Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Euro 2008 is here

From June 7 to 29, 2008 soccer fanatics would get more than an eye-full when the big guns of Europe (sans England) get set to clash in the Euro 2008 to be held jointly by Austria and Switzerland. The finals will be played on the 29th of June (what a way for me to celebrate my birthday!) in Vienna. Lets preview the tournament shall we?

Group A: Switzerland, Czech Republic, Portugal, Turkey
Switzerland -> The team boasts of a stoic defense, so much so, that they did not leak a single goal during the group stages of the World Cup finals in 2006. They even managed to top their group, which had France and South Korea (who can forget their dream run in the 2002 world cup). The team should not be under-estimated at all.
Players to look out for - Phillipe Senderos, Alexander Frei, Hakan Yakin, Pascal Zuberbühler

Czech Republic -> A team which has already lived through it's Golden Age and not won anything of significance. They need to play out of their skin to go through the first round. Certainly an aging team, and with Thomas Rosicky missing things look bleak for them.
Players to look out for - Petr Čech, Milan Baroš, Tomáš Ujfaluši

Portugal -> Certainly one of the favourites to lift the cup, they look strong with an excellent coach at the helm. Christiano Ronaldo has just completed a dream season with Manchester United. The forward line is the only area of concern. However, the team can be sure of an impregnable defence and a very creative mid-field (so chances will surely be created). They should sail through the group stage with ease.
Players to look out for - Cristiano Ronaldo, Simão, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho, Nani, Deco

Turkey -> A team that blows hot and blows cold, depending on how they feel on the day. On their day, they can take on the best and come out on top, but on their off day they could be simple walkovers. The trick for Turkey would be that they would need to gel as a single unit. With Switzerland, Czech Republic and Turkey vying for a single spot in the second stage, it makes for a mouth-watering contest.
Players to look out for - Nihat Kahveci, Colin