Italy is looking very strong.
Germany is the bookies' favorite.
My surprise team will be Croatia-the Greece of 2008. (they will do a 'Rocky' comeback and overcome the loss of Eduardo)
Switzerland and Austria are hosting the games. The final will be in Vienna on June 29th.
From The Daily Mail:
Group A previews and predictions:
The Czechs were hit-and-miss in qualifying, but still finished two points ahead of Germany. They lost at home to the Germans, but then won 3-0 in Munich with a weakened team, albeit after their hosts had already qualified. It is still unclear whether the Czech Republic are in decline or rising.
Czech Republic's Marek Jankulovski
Key man: Marek Jankulovski
The Coach: Karel Bruckner
Will stand down following Euro 2008 after more than a decade within Czech camp. Though 68, still able to get his tactical ideas through to young players, many of whom have come through after he led under-21s to European title in 2002. Guided senior side to Euro 2004 semi-finals.
Player to watch: Marek Jankulovski
(Milan, age 31, 62 caps, 10 goals)
Just named Czech player of the year, finishing ahead of Petr Cech, underlining his ability. A pacy left-back who can get forward into scoring positions as the Republic of Ireland discovered to their cost. Missed a chunk of season following knee surgery. Euro 2008 will be his fourth major tournament.
The absence of Tomas Rosicky as the creative force in midfield could be significant for the country who, as Czechoslovakia, were winners in 1976, and as an independent state, were runners-up 20 years later. "Success would be qualification from the group phase," coach Bruckner says. "Anything else would not do."
Prediction: Second in Group A, but lose to Germany in quarter-finals.
Failure to win Euro 2004 at home led to pessimism among fans, and erratic qualifying performances – six draws in 14 games in scraping second place – backs this up. The retirements of Luis Figo, Costinha and Pauleta have weakened them, and the team rely too much on inspiration of Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari
Unimpressive as a player, the 59-year-old made his name coaching domestically in Brazil before taking over national team in 2001, leading them to World Cup title the following year. A strong disciplinarian, he then guided Portugal to Euro 2004 final, and 2006 World Cup semi-final. Leaves post after this tournament.
Player to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo
(Manchester United, Age 23, 55 caps, 20 goals)
Just finished a stupendous season with Champions League and Premier League winners' medals, as well as retaining both writers' and peers' player of year awards. Continues to improve, and has arguably the best all-round game in the world: strong on the ball, powerful in the air and scoring for fun.
Portugal were finalists last time in a tournament they should have won, and finished fourth at 2006 World Cup. With retirements and loss of form, they are not team they were. Nonetheless, Scolari says: "I think we can reach the final, even though that will involve beating some very difficult opponents."
Prediction: Group A winners, but will lose in semi-finals to Germany.
Qualified as co-hosts, and their record in friendly internationals since going out of 2006 World Cup on penalties to Ukraine, is not impressive. Injuries to main defenders and midfielders have disrupted their plans, and they will rely heavily on a strict zonal defence in which Arseanl's Philippe Senderos is key.
Switzerland's Alexander Frei
Key man: Alexander Frei
The Coach: Jakob Kuhn
Switzerland's first home-grown coach since 1989 when elevated after a dozen years in charge of national youth sides in 2001. A skilful midfielder with Zurich, he played in the 1966 World Cup finals. The 64-year-old perfectionist, renown for his dry sense of humour, will retire after the Euro 2008 finals.
Player to watch: Alexander Frei
(Borussia Dortmund, Age 28, 59 caps, 35 goals)
Switzerland's all-time top scorer after two goals in Euro 2008 warm-up win against Liechtenstein. Cleared of spitting at Steven Gerrard during Euro 2004, he is the team's captain and their main, if not only, source of goals. Just returned after long injury absence, and lacks match fitness at present.
Failed to win a game when they qualified for 1996 and 2004 finals. Opening match against Czech Republic will be important to home hopes in tournament. "A spot in the quarter-finals is the absolute minimum," Kuhn says. "I don't want to contemplate playing three games and then leaving the competition."
Prediction: Bottom of Group A.
