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England vs Italy, Spain vs France and the Euro 2012 quarter-finals

All 16 teams in Euro 2012 have now played their three group games, and as such half have progressed to the knockout rounds, whilst the other half have departed for home. The quarter-finals line-up has produced four interesting ties, with the room for error now miniscule. Betfair Euro Cup 2012 odds point towards the likes of Germany and Spain progressing towards the final, but there has been a number of shocks in the competition already. Here is a breakdown of the next round of Euro 2012 fixtures.

Czech Republic vs Portugal

Michal Bilek’s Czech Republic side topped Group A unexpectedly, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that they were thumped 4-1 by Russia in their competition opener; wins over Greece and Poland sees the eastern Europeans through to the last eight. Keyman Tomas Rosicky is carrying an injury and as such is a doubt for Thursday’s game, whilst the likes of Vaclav Pilar and Petr Jiracek have stepped up to score goals for the side.

Portugal also were beaten in their first game, but came back to finish as runners-up in Group B after wins over Denmark and Netherlands. Paulo Bento’s men rely heavily on skipper Cristiano Ronaldo, who bagged a brace in the 2-1 victory over Netherlands last time out, after initial mediocre form in the tournament. The Real Madrid superstar’s form will be critical in ascertaining just how far the Iberian nation can go in Ukraine and Poland.

Prediction – Czech Republic 0 Portugal 2

Germany vs Greece

One of the tournament favourites, Germany have lived up to their highly-fancied billing with three wins out of three games to top Group B. Joachim Low’s men have a blend of experience and youth, and have strength in every position – currently the team to beat in the competition.

Greece have shown extraordinary determination to overcome the odds this time round, and have a never-say-die attitude that Germany will find difficult to break down. A 1-0 win over Russia in their last game confirmed the side as Group A runners-up at their opponents’ expense.

Prediction – Germany 1 Greece 0

Spain vs France

Spain have not been their imperious selves in the tournament to date, but glimpses of brilliance show that the holders will still take some beating this summer. A last-gasp win over Croatia ensured that Vicente del Bosque’s men topped Group C, but they will now face a step up in the quality of opponent.

France were looking in line to top Group D, but an unexpected 2-0 defeat to Sweden in their last game ended a 23-match unbeaten streak and resulted in a runners-up finish. Laurent Blanc’s men have the players to cause an upset, but must be at their very best to stand a chance against the world champions.

Prediction – Spain 1 France 1 – Spain to win on penalties

England vs Italy

Arguably the most even and interesting of the four fixtures. England topped Group D with two wins and a draw, with a solitary Wayne Rooney strike ensuring a 1-0 win over Ukraine in their last pool game. Roy Hodgson’s men have been uninspiring, but will hope a dogged performance can send them through to the semis.

Italy are unbeaten in the tournament after two draws and a win saw the Azzurri finish second in Group C. Cesare Prandelli has played both 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 in the tournament, and must get his tactics and team selection right if his side are to progress past the Three Lions.

Prediction – England 2 Italy 1

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Chelsea’s Torres in Spain Euro 2012 squad, but no Roberto Soldado

Vicente del Bosque has the task of bringing home a third straight international tournament success this summer, with the triumphs at Euro 2008 and in the 2010 World Cup meaning Spain are favourites for this year’s Euro 2012. The successful trainer has named his squad for the tournament in Ukraine and Poland, with a raft of star names included. However, with David Villa injured, Del Bosque’s selection in attack was sure to be interesting, and one name is surprisingly omitted: Roberto Soldado.

Goalkeepers

  • Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Victor Valdes (Barcelona), Pepe Reina (Liverpool)

The reigning world champions have an embarrassment of riches between the sticks, with one of the game’s best in the form of Iker Casillas set to lead the side. However, if something unforeseen should happen to the Real Madrid stopper, Valdes and Reina are more than able deputies.

