Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Meireles and Helder Postiga proved to be too much for the Icelanders.
Portugal gained their revenge over Norway in June 2011 as Postiga netted the only goal of the game, before the Seleccao thrashed Cyprus 4-0 courtesy of goals from Cristiano Ronaldo (2), Almeida and Danny.
Nani (2), Postiga, Joao Moutinho and Eliseu then helped the Portuguese to a spectacular 5-3 win over Iceland to set up the decider against Denmark.
However, Paulo Bento’s men failed to cope with the pressure and were outplayed in Copenhagen as the Danes were leading 2-0 after 63 minutes of play. Cristiano Ronaldo managed to peg one back, but Portugal left the Danish capital empty handed.
Portugal consequently had to settle for second place in Group H, meaning they had to face Bosnia & Herzegovina in a two-legged play-off to make it to Poland-Ukraine.
After a scoreless draw in Zenica, Portugal ran riot in the return leg on November 15. Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani both found the net, before Zvjezdan Misimovic made it 2-1 from the spot to offer the visitors hope. This pushed the South-Europeans into action, and further goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Postiga (2) and Miguel Veloso helped them to a deserved 6-2 win, thus booking their ticket for the Euros.