Won first four qualifying games, including 4-1 victory in Athens, but only regained initiative when beat rivals Norway in penultimate game to finish seven points adrift of Greece. They are suspect in defence, and have dropped experienced striker Hakan Suker, which will put the goalscoring burden on Nihat Kahveci.
Turkey's Tuncay Sanli
Key man: Tuncay Sanli
The Coach: Fatih Terim
In his first spell as Turkey coach he led them to Euro 96. Returned to Galatasaray, who won Uefa Cup against Arsenal in 2000, then on to Fiorentina and, unhappily and briefly, Milan. The 54-year-old ‘Emperor', renown for his leadership qualities, took up the national post again in summer 2005.
Player to watch: Tuncay Sanli
(Middlesbrough, Age 26, 54 caps, 16 goals)
Versatile attacker who can play on either wing, most regularly and noticeably on the left, or up front. Has boundless energy, irrepressible flair, and outstanding skill on the ball. Incredibly popular at previous club Fenerbahce, he has shown in glimpses at Middlesbrough what he is capable of producing.
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Quarter-finalists in 2000, and third-placed at 2002 World Cup, this is their first major tournament since. There is a lack of experience about the Suker-less squad, though. "We will try and go as far as we can so that our country will be happy with our success," Terim says.
Prediction: Third in Group A.
Group B previews and predictions:
As co-hosts, Austria did not have to go through the qualifying tournament, and have therefore played no competitive matches for nearly three years. Coach Josef Hickersberger has blended in talented youngsters to suggest a bright future, but the absence of Wigan's Paul Scharner, following a dispute, could be significant.
Austria's Andreas Ivanschitz
Key man: Andreas Ivanschitz
The Coach: Josef Hickersberger
Played in 1978 World Cup, including famous 3-2 win over West Germany. The quiet, cerebral 60-year-old is in his second spell as Austrian coach: his first, in late Eighties, ended after 1-0 defeat by Faroe Islands. Managed in Middle East, and domestically, before resuming Austrian duties in January 2006.
Player to watch: Andreas Ivanschitz
(Panathinaikos, Age 24, 39 caps, 6 goals)
Known as the ‘Austrian Beckham', though he tends to favour his left foot. Technically strong, he is Austria's playmaker from an attacking midfield position. Made international team captain at the relatively young age of 24, but was always precocious: he made his debut for club Rapid Wien at 16.
Quarter-finalists in the embryonic European Championship in 1960, but this is their first appearance in the modern format. Ranked 101st in the world, beneath Guatemala, Albania and Equatorial Guinea, and home advantage won't help them. "Success means achieving the optimum with the given means," Hickersberger says. "That would be the quarter-finals."
Prediction: Bottom of Group B, nil points.
Topped a tough qualifying group in which they beat England twice, and only lost when their place was already confirmed. Not only that, but they did it with style. Euphoria, though, turned to anguish with the news of the injury to Eduardo, who had scored 10 goals during qualifying.
Croatia's Luka Modric
Key man: Luka Modric
The Coach: Slaven Bilic
An Anglophile, who has law degree and plays guitar in heavy metal bands, the 39-year-old is remembered as a ball-playing defender with West Ham and Everton. Began coaching career with former club Hajduk Split in 2002, progressing to national under-21 team before taking over senior side in July 2006.
Player to watch: Luka Modric
(Tottenham, Age 22, 26 caps, 3 goals)
As England discovered, he is the team's brains. He uses both feet, his distribution is excellent, and his pace enables him to ghost into attacking positions. Likened to Johan Cruyff; Slaven Bilic thinks only Kaka surpasses him, which is why Spurs have just paid record-equalling £16.5 million for him.
Quarter-finalists at Euro 96, their first major tournament after independence, but the loss of Eduardo has cast a pall over their hopes this time. "With Eduardo we could have been champions of Europe," former player Igor Stimac says. "Without him, we might not even make it through the group."
Prediction: Runners-up in Group B, but will lose in quarter-finals to Portugal.
Germany's third-place in the 2006 World Cup was unexpected, and now expectations are high. They dropped only four points before confirming qualification with three games to go, then lost 3-0 at home to the Czech Republic. Joachim Low's well-marshalled squad have been bolstered by the emergence of some promising youngsters.