Defenders

  • Raul Albiol (Real Madrid), Jordi Alba (Valencia), Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Juanfran Torres (Atletico Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Athletic Bilbao)

With Carles Puyol injured, it will be interesting to see just who Del Bosque picks to fill the experienced Barcelona man’s boots. The personnel and shape of the defence will depend on where Sergio Ramos is deployed, with the Santiago Bernabeu man’s versatility of playing either on the right or in the centre an attribute. Ramos is likely to play in the centre alongside Gerard Pique, but Del Bosque could also use him at right-back, and partner the Camp Nou man with Javi Martinez. Jordi Alba looks a shoe-in at left-back.

Midfielders

  • Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Xavi (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Santi Cazorla (Malaga), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Juan Mata (Chelsea)

With only four strikers selected in the contingent and the sheer quality of the players listed above, it is likely that Spain will play with five in midfield, with a 4-5-1 formation without the ball quickly changing to a 4-3-3 whilst in possession. Xabi Alonso and Xavi are certainties in the centre of the park when fit, and they may well be joined by either Cesc Fabregas or Sergio Busquets, depending on whether Del Bosque wants to keep it tight or include an extra attacking player. David Silva and Andres Iniesta may well start from wide areas, but look to get space in-field and provide chances. Santi Cazorla could be used if Spain look for width and delivery.

Attackers

  • Pedro (Barcelona), Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao)

Likely to be one of four in attack, however Pedro could also be used as a supporting striker. Negredo, Torres or Llorente will be charged with finishing the chances created by the mercurial midfield maestros, which should be plentiful. After the Sevilla man’s season of injuries and Torres’ torrid time at Stamford Bridge, the omission of Roberto Soldado is surprising to say the least. The Valencia marksman has continued to progress this season at the Mestalla, and was for some (including myself) the pick of the available forwards to fill David Villa’s shoes. Atletico Madrid’s Adrian also missed out.

Del Bosque’s squad is dominated by World Cup winners, Barcelona and Real Madrid superstars and has extraordinary depth. Spain rightly go into the competition as frontrunners, however it will be interesting who gets the nod up front and given the task of firing La Roja to their third consecutive glorious campaign.

Published – Soccerlens

Euro 2012 Stadium Guide

With Euro 2012 only a couple of months away, fans from all over Europe will be planning their summer football trip to Ukraine and Poland. The eastern European nations have been frantically trying to prepare for the tournament, and have eight stadiums earmarked as venues for the games. Here is a definitive stadium guide:

KYIV – Olympic Stadium, 60,000

The largest venue of the tournament, this 60,000 all-seater arena has been the home of Ukraine’s most successful club team Dynamo Kyiv, but has been closed and renovated in preparation for the games. The venue for the final on July 1st, the organisers of the competition have installed a transparent roof, and is in the suburbs of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The second biggest football stadium in eastern Europe, the Olympic Stadium was closed from 2008 to 2011 for major repair work.

Kievstadium 2070186i Euro 2012 Stadium Guide

GROUP STAGE
Monday, June 11 – Ukraine v Sweden (1945)
Friday, June 15 – Sweden v England (1700)
Tuesday, June 19 – Sweden v France (1945)

QUARTER-FINAL
Sunday, June 24 – Winner D v Runner-up C (1945)

FINAL
Sunday, July 1 – Winner SF1 v Winner SF2 (1945).

LVIV – Arena Lviv , 34,915

This brand-new stadium was built for the tournament, and is based in western Ukraine, close to the Polish border. The arena was officially opened in 10 December 2011, and is the new home to club side FC Karpaty Lviv. The Stadium is again an all-seater, with the supporters covered by partial roofing. Located in the south of Lviv, public transport to and from the good is well catered for and organised.

lviv 1 Euro 2012 Stadium Guide

GROUP STAGE
Saturday, June 9: Germany v Portugal (1945)
Wednesday, June 13: Denmark v Portugal (1700)
Sunday, June 17: Denmark v Germany (1945)

