After 240 matches in nine qualifying groups spread over the course of 13 months, 12 nations have ensured their place at next summer's UEFA EURO 2012. The teams joining co-hosts Poland and Ukraine will be group winners Germany, Russia, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Greece, England, Denmark and Spain, along with Sweden who finished the best of the runners-up. The remaining four berths will be assigned after a play-off round between the eight remaining runners-up.
Join FIFA.com as we review the most notable facts, stats and stories from the last year of qualifying for the European championship.
German and Spanish perfection
Germany and Spain, the finalists at the last tournament in 2008, both produced flawless qualifying campaigns by winning all of their matches. The reigning world and European champions emerged victorious in all eight of their fixtures, while the Germans set a new record by claiming a maximum 30 points from the ten-game qualifying programme.
The Netherlands were on course to match their German neighbours, but the men in orange fell at the final hurdle, losing 3-2 away to Sweden. However, the defeated finalists at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ still won their group and also produced the top scorer in qualifying, as Schalke frontman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar fired a remarkable 12 goals in eight appearances.
Troubles all round
San Marino were the only one of the 51 competing nations to score no goals at all, and they set an unwanted record too with 53 goals against. Andorra, Malta and Cyprus also finished with no wins.
Twenty-seven of UEFA's 53 member associations have sent teams to the finals in the past. Austria and Poland competed for the first time in 2008, taking the total number of teams ever represented at the event beyond half of all the eligible nations. Of the 27, Austria are the solitary country only to qualify by virtue of hosting the showdown.
History in the making
Neither Estonia nor Montenegro have ever qualified for a major international tournament, but both finished runners-up in their groups and could yet make history if they can battle through the two-legged play-offs.
A total of 109 players from 37 European countries have been, or shortly will be, recognised by UEFA with a commemorative cap and medal for making at least 100 international appearances. The list comprises both current and former greats, including the likes of Lothar Matthaus, Zinedine Zidane, Oleh Blokhin and Sir Bobby Charlton. The first round of awards were presented over the course of the final two qualifying matchdays.
From eight to four
The play-offs, with the first legs on 11 and 12 November and the return matches on 15 November, feature Estonia, Montenegro, Portugal, Croatia, Ireland, Czech Republic, Turkey, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The draw for the sudden-death round takes place this Thursday.
Group E goalfest
Group E was the place to be for fans seeking goals, as the section produced no fewer than 118 goals in 30 matches, an average just short of four goals per game. The group included the Dutch, top scorers in the competition with 37 goals, and the Swedes, who finished third in that ranking on 31 goals. In all, the 240-match qualifying competition produced a grand total of 645 goals.
Coaches part ways
Almost inevitably, underperformance in qualifying cost a clutch of coaches their jobs, including Raimondas Zutautas (Lithuania), Lothar Matthaus (Bulgaria), Dietmar Constantini (Austria) and Zlatko Kranjcar (Montenegro), some in the course of the campaign and some directly after it.
The draw for the four groups of four at the finals will take place in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on 2 December 2011. Co-hosts Poland are top seeds in Group A, while Ukraine are top of Group D. The top seeds among the qualified teams, Spain and the Netherlands, will head up groups B and C.
'Creating History Together'
This is the event slogan of UEFA EURO 2012, and 12 teams are already starting out on preparations for the competition set to take place between 8 June and 1 July in Poland and Ukraine. It is just the third time the finals will be co-hosted, with Belgium and the Netherlands having staged the tournament in 2000, while Austria and Switzerland jointly hosted the 2008 edition.