Top guns hope to avoid Euro 2012 slip-ups

Paris: Holders Spain join fellow Euro giants England, Germany and France in hoping to avoid major slip-ups Tuesday following largely positive respective starts to Euro 2012 qualifying.

Having carried on from where they left off in winning a maiden World Cup by taking six points from their opening two fixtures, Vicente Del Bosque’s Spain will look to keep that form going against Scotland in Glasgow.

The Scots put everyone behind the ball for much of Friday’s match in Prague to frustrate a Czech side who finally prevailed 1-0.

With just the group winners guaranteed a place in the finals in Poland and Ukraine, the three points were hugely important for the Czechs, runners-up at Euro 96 but set for a tough battle with the Spanish to top the group.

Lithuania made Spain sweat Friday before succumbing 3-1 in Salamanca and the latter expect a tough test at Hampden Park.

“We are expecting them to get everyone behind the ball and try to hit us on the counter-attack,” said Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla.

“They are tough to break down - it can be complicated,” added Cazorla.

Spain have some hardened individuals of their own, however, and will be boosted by the availability of Real Madrid destroyer Xabi Alonso, who missed the Lithuania match with flu.

His knowledge of the full-blooded nature of the British game from his time with Liverpool will enable the Spanish to get to grips rapidly with the physical Scottish style.

Spain are one of seven sides who have maximum points from their qualifiers to date - though they have played just twice.

Four sides can boast a full house from three outings - but few would have expected Montenegro to be one of them.

Single-goal wins over Wales, Bulgaria and Switzerland have propelled the team, which four years ago was still wedded to Serbia, to the top of Group G.

Now, a trip to Wembley beckons - a venue which can hold a sixth of Montenegro’s entire population of 320,000.

England are searching for their own third win under Fabio Capello, but the Eastern Europeans will not be in London for the sightseeing.

Montenegro captain Mirko Vucinic has scored against both Rio Ferdinand and John Terry - who pulled out of the England squad late Sunday through injury - in the Champions League for Roma as well as netting the goal which sank Switzerland in Podgorica last Friday.

Visiting coach Zlatko Kranjcar smells an upset.

“I have told my players we must not go to London to go shopping. We go to England to prove that our results are not just lucky.”

Defender Miodrag Dzudovic adds his side fear nobody.

“We respect England - but we can beat England. We don’t fear them and we don’t fear Rooney.”

The Swiss will meanwhile hope to stay in touch with a home win over Wales.

Another perfect record will go in the Group E meeting between World Cup finalists Holland and Sweden.

The Dutch have won three out of three; the Swedes two from two as both fight it out with Hungary in hot pursuit.

Looking for a fourth win in four are Germany, who should see off a Kazakhstan side coached by German Bernd Stork having flattened Turkey last Friday even if midfielder Mesut Ozil does not get over an ankle injury suffered against the Turks.

Austria can stay in touch with the Germans if they can win in Belgium for a third success.

The Republic of Ireland seek to bounce back from a Group B loss to Russia with a win in Slovakia - likewise two wins from three - while Russia will eye a win in Macedonia as they also target top spot.

Italy, clawing their way back after a terrible World Cup, will consolidate leadership of Group C if they beat Serbia, undone at home by Estonia last week, in Genoa, while fellow summer dunces France, having put Romania in their place at Stade de France, should swat Luxembourg in Metz to stay top of Group D.

In Group H, Portugal will try to close a five-point gap on leaders Norway -- without a game -- by winning in Iceland.

Bureau Report