With the dust having settled on a memorable EURO 2012, the continent's attention now turns towards the qualifying campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which begins in earnest on Friday.
The major nations, led by reigning world and European champion Spain and a Germany side supposedly about to hit its peak, are all expected to be at the finals two years from now. But none can take their place for granted.
At least one major name always fails to qualify - much-fancied Russia missed out on South Africa 2010 while, four years earlier, Greece was the European champion but still finished fourth in its qualifying group.
And Netherlands failed to make it in 2002.
The man who presided over that failure, Louis van Gaal, has just returned as coach of the Oranje after Bert van Marwijk stood down in the wake of a disastrous showing at EURO 2012.
Van Gaal's return to the helm began with a 4-2 friendly defeat to Belgium last month, and Netherlands kick offs its Group D campaign with a tricky home clash against Turkey.
With only one automatic qualification slot available in each group, and the eight best runners-up advancing to play-offs, Van Gaal knows the margins between success and failure can be fine but he is relishing the task.
"This is the challenge which I have been waiting for," he proclaimed after his appointment in July.
New France coach Didier Deschamps will be well aware of the pitfalls that await him in Group I, a five-team section also containing Spain.
Les Bleus' first competitive fixture under Deschamps is against Finland in Helsinki.
"The mission is a difficult one but the objective is exciting," said the man who lifted the World Cup as a player in 1998.
"In a five-team group, it is vital that you take as many points as possible and I know full well that we cannot afford to drop many before we play Spain, who are, logically, the big favourites to win the group."
The two, who met in the quarter-finals at EURO 2012, with La Roja winning 2-0, clash in Spain in October, before the return at the Stade de France in March.
Far from lacking in motivation after three consecutive major tournament triumphs, Spain, which kicks off its campaign in Georgia on 11 September, could be even stronger thanks to the return after a broken leg of David Villa.
"Once he is fully fit he will be very important for us," said midfielder Xabi Alonso of Spain's all-time leading marksman, while coach Vicente del Bosque describes Villa as 'our most reputable goalscorer'.
Germany is looking to bounce back from the heartache of its EURO 2012 semi-final defeat to Italy but anything less than first place in Group C for it would be a major surprise, even if it must come up against Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden, Republic of Ireland and Austria.
You can usually be guaranteed to see Germany qualify for major tournaments, though - it has only ever lost twice in 74 World Cup qualifiers, and that formidable record is unlikely to be threatened when it entertains the Faroe Islands in Hannover.
Meanwhile, Italy is out to build on a run to the final of EURO 2012 that restored a nation's pride in the Azzurri.
However, Cesare Prandelli's side will come up against EURO 2012 quarter-finalist Czech Republic in Group B, as well as Denmark.
The notoriously hard-to-please English media will closely scrutinise Roy Hodgson's performance in charge of the national team after he commendably took it to the last eight at EURO 2012 just weeks after being appointed.
Hodgson must successfully integrate young talent into his squad and make sure England negotiates Group H, which also contains EURO 2012 co-hosts Poland and Ukraine, as well as Montenegro, which gave it a scare in European championship qualifying.
Elsewhere, Portugal and Fabio Capello's Russia will go head-to-head in Group F, and this may be the time for a Bosnia-Herzegovina side led by Vedad Ibisevic and Edin Dzeko to make it to a major tournament after coming up just short more than once in recent years.
And, after a decade of failure, the time has surely come for Belgium - blessed with talents such as Eden Hazard and Marouane Fellaini - to make its return to the big time.
FIFA World Cup
Australia's triumphant Socceroos have celebrated booking a place in next year's 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil with hundreds of fans in Sydney on Wednesday.