KHARKIV – Metalist Stadium, 38,633

Located in Ukraine’s sporting capital, recently successful club side Metalist Kharkiv call this arena home. The stadium has undergone for renovations since being opened in 1926, with major work completed between 2007 and 2009 for Euro 2012. This work included the construction of a brand new east stand, whilst the south stand contains a three-storey shopping mall.
Metalist Stadium in Khark 007 Euro 2012 Stadium Guide
GROUP STAGE:
Saturday, June 9: Holland v Denmark (1700)
Wednesday, June 13: Holland v Germany (1945)
Sunday, June 17: Portugal v Holland (1945)
DONETSK, Donbass Arena, 52,500
A $400 million new all-seater stadium, the Donbass Arena was built in preparation for Euro 2012 and has been the venue for some exciting Champions League nights for Shakhtar Donetsk. The stadium is located in the centre of Donetsk, and is close to the major nightlife and social venues of the city.
donbass arena Euro 2012 Stadium Guide
GROUP STAGE:
Monday, June 11: France v England (1700)
Friday, June 15: Ukraine v France (1945)
Tuesday, June 19: England v Ukraine (1945)
QUARTER-FINAL
Saturday, June 23: Winner C v Runner-up D (1945)
SEMI-FINAL
Wednesday, June 27: Winner QF1 v Winner QF3 (1945)
WARSAW, National Stadium, 58,500
Constructed on the site of the former 10th-Anniversary Stadium, this mightily impressive all-seater stadium will be the host to the opening game of the competition, and was built between 2008 and 2011 for the tournament. Funded by the Polish government, this arena is close to the local train and subways systems.
warsaw stadium1 Euro 2012 Stadium Guide
GROUP STAGE
Friday, June 8 – Poland v Greece (1700)
Tuesday, June 12 – Poland v Russia (1945)
Saturday, June 16: Greece v Russia (1945)
QUARTER-FINAL
Thursday, June 21 – Winner A v Runner-up B (1945)
SEMI-FINAL
Thursday, June 28 – Winner QF2 v Winner QF4 (1945)

GDANSK – PGE Arena, 40,000

The ultra-modern sports facility is located in northern Poland, and was again constructed in preparation to the start of the tournament between 2008 and 2011. Striking in appearance for the air or outside, the arena is home to club side Lechia Gdansk and close to the city’s waterfront.

Gdansk 2070181i Euro 2012 Stadium Guide

GROUP STAGE
Sunday, June 10 – Spain v Italy (1700)
Thursday, June 14 – Spain v Republic of Ireland (1945)
Monday, June 18 – Croatia v Spain (1945)

QUARTER-FINAL
Friday, June 22 – Winner B v Runner-up A (1945)

POZNAN – City Stadium, 40,000

Originally built in 1968, the home of KKS Lech Poznan and Warta Poznan has been renovated to get up to scratch for the European Championships finals. The grand reopening was back in 2010, and the stadium is renowned for the close proximity of the fans to the pitch and it’s electric atmosphere when full.

poznan 2 Euro 2012 Stadium Guide

GROUP STAGE
Sunday, June 10 – Republic of Ireland v Croatia (1945)
Thursday, June 14 – Italy v Croatia (1700)
Monday, June 18 – Italy v Republic of Ireland (1945)

WROCLAW – Municipal Stadium, 40,000

Designed to look like a Chinese lantern, the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw is a feat of architecture and captures the essence of a modern football stadium. Work on the arena was finished in September 2011 and is a thriving commercial centre built on 12 islands all connected by a web of 112 bridges. The furthest south of Poland’s four stadiums, the Municipal is served by buses and a newly constructed tram system.

1682339 w2 Euro 2012 Stadium Guide

GROUP STAGE
Friday, June 8 – Russia v Czech Republic (1945)
Tuesday, June 12 – Greece v Czech Republic (1700)
Saturday, June 16 – Czech Republic v Poland (1945)

Published – Soccerlens

Euro 2012 Predictions – from group stage to finale

With Euro 2012 just over two months away, the football community is preparing itself for what should be an exciting and close-run tournament in Ukraine and Poland. Holders Spain are the team to beat, but with Germany, Netherlands, England and Italy showing good form in the qualifiers, it will be an open competition. Here are NinetyMinutesOnline’s Euro 2012 predictions:

Group A

The first group consists of Russia, Greece, Czech Republic and co-hosts Poland, and with all four sides relatively equally matched there are no real favourites to proceed. The home nation will look to call on the support of their avid supporters, whilst Russia’s talent will see them as a frontrunner for the group. Czech Republic have failed to show the stellar form of the 2000′s of late, whilst Greece may well be a dark horse.