Germany's Miroslav Klose
Key man: Miroslav Klose
The Coach: Joachim Low
Jurgen Klinsmann's righthand man during 2006 World Cup, heavily influencing tactics and attacking approach with his innovative training methods. Seamless takeover when Klinsmann stood down, and the 48-year-old so impressed that he was awarded contract through to 2010. Managed Stuttgart to European Cup-Winners' Cup final against Chelsea in 1998.
Player to watch: Miroslav Klose
(Bayern Munich, Age 29, 76 caps, 39 goals)
Won Golden Boot at 2006 World Cup; scores at a rate of one every other game for his country. Though relatively slight, the mobile Polish-born striker has a natural killer instinct inside the box, equally lethal with both feet, a great header of the ball, and links up play unselfishly.
There is a real prospect of Germany putting behind them the disasters of 2000 and 2004, and landing the European title for a fourth time (1972, 1980 before unification, 1996 after). "I'm convinced we are on the right road, but there's a lot more work to be done," Low says.
Prediction: Finalists, beaten by Italy.
Leo Beenhakker installed belief in a team who got off to bad start in qualification. However, they took four points off Portugal in finishing top of group which included Serbia and Belgium. Consequently they should not be underestimated, though performances in last two World Cups suggest they suffer stage fright.
Poland's Jacek Krzynowek
Key man: Jacek Krzynowek
The Coach: Leo Beenhakker
Started globe-trotting coaching career in his mid-twenties, and at 65 has wealth of experience. Took over Poland two years ago after guiding Trinidad & Tobago memorably to first World Cup finals. Two spells as coach of native Holland, and won hat-trick of league titles with Real Madrid in late Eighties.
Player to watch: Jacek Krzynowek
(Wolfsburg, Age 32, 79 caps, 15 goals)
Not played regularly in the Bundesliga this season - though could be about to leave for Olympiacos - which means he should be fresh for Euro 2008. Experienced left-sided midfielder who likes to run with the ball from deep with pace, and can create or shoot powerfully from distance. Dangerous from set-pieces.
Poland are first-time qualifiers, and believe they can emulate Greece in 2004. Like Greece, they have no obvious star players, though the collective spirit makes them strong. "The way we achieved our results was important," Beenhakker says. "It showed the team have high potential, but everything must work perfectly."
Prediction: Third in Group B.
France's record in the qualifying competition – they lost home and away to Scotland in finishing runners-up to Italy – suggests all is not well with a team starting to creak. Nevertheless they have a formidable squad into which the likes of David Trezeguet, Gael Clichy and Dijbril Cisse were unable to penetrate.
France's Franck Ribery
Key man: Franck Ribery
The Coach: Raymond Domenech
Considered a maverick who likes to build siege mentality within squad, the 56-year-old's outside interests include astrology and theatre. Tough full-back in playing days, spent a decade as under-21 coach, taking to European final in 2002, before elevation to senior team four years ago, guiding to 2006 World Cup final.
Player to watch: Franck Ribery
(Bayern Munich, Age 25, 27 caps, 4 goals)
Could play on the right, or on the left, or in a free role in the hole behind the strikers. Wherever, he is the team's playmaker, a player who likes to dribble and can cut through defences with his incisive passing. Can score as well, as England found out in March.
The two-times European champions (1984, 2000) have enjoyed a decade of success, but this will surely be the final hurrah for Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Lillian Thuram. Or as Domenech puts it: "I need the more experienced men not to get carried away, and the youngsters to do the opposite."
Prediction: Runners-up in Group C to Italy, who will beat them in semi-finals.
Holland's qualification was largely unimpressive as they finished behind Romania – Group C opponents again here – and just ahead of Bulgaria, and they lost their final game to Belarus. On the positive side, Marco van Basten has integrated some of the players who starred in successive European under-21 tournament victories.
Holland's Rafael van der Vaart
Key man: Rafael van der Vaart
The Coach: Marco van Basten
Had little coaching experience when took over Holland in July 2004, having only looked after Ajax youth team. Criticised for uninspiring performances during qualifying, the 43-year-old has continued bringing in youngsters who won 2006 and 2007 European under-21 titles. Former world-class striker with Milan returns to Ajax after Euro 2008.
