With the newly-formatted European Championships set to include 24 teams instead of the standard 16, there is all to play for. The first round of qualifiers took place earlier this month – and it was not without its fair share of excitement, upsets and, most importantly, goals. Here’s a group-by-group assessment after first blood has been drawn.

Group A

Pick of Round 1: Czech Republic 2-1 Netherlands

Fresh from a third-place finish at the World Cup in Brazil, the Netherlands would have been hoping for much more in this, their second game under new boss Guus Hiddink – and their second defeat. After equalising early in the second half, the Dutch pressed for a winner, only to see a gaffe at the back by Newcastle recruit Daryl Janmaat cost them all of the points. Hiddink: “I was livid. That’s why I stayed away [from the press] for half an hour.”

One to Watch in Round 2: Turkey vs Czech Republic

Whilst the Netherlands will be confident of bouncing back in their home tie against Kazakhstan and still taking top spot, the Czechs will look to build on their good start and consolidate their place at the top of the table. Meanwhile, Turkey will have a point to prove after being thumped 3-0 by Iceland in their opener.

Group Prognosis: 1st Netherlands 2nd Czech Republic 3rd Iceland

Group B

Pick of Round 1: Andorra 1-2 Wales

Wales were spared some considerable blushing as Andorra came close to registering their first point in competitive football for nine years. The plucky outsiders even had the gall to take the lead, through a penalty in the sixth minute… before the Welsh messiah, Gareth Bale, put them back in their place with a typically classy double.

One to Watch in Round 2: Wales vs Bosnia and Herzegovina

A dismal World Cup for Dzeko, Pjanic and company was followed up by an embarrassing 1-2 home defeat to the mighty Cypriots in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first qualifier. Though the Welsh were far from convincing in their opener, they will look to steal a lead over their rivals for second place in Cardiff.

Group Prognosis: 1st Belgium 2nd Wales 3rd Bosnia and Herzegovina

Group C

Pick of Round 1: Ukraine 0-1 Slovakia

How the mighty Ukraine have fallen. After making the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals, they have failed to qualify for both global contests since, and only made it to Euro 2012 by virtue of being a host country, before tumbling out at the first hurdle. While Spain’s predictable 5-1 thrashing of Macedonia might have grabbed the headlines as a sign of their possible resurgence, the real news was being written further east, where Ukraine were humbled even further after losing this closely-contested local derby.

One to Watch in Round 2: Slovakia vs Spain

Can Slovakia follow up on their upset away at their neighbours? Can Spain continue their upturn in form after being tossed unceremoniously from their perch by the Netherlands and Chile at this year’s World Cup? Though Spain are still favourites to claim top spot, Slovakia will want to keep the pressure on the current European champions.

Group Prognosis: 1st Spain 2nd Slovakia 3rd Ukraine

Group D

Pick of Round 1: Germany 2-1 Scotland

Masters of the brave defeat, Scotland, were bravely defeated, yet again. The difference this time? They pushed the current world champions all the way to the wire on their home turf, and were unfortunate not to claim a point. Gordon Strachan has instilled a real sense of belief and purpose in this team, and with the expansion of the format, Scotland can feel optimistic about qualifying for a major tournament for the first time in almost 20 years… though their Celtic cousins in Republic of Ireland might have something to say about that.

One to Watch in Round 2: Poland vs Germany

Scotland and Ireland will both be anticipating home wins against Georgia and Gibraltar respectively, so all eyes should be on Warsaw. Though the Poles have dropped to 70th place in FIFA’s increasingly absurd rankings, players of the calibre of Robert Lewandowski and Łukasz Piszczek will be hopeful of breaking Celtic hearts and snatching second place behind the Germans.

Group Prognosis: 1st Germany 2nd Poland 3rd Scotland (sorry Ireland! Tough to call.)

Group E

Pick of Round 1: Switzerland 0-2 England

The sense of impending doom surrounding the England team after their shambolic World Cup has been nothing short of apocalyptic. This solid (if slightly turgid) result against a Switzerland fresh from a decent performance at the World Cup stemmed the flow of blood from Roy Hodgson’s haemorrhaging squad… for now.

One to Watch in Round 2: Slovenia vs Switzerland

Having triumphed in possibly the toughest fixture they will face all campaign, England should surely be confident of securing first place in this relatively weak group. The battle for the second automatic qualification place is officially on – these two are the prime candidates, and another defeat for Switzerland would leave them with a Toblerone-shaped mountain to climb.

Group Prognosis: 1st England 2nd Switzerland 3rd Slovenia

Group F

Pick of Round 1: Hungary 1-2 Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland won their first away match in more than four years against perennial underachievers Hungary. Such a glittering result in their opening match will give the Northern Irish hope of reaching the finals for the first time… though there are still big obstacles in the shape of Finland, Greece and Romania to circumvent, first.

One to Watch in Round 2: Finland vs Greece

The Finns won their first game 3-1 away at the nearby Faroe Islands to put them top of the pile in Group F. Meanwhile, Greece slumped to an unexpected and uninspiring home defeat at the hands of Romania. Both teams will be looking to get a stranglehold on this unpredictable group, where almost any of the teams could top it. I did say almost any… sorry Faroe Islands.

Group Prognosis: 1st Greece 2nd Romania 3rd Finland

Group G

Pick of Round 1: Austria 1-1 Sweden

King Zlatan’s powers are waning. After being defeated in the battle of the egos against Cristiano Ronaldo in their World Cup play-off, the towering striker was unable to inspire his team to an away win in Austria. Russia cleaned up impressively in their opener against Liechtenstein, so Zlatan and co. will have to buck up their ideas for round two.

One to Watch in Round 2: Sweden vs Russia

Luckily, he has the perfect opportunity to do so in the next match. These two teams will surely be fighting it out for top spot in the group and though Sweden rely almost entirely on their outspoken talisman, Russia’s disorganisation and hapless defending at the World Cup could be exploited ruthlessly.

Group Prognosis: 1st Sweden 2nd Russia 3rd Montenegro

Group H

Pick of Round 1: Norway 0-2 Italy

Italy would have been happy to get things back on an even keel after their rocky performance in Brazil this summer, even if the opposition was a very poor Norway team. Sterner tests await in the matches to come, but their new-look strike-force of Simone Zaza and Ciro Immobile looked anything but immobile in the group opener.

One to Watch in Round 2: Bulgaria vs Croatia

Italy should expect to top the group, so second spot might well be duked-out between these two. Former Spurs icons collide as Luka Modrić attempts to outfox Dimitar Berbatov; they never played together, but they are quite possibly the two silkiest player White Hart Lane has seen in recent years (Gareth who?).

Group Prognosis: 1st Italy 2nd Croatia 3rd Bulgaria

Group I

Pick of Round 1: Portugal 0-1 Albania

In the biggest shock from the week’s matches, Ronaldo failed even more spectacularly than his rival Zlatan as his Portugal side fell to an unlikely home defeat at the hands of Albania. Ever since Pepe’s needless, undeserved but strangely satisfying red card in their opening game of the World Cup against Germany, Portugal have seemed to be in free-fall. Fortunately for them, the remaining amount of games should ensure they catch themselves before impact.

One to Watch in Round 2: Albania vs Denmark

With Portugal being left to stew in Ronaldo’s juices, Albania and other early frontrunners Denmark will look to enjoy the party in their absence. A victory for either side would see them well-placed to make an unlikely charge at topping the group; a point for each would consolidate both their grips on a qualification spot.

Group Prognosis: 1st Portugal 2nd Denmark 3rd Serbia

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