Group Winners – Greece, Runners Up – Russia

Group B

Labelled the ‘Group of Death’, Pool B houses two of the favourites for the tournament and one of the world’s best players. Netherlands and Germany were in unstoppable form in the qualifiers, with each nation’s fans believing this is the year to return to former glories. Cristiano Ronaldo will lead a Portugal side in transition, whilst Denmark will hope to cause an upset or two.

Group Winners – Germany, Runners Up – Netherlands

Group C

World champions Spain were drawn in Group C, along with Italy, Republic of Ireland and Croatia. Vicente Del Bosque’s men have a star-studded squad, and anything other than progression through the group will be a major surprise. The Azzurri have been more attacking and enterprising in qualifying than usual, whilst Croatia have a match-winner or two in their starting XI. Finally, Republic of Ireland will look to start well if they are to progress.

Group Winners – Spain, Runners Up – Croatia

Group D

England have been drawn in the same group as co-hosts Ukraine, and will also face rivals France and unpredictable entity Sweden. The Three Lions will hope to get through the group despite the absence of Wayne Rooney for the first two games, Ukraine will play with the crowd at their back, whilst the Swedes will look to Zlatan Ibrahimovic for inspiration. France have a talented squad, that look to be coming together under Laurent Blanc.

Group Winners – France, Runners Up – England

Quarter Finals

Greece vs. Netherlands – Despite a generation of younger players coming through for Greece, the squad depth and individual quality of Bert van Marwijk’s side should be too much. Winner – Netherlands.

Russia vs. Germany – Joachim Low’s side have a fantastic blend of experience and youth, and will be superior to an ageing Russia team. Winner – Germany

Spain vs. England – Spain’s midfield will run every game they play in, and Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso should lead their team to victory. Winner – Spain

Croatia vs. France – A close game, France’s recent failings may well come back to haunt them against a talented Croat team. Winner – Croatia

Semi-Finals

Netherlands vs. Spain – A repeat of the 2010 World Cup final, this fixture will be one of supreme quality and an excellent spectacle. However, expect the Spaniards to get the best of their Dutch counterparts once more. Winner – Spain

Germany vs. Croatia – Germany are seemingly on a date with destiny, and will be a fine-tuned machine by the time the semi’s roll around. Winner – Germany

Final

Spain vs. Germany – The quick and accurate passing of Spain against the dynamism and power of Germany, this would be quite the final. Despite the calibre of the current Spanish team, Germany may well be the team to knock them off their throne. Winner – Germany.

I feel that the winners in a close tournament will be Germany, with Spain the team to beat. Look to Greece or Croatia to provide shock wins and defy the odds, whilst Italy, Portugal and Czech Republic may struggle amongst strong opposition. From an individual perspective, Mario Gomez and Dutch duo Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar should battle it out for the Golden Boot.

Agree or disagree? One thing is for sure; it will be a scintillating and captivating month of international football.

Published – Soccerlens

Seven stars on the verge of missing out on Euro 2012

With only a couple of months before Euro 2012, and the teams and groups decided, the last thing to be confirmed are each nation’s squads. With the tournament only being played once every four years, it may be some players’ last chance to feature, with all the major superstars keen to playin Ukraine and Poland. However, some more than others are in danger of missing out through injury, poor form or selection issues at club level; here are the top seven sitting on the fence.

Fernando Torres

The World Cup winning striker has lost his way since the last major international tournament, and is no longer guaranteed a place in Vicente del Bosque’s Spain squad. With a barren spell at Chelsea blighting El Nino’s career, the likes of Alvaro Negredo, Roberto Soldado and Fernando Llorente could get the nod ahead of Torres.