Player to watch: Rafael van der Vaart
(Hamburg, Age 25, 55 caps, 10 goals)
Holland's free-kick specialist, this could be the chance for the creative midfield player to finally shine at a major championship after disappointing performances at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. His 10 goals helped Hamburg to second place in the Bundesliga, though he is expected to leave them this summer.
The 1988 winners have been inconsistent and unconvincing of late, and the usual pre-tournament bout of in-fighting has left them without Clarence Seedorf and Mark van Bommell, while Ryan Babbel has succumbed to injury. "It's going to be a hell of a job just to get out of the group," van Basten admits.
Prediction: Finish third in Group C.
Suffered immediate post-World Cup anti-climax and took just one point from first two qualifying games; they won nine of the remaining 10 and finished three points ahead of France. Roberto Donadoni turned them around and they play some neat, attractive football despite retirements of Alessandro Nesta and Francesco Totti.
Italy's Luca Toni
Key man: Luca Toni
The Coach: Roberto Donadoni
Surprise choice to replace Marcello Lippi after Italy's World Cup win in 2006. The 44-year-old's modest coaching career embraced Lecco, Liverno and, for three games, Genoa, before the Italians decided two years ago to gamble on the potential of a younger man who had been a swashbuckling midfielder for Milan.
Player to watch: Luca Toni
(Bayern Munich, Age 31, 34 caps, 15 goals)
After an undistinguished career in the lower reaches of Italian football, finally blossomed at Palermo and Fiorentina, and in outstanding form for Bayern this season: he scored 39 goals in 46 matches, and made a dozen more. Big, powerful, he will play as the striker in an anticipated 4-1-4-1 formation.
Surprisingly, Italy have only won the tournament once before (1968). But they have regained their World Cup form and should be well-organised as usual. Donadoni recognises they are considered favourites, but warns: "The recent history of this tournament should make us cautious: look at Greece in 2004, and Denmark in 1992."
Prediction: Champions, beating Germany in the final.
Finished top of qualifying group ahead of Holland and Bulgaria, and took four points off Dutch. The only blip – a defeat by Bulgaria – came after they had qualified. Tend to play with three defensive midfield players, which suggests they will be characteristically dour and difficult to break down.
Romania's Adrian Mutu
Key man: Adrian Mutu
The Coach: Victor Piturca
One of Romania's most prolific strikers, the thoughtful 52-year-old won European Cup winner's medal with Steaua Bucharest. Coached Romanian under-21s before first spell in charge of senior side ended on eve of Euro 2000 in dispute with players over bonuses. Returned in December 2004 after leading Steaua to league title.
Player to watch: Adrian Mutu
(Fiorentina, Age 29, 61 caps, 28 goals)
Recovered from the ignominy of being sacked by Chelsea after failing a drugs test for cocaine four years ago. Now showing why he is considered the most talented Romanian player of his generation. Drives the team on from an attacking position just behind the lone striker, and is the free-kick specialist.
Not qualified for major championship since reaching quarter-finals in 2000. They are the minnows in the ‘Group of Death' behind Italy, France and Holland. "We have a chance, even though it is small," Piturca says. "We'll play as a team who have nothing to lose and everything to win."
Prediction: Finish bottom of a tough Group C.
Despite a 4-1 home defeat against Turkey, the reigning champions collected more points (31) than any one else. They underlined their two wins over Portugal at Euro 2004 by beating them again recently. Though the basis of the squad is the same, several additions have made it deeper and stronger.
Greece's Theofanis Gekas
Key man: Theofanis Gekas
The Coach: Otto Rehhagel
The philosophy of graft and discipline that underpinned 30-year coaching career in Germany, culminated in Greece's unlikely success at Euro 2004. The 69-year-old spent 14 years at Werder Bremen before brief spell at Bayern Munich ended just before 1996 Uefa Cup final. In charge of Greece since August 2001.
Player to watch: Theofanis Gekas
(Bayer Leverkusen, Age 28, 27 caps, 6 goals)
Top scorer in the Bundesliga last season with 20 goals for Bochum, which earned him a move to Leverkusen. Was only playing Greek second division football four years ago – when Greece won Euro 2004 – but his prolific goalscoring has gained him a regular starting place as the central striker.
