TEAM-BY-TEAM GUIDE TO THE QUALIFIERS

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Bulgaria

Bloomed, for the first time in a major tournament, at USA '94. Previously poor travellers and qualifying defeats in Germany and Georgia, plus a draw in Albania, suggests that problem is not eradicated. Bulk of the team play outside , from Hristo Stoichkov at Parma, to Boris Mikhailov at Reading. The consequence has been a poor domestic game - not one club side reached the second round in the European competitions - but a flourishing national side. Could be a real threat in their first appearance in these finals.

Croatia

Favoured outside bet. The heady combination of genuine talent and fierce national pride enabled them to head Italy in the qualifying process. Doubts persist about the depth of their international experience, but not about the attacking quality of Zvonimir Boban, Davor Suker, Robert Prosinecki and Alen Boksic. Should be exciting to watch. Concern over the fate of national manager, Miroslav Blazevic, recently released on bail after being charged with corruption (match-fixing) in France.

Czech Republic

Inconsistent. Beaten in Luxembourg and held to a draw in Malta, they then took four points off both the Netherlands and Norway to top their group. Domestic problems with widespread belief that the last league title was "fixed" in favour of Sparta Prague. Jan Stejskal, once of QPR, now with runners-up Slavia Prague, withdrew from the national team in protest while a poll showed 89 per cent of fans disbelieved a denial by the president of the Czech federation. Winners in 1976, but have not qualified since 1980.

Denmark

The holders, having won in Sweden after being recalled from their holidays just weeks before the 1992 finals when Yugoslavia were expelled. They then won the Intercontinental Cup - contested by the six continental champions - in January to show it was no one-off. Many players, including Peter Schmeichel, the Manchester United goalkeeper, were missing. Richard Moller Neilsen, the mastermind behind the 1992 win, will retire after the finals, Denmark's fourth in succession.

England

Little pedigree in this competition - just a third place in 1968 - but will never have a better chance. Signs, in recent performances against Colombia and Switzerland, that things are coming together. Much will depend on Paul Gascoigne finding the form of Italia '90, on Alan Shearer rediscovering his scoring touch, and on Terry Venables, the manager, surviving the constant drip of rumour and allegation about his business affairs. As in 1966, they could play every game at Wembley, which would be a massive advantage.

France

Flirted with danger but eventually qualified in style - and without Eric Cantona, David Ginola or Jean-Pierre Papin. Some very exciting talent in Youri Djoraeff, Patrice Loko and Christian Karembeu. A bold approach from the coach, Aime Jaquet, who gave Zinedine Zidane a debut in the key match in Romania, and he scored twice. Winners in 1984 at home, and a good outside bet this time. But would they dare play at Old Trafford without Eric, or at St James' Park without "Daveed"?

Germany

Perennial favourites in their sixth successive finals, a European Championship record. Jurgen Klinsmann will relish a return to England and the whole team will be looking to go one better than in 1966. Tremendous record in these championships - winners in 1972 and 1980, and twice runners-up, including the last final in Sweden. Berti Vogts, the coach, has tended to rely on Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich for the bulk of his team. Often criticised, but usually come good when it matters.

Italy

Arrigo Sacchi, despite only losing the World Cup final on penalties, continues to be castigated at home, not least for his continued exclusion of Gianluca Vialli. However, the emergence of Vialli's Juventus team-mates, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Alessandro Del Piero, has eased the Italians' passage. Will be among the favourites for a competition thay have only won once, at home in 1968. Can be attractive to watch but, as ever, resolute when it matters, as in drawing away to Croatia with 10 men.

Portugal

Europe's up-and-coming team, with impressive results being gained at all levels. The senior side eventually qualified with an ease which belied four successive failures at world and European level. A fluid and skilful side based around a midfield comprising Paulo Sousa of Juventus as anchor with Fiorentina's Rui Costa and Luis Figo of Barcelona pushing forward. Solid goalkeeping from Porto's Victor Baia adds to the domestic belief that this team can become the first Portuguese side to reach a major tournament final.

Romania

Showed in the World Cup finals in the United States and at Wembley last season that they rank among the very best. Wobbled before qualifying with a surprising home defeat by France. Form has not been helped by the inability of players such as Gheorghe Hagi, Ilie Dumitrescu and also Dan Petrescu, to gain a regular club place. However, this team has now been together a long time and has a very good understanding. Will be making only their second appearance in these finals.

Russia

The most impressive of all qualifiers, unbeaten and only held twice - both times by Scotland. Have a long pedigree, in various guises, in this competition, having won the first, in 1960, and been runners-up three times. The team is based around Spartak Moscow, whose ability will be well-known to Blackburn Rovers. The central defensive combination of Victor Onopko and Yuri Nikiforov are among the most impressive in Europe, while Sergei Yuran has rediscovered his goalscoring form since returning from Portugal.

Scotland

Given the dearth of quality players in the Scottish game, qualification has been an achievement in itself, even from a weak group. Their strength is in defence - Scotland's three goals against was only surpassed by France of the 47 competing teams. Two draws with Russia showed Scottish capabilities, but goalscoring is a problem, partly because injuries and unavailability have prevented Craig Brown fielding a regular partnership. A good tournament is required of Gary McAllister and Andy Goram.

Spain

Spanish football is awash with talented young strikers, and none of them are playing for the national team. While Julio Salinas seems finally to have lost his place, Raul - Real Madrid's wonderkid - Carlitos, the Sevilla winger, and Ivan de la Pena of Barcelona are still waiting for the call. The mercurial Julen Guerrero, of Athletic Bilbao, has broken through, but Javier Clemente, the Spanish coach, still concentrates on the tough spine of Luis Enrique, Fernando Hierro and Migual Nadal. Winners at home in 1964.

Switzerland

Qualified impressively but did not look so good at Wembley on Wednesday. Doubts about the continued tenure of their manager, Roy Hodgson, do not help. Well-organised, with good attacking movement from Adrian Knup and Kubilay Turkyilmaz. In midfield, Ciriaco Sforza is among the best attacking midfielders in Europe. However, worries at the back, where Alain Geiger did not look like a player earning his 110th international cap. This will be their first appearance in these finals.

Turkey

The first time they have qualified for a major tournament since 1954: so wildly has this been celebrated that several people have died from gunshot wounds in Istanbul. Hard to beat, no one has done so in 15 matches. After a succession of foreign managers at national and domestic level, it is somewhat ironic that this success has been achieved under a Turk, Faith Terim. Key striker is Hakan Suker, who recently returned from Italy, homesick, to Galatasaray after five months and five games with Torino.

n Final qualifier to be decided after play-off at Anfield on 13 December between Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands.

LATEST ODDS

Germany 9-2

Italy 9-2

England 11-2

Spain 13-2

12-1

France 12-1

Portugal 12-1

Romania 14-1

Russia 14-1

Croatia 16-1

Netherlands 16-1

Denmark 25-1

Switzerland 33-1

Czech Republic 33-1

Scotland 50-1

Turkey 50-1

Republic of Ireland 100-1

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