Jermain Defoe

One of the most clinical strikers in the Premier League when given an opportunity, Defoe has had a frustrating season in and out of the Tottenham side. With Emmanuel Adebayor and Rafael van der Vaart ahead of the Englishman in Harry Redknapp’s preferences, Defoe may well miss out on the competition due to lack of playing time.

Mario Balotelli

During the qualifiers Cesare Prandelli used the Manchester City forward on a regular basis, and Balotelli started to lead the line towards the end of that campaign. However, the national selector recently left Super Mario out of his squad for a friendly against the United States, claiming Balotelli’s immaturity and indiscipline as the reason.

David Villa

Spain and Barcelona star Villa would have been a certainty had he been fit, but a broken leg in the Club World Cup in December has the Camp Nou man cutting it fine. Villa should make it back to club action before the end of the season, but with the number of Spanish attackers available, is not guaranteed participation.

Giuseppe Rossi

Another star to pick up a serious injury, Rossi ruptured knee ligaments in October, and has been through a strenuous rehabilitation process since. The Villarreal forward was in Prandelli’s preferences before the setback, and has targeted April for a possible return to action.

Raul Albiol

With Jose Mourinho using Sergio Ramos in the centre of his Real Madrid defence alongside either Pepe or Ricardo Carvalho, Albiol is a serious doubt for Euro 2012. The ex-Valencia man has only made five appearances in the Primera Division this term, and with versatile Javi Martinez and Sergio Busquets also being able to play at the back, Albiol needs a miracle to be included.

Jack Wilshere

The Arsenal playmaker has not played a minute of football this season due to a knee injury in pre-season, although Arsene Wenger has promised that his star will be available before the end of the Premier League campaign. However with Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker, Tom Cleverley, Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick and maybe even Paul Scholes in contention for a place in the centre of the park, Wilshere needs to hurry up.

Published – footylatest

Euro 2012 Nations – A team by team preview

With the 16 teams competing in Euro 2012 now selected and the qualifying process complete, all eyes look to Poland and Ukraine as time ticks down. The seeding for the selection of the group stages has been completed also, with the draw for the pool stages happening in Kiev on December 3rd. English and Irish fans will look for a favourable draw, but both nations will know that the competition is packed with top teams.

Pot 1

Pot 1 consists of co-host Poland and Ukraine, world champions Spain and a technically gifted Netherlands side; most participants will be keen to draw the hosts rather than the other two powerhouses.

SPAIN

Spain’s mantle as the top team in the world has been slightly diminished of late, as poor results in friendlies against England and Costa Rica have tarnished the end of 2011 for La Roja. Vicente Del Bosque has a plethora of players to choose from however, with a strong base from Barcelona and Real Madrid making up the majority of the team.

Spain National Football Team badge Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

The Spaniards midfield is still as menacing as ever, with Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Xabi Alonso world class players that opponents will struggle to compete against; however Xavi is still Spain’s main man and will orchestrate long periods of possession for the world champions.

NETHERLANDS

Holland impressed during the qualifying rounds, and again must go into the tournament as one of the favourites. Bert van Marwijk’s men, similar to Spain, have had an under-par end to the year however, as the Oranje lost their last qualifying game to Sweden and were put to the sword by Germany in a recent friendly, losing 3-0.

Royal Netherlands Football Association Logo Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

Despite this the squad is full of talent and a number of young players are battling the established names for a place in the starting XI. Although their defence at times can be questioned, their attack cannot.

Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder will look to provide chances for red hot striker Robin van Persie. The Arsenal man is proving himself to be one of the top hitmen in Europe, and will look to fire his nation to glory.

POLAND

On of the downfalls of hosting a major tournament is the fact that you do not get to take part in qualification, and Polish fans will hope that Franciszek Smuda’s men do not suffer due to a lack of competitive fixtures. Solid performances in friendlies over the last 12 months have seen the host draw with Germany and beat the likes of Belarus and Hungary; the home crowd will also play a key part in their chances.

