Tonight finally sees the pay-off of more than a year's worth of international fixtures. All those dreary midweek internationals have led to one evening of potentially thrilling, make-or-break action across the continent.
More than 50 countries (51, to be precise) have repeatedly trudged their way across Europe over the past 13 months, all with the aim of doing so again next summer when the European Championships are held in Poland and Ukraine.
Results that may have seemed irrelevant a year ago are now coming back to haunt several sides who could have rendered their fixture this evening pointless already if only they had been more adventurous at the time.
Anticipated powerhouses Germany, Netherlands and defending champions Spain have already booked their places in December's draw in Kiev, and all three can make history by completing the entire qualification round without dropping a single point with wins in their respective matches this evening. Italy could also make it through unbeaten this evening if they avoid defeat.
However, so far England are the only team to have secured their place as group winners without avoiding defeat, by virtue of being in a five-team group. Given the frenzied reaction to Friday's draw and Wayne Rooney's red card in Montenegro, it is perhaps just worth reiterating that point.
However, not all of the traditionally strong nations have got it so easy. Portugal and France are both yet to book their places in the finals. Cristiano "I think that all those who like football are happy when Cristiano Ronaldo is playing" Ronaldo et al face a straight shootout with Denmark to decide who tops their group, while the loser of that match could even be eliminated altogether depending on third-placed Norway's result at home to Cyprus.
As for the French, they face the prospect of a second consecutive play-off to reach a major tournament should they fail to get the point they need against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Paris. Should that happen then there is the tantalising prospect of a rematch with the Republic of Ireland in a two-legged tussle to reach a finals.
For those of you who found the events of Wednesday November 18, 2009 so shocking that you have blocked them out of your mind completely, France overcame the Irish in Paris that night thanks to Thierry Henry handling the ball not once but twice for setting up William Gallas's extra-time goal which decided the tie. Henry's double dribble caused international outrage and a great deal of shameful navel-gazing in France. Watching Les Bleus implode so spectacularly in South Africa the following year may have been some comfort for the Irish, however.
The various permutations that will decide which teams are seeded for the play-off draw are too complicated for a lowly morning football blog to fully grasp, but there is every chance that once again France will be seeded and Ireland will not for Thursday's draw in Krakow.
Giovanni Trapattoni must first worry about Group D's surprise package Armenia first before he can start thinking about France, Euro 2012 and, possibly, extending his stay in the job until 2014. The veteran Italian may have to take a pay cut to do so, but it would still be more lucrative than his other potential career as a look-a-like for Lieutenant Frank Drebin.
As for Scotland, they do not have the luxury of waiting to see if the play-off draw throws them into the mix with a top-class team. They play Spain away this evening. In a bizarre scenario, Craig Levein's team could secure an unlikely draw in Alicante this evening and miss out on second place, or they could lose to the world champions and qualify for next month's head-to-heads. The outcome of the Czech Republic's match in Lithuania may well decide Levein's fate. If the Czech's better Scotland's result and gazump them at the last, then that decision to field a 4-6-0 formation in Prague a year ago will not be forgotten in a hurry. If they do not, then Levein will hope that tactical aberration will be largely forgotten. Scotland skipper Darren Fletcher was not kidding when he said "it is going to be one of those nights".
While the respective fates of Trapattoni and Levein could well rest on the results of their matches this evening, the destiny of Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington has already been decided.
Worthington has already given up the ghost ahead of his team's dead rubber in Italy, announcing yesterday that the game in Pescara would be his last in charge. Considering Friday's 2-1 defeat to Estonia at Windsor Park was marked by widespread fan protests calling for his head, Worthington's statement that the supporters had been "fantastic throughout" his four-and-a-half year tenure may have been said through slightly gritted teeth.
With England manager Fabio Capello leaving his job at the end of the Euros whatever happens, there is the distinct possibility that the only current manager of a British or Irish team to still be in their job in a year's time is Gary Speed. Who would ever have thought the Wales job would be so safe?
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I'll have to leave Europe in two years' time and I thought this would be an incredible place to finish. My national service is inevitable and there is no point in thinking anything else." - Arsenal striker Park Chu-Young, yet to make his Premier League debut for the Gunners, confirms that his 21-month term of national service in his native South Korea is unavoidable.
FOREIGN VIEW: "I want to have the coach who is best for HSV and not just take the second or third option so that we can present a solution. I've been through all the possible alternatives and come to the conclusion that the right coach for HSV is not available at the moment. Naturally, there is a certain risk for me. But if it is good for HSV, then I'm prepared to take it." - Hamburg director of football Frank Arnesen has appointed himself as manager of the club until a suitable long-term candidate can be found. Rodolfo Cardoso, who was not allowed to take the job because he does not hold to appropriate qualifications, while be his assistant.
COMING UP: A bumper night of international action as the Euro 2012 qualifiers draw to a close. Follow live updates on every match from 18:00 and full commentary on Republic of Ireland v Armenia (18:45) Russia v Andorra (18:45), Bulgaria v Wales (19:05), Spain v Scotland (19:45), Lithuania v Czech Republic (19.45) and Italy v Northern Ireland (19:45).