The holders' task is to prove that 2004 was no fluke. They feel they can. "We have an outstanding team, and Otto Rehhagel has proved he can work miracles," striker Theofanis Gekas says. "Why shouldn't I believe that if we play to our capabilities we can repeat that success?"
Prediction: Finish third in Group D.
Erratic qualifying record, beating England, then losing to Israel, and having to rely on Croatia winning at Wembley in final game. Consequently, a liberal dose of pessimism is sweeping the nation. The defence is unreliable, though goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev is impressive, and they are particularly dangerous along the flanks.
Russia's Andrei Arshavin
Key man: Andrei Arshavin
The Coach: Guus Hiddink
Came to prominence in 1988, guiding PSV Eindhoven to European Cup victory. The 61-year-old former Real Madrid manager has taken Holland and South Korea to World Cup semi-finals, in 1998 and 2002, and Australia to 2006 World Cup. Overcame initial disquiet, when appointed two years ago, to revive Russian football.
Player to watch: Andrei Arshavin
(Zenit St Petersburg, Age 27, 33 caps, 10 goals)
Will have to wait until the Sweden game to show why he is such an important part of the Russian team: he is suspended for two games after being sent off in the last qualifier. Team captain, and a clever dribbler, he was instrumental in Zenit's Uefa Cup success this season.
First winners of competition, as USSR, in 1960, but not impressed since Soviet break-up. Hiddink, though, should bring out the best in them, and Arshavin's return for final group match could tip the group their way. "If we are very committed and disciplined, then our chances are high," Hiddink says.
Prediction: Second in Group D, but defeated by Italy in quarter-finals.
Collected just three points from opening three qualifying games, including 3-2 defeat in Belfast, but still managed to top group by two points. Spain are basking in a truly talented generation of players, like Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres, and the more experienced Iker Castillas, Xavi and Carlos Puyol.
Spain's Cesc Fabregas
Key man: Cesc Fabregas
The Coach: Luis Aragones
Notoriously short-tempered and unpredictable, his crowning moment domestically was during one of four separate spells as Atletico Madrid coach, when they won the league and cup double in 1996. The 69-year-old became Spain's coach in 2004, leading them in 2006 World Cup finals, and will step down after Euro 2008.
Player to watch: Cesc Fabregas
(Arsenal, Age 21, 25 caps, 0 goals)
Outstanding for Arsenal, particularly in the first half of this season. It is now a question of whether he can replicate that for his country, for whom he has been largely inconsistent. Spain switched to 4-3-3 to accommodate him alongside Andreas Iniesta and Xavi based on his Arsenal form.
Apart from winning European title in 1964, Spain have flattered to deceive. There is long list of excuses why they foul up at every tournament, which have become ingrained in national psyche. "We have to be aware that the tiniest little detail goes against you, and it's over," Xabi Alonso said.
Prediction: Through at top of Group D, but out to France in quarter-finals.
Difficult qualifying competition, compounded by internal and external problems, only decided in last game when beat Latvia, and Spain beat Northern Ireland. Team follow traditional pattern of well-organised, no-risk defence and swift breaks. Unexpected return from retirement of Henrik Larsson has provided a much-needed psychological lift amid general pessimism.
Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Key man: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The Coach: Lars Lagerback
Longest-serving coach at Euro 2008 has been involved with the Swedish set-up since 1990 with youth and B teams before joining forces with Tommy Soderberg in 2000. The reserved 59-year-old, who was master tactician to Soderberg's hands-on role, took sole control four years later, and has a contract until 2010.
Player to watch: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
(Inter Milan, Age 26, 50 caps, 18 goals)
Strong-willed, and can be a loose cannon on and off the pitch. Likened to Marco van Basten, he has superb pace and technique, and has the ability to be a world-class finisher. Disappointing Euro 2008 qualifying competition, in which he failed to score, but awarded Sweden's sports personality of year nonetheless.
Semi-finalists when hosted in 1992, their spirits have been lifted since Larsson announced his comeback. With Ibrahimovic struggling for goals for club and country, it was looking doubtful if they would score at all. However, Lagerback says: "We have players who can make a difference in a close game."
Prediction: Bottom of Group D.
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