Polish Football Association logo Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

Borussia Dortmund attacker Robert Lewandowski was a key figure in the German club’s Bundesliga success last season, and will be counted on to get goals for the Eastern European side.

UKRAINE

Ukraine have had inconsistent form over the last year, and with the glory days of Sergei Rebrov and Andriy Shevchenko over, Oleg Blokhin has had to look to the youth in his side.

Logo of Football Federation of Ukraine Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

Dynamo Kiev forward Andriy Yarmolenko holds the weight of expectation on his shoulders, as the 22-year-old has shown the necessary promise to fill the boots of the generation before him.

Pot 2

England find themselves in the second tier of the seeding, alongside old enemy and highly-fancied Germany; 2006 World Cup winners Italy and an unpredictable Russia team make up this quartet.

ENGLAND

England have been inconsistent over the qualifying rounds, and despite showing their quality at times can also lack creativity and the ability to break teams down. Fabio Capello will be buoyed on by an unbeaten qualifying campaign and friendly victories over Spain and Sweden, but will look for more from his team if they are to pose as realistic challengers.

England crest 2009 Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

Wayne Rooney’s absence in the pool stages will be a real blow for The Three Lions, and the Italian coach will be under pressure to find a replacement that can fire the side into the knockout rounds. Scott Parker has really matured over the last 12-18 months, and the Tottenham man could showcase the determination and will to win to inspire his team-mates; a North London central midfield partnership alongside Jack Wilshere could just prove the balance England needs.

GERMANY

Germany, as always when a major tournament rolls round, must be considered as serious contenders.

Joachim Low has comprised a squad with an enviable mix of experience and youth, and a flawless qualifying campaign proves testament to the side’s motivation to succeed.

DFBEagle Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

The German side is packed full of quality, but playmakers Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze in particular have vital attributes in creating chances for sharpshooter Mario Gomez.

ITALY

Italy traditionally have blown hot and cold when it comes to international tournaments, and the Azzurri this time round have shown inconsistency and a lack of a real killer instinct in the qualifying rounds.

FIGC logo Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

Cesare Prandelli has a football mad nation keen to recapture the glory days, and a wide ranging player base to choose from – however the side in blue will most likely adopt cautious tactics and look to win fixtures by the odd goal.

Mario Balotelli looks to have been given a real chance to start up front in the absence of Giuseppe Rossi and Antonio Cassano, and may lead the line alongside Juventus’ Alessandro Matri.

However the key man for Italy will be at the back, where Giorgio Chiellini will look to emulate great Italian central defenders of the past, and organise a stubborn rearguard upon which the midfield and attack can build upon.

RUSSIA

Dick Advocaat’s Russian side will fancy their chances of upsetting some of the bigger names, as the proximity of the tournament favours the Eastern European side. A solitary defeat in qualification has shown that Russia are an emerging superpower in the game, and they undoubtedly harbour a number of excellent players.

rnft Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko are struggling currently at their North London clubs; the experienced duo will need to find their form to inspire a talented but not yet proven team.

Pot 3

The third pot is made up of four seasoned and competitive nations, as Portugal, Sweden, Croatia and Greece lie in wait. The likes of Zlatan Ibrahmovic and Cristiano Ronaldo are first rate players in supposed third rate teams, but none of the participants in this pot will be pushovers.

PORTUGAL

Portugal were beaten to the top of Group H by Denmark, but the Iberian nation powered past Bosnia and Herzegovina in the playoffs to book their place at Europe’s top table. Coach Paulo Bento has ruffled some feathers since taking charge of the team, with veteran duo Ricardo Carvalho and Jose Bosingwa retiring from international football after falling out with the former midfielder.

Portugal FPF crest Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

Despite the absence of the experienced pair, Portugal still have an abundance of quality, with the likes of Nani and Joao Moutinho sure to terrorise opposition defences. Their key man is obviously Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, and if the 26-year-old  can replicate the form and goalscoring ability he shows for his club on the international stage, Portugal will take some beating.

SWEDEN

The Swedes have a technically gifted and balanced side, made from a mix of players playing in their homeland and the top European leagues. Erik Hamren’s side qualified as a top runner up in qualification, and had they not had Netherlands in their group may well have topped a pool.

Sweden national football team logo Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

Temperamental but clearly gifted Zlatan Ibrahimovic hold the nation’s destiny in his hands.

Although Ibra was ineffective in the recent game against England at Wembley, his club record tells a completely different story. It will be a long-shot, still, to believe that he can single-handedly take his nation all the way through the competition.

GREECE

The Euro 2004 champions look to have recovered form and showcased some excellent football in an unbeaten qualification process.

Greece National Football Team Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

Fernando Santos’ squad still has some remnants from the triumphant side from seven years ago, which is complemented by exuberant youngsters breaking into the international fray.

PAOK striker Dimitris Salpingidis has learnt from some of the senior goal-getters in recent Greek history, and has the ability to cause opposition defences a headache.

CROATIA

Slaven Bilic’s men made the finals by comprehensively beating Turkey 3-0 in the playoffs, and should not be written off. The Croats follow Luka Modric’s direction, and the Tottenham playmaker has the ability to hurt any side in the world, whilst Bayern Munich attacker Ivica Olic will be keen to add to his tally of 15 international goals.

Croatia football federation Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

Modric’s club teammate Niko Kranjcar and Bolton Wanderers’ Ivan Klasnic will also be available for selection. Both of them last played for the national team in October against Latvia.

Pot 4

Finally, Republic of Ireland find themselves in the lowest tier of seeding for the tournament, but will have expected this. Giovanni Trapattoni’s men are bunched alongside an under-performing France, dark horses Czech Republic and Denmark.

FRANCE

France have not shown enough quality to make it into the top pots, and the French public will not be happy as being deemed as a fourth-tier side. A late goal against Bosnia and Herzegovina ensured Les Bleus automatic progression to the tournament, but their form in qualification was nothing to write home about.

Le nouveau logo FFF Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

Laurent Blanc is widely seen as the man to spark a renaissance, and the coach undoubtedly has talented players to call upon. Experienced international heads such as Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema will harbour most of the responsibility for leading their nation’s dreams – but look out for Sochaux playmaker Marvin Martin.

The starlet has rose to fame over the last 12 months, and his craft and guile has prompted many in the game to compare him to Zinedine Zidane; it could be Martin’s time to announce himself to the world game.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

The Emerald Isle will be competing in the European championships for the first time since 1988, and a wave of expectancy has washed over the country since a 5-1 aggregate victory over Estonia ensured Ireland’s place at the finals.

Ireland Football Team Badge Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

Giovanni Trapattoni still relies on old heads Richard Dunne, Shay Given and Robbie Keane, but faith should be put in some of the younger players such as Aidan McGeady to compete at the highest level.

DENMARK

The Danes qualified for the tournament by topping Group H ahead of Portugal, and Morten Olsen’s men will go into the competition full of confidence.

Danish football crest Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

If the Scandinavians can get off to a good start they will be a match for most, and in Christian Eriksen they have one of the brightest prospects in the world game. The Ajax midfielder will look to impress to force a transfer to one of Europe’s biggest clubs, and has the energy and guile to win a game for Denmark.

CZECH REPUBLIC

It is fair to say that the Czech Republic are not the force that once saw them challenge for international tournaments in the 2000′s, but Michael Bilek’s men will still provide a tricky test to their opponents next year.

Czech Republic FA Euro 2012 Nations   A team by team preview

Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky captains the side and is a talisman for the nation, but the Czechs are going through a transitional period as a number of the under-21 players make the step up to the seniors.

However, still the elders of the team, like Milan Baros, carry the hopes of their nation.

So there you have it; although there is a lot of football to be played before Euro 2012 starts in earnest, most of the major players in the continent will have one eye on the finals. With the groups being drawn in the forthcoming weeks excitement over the tournament should build, as there are many nations that could realistically experience glory next year.

Published – http://soccerlens.com/euro-2012-nations/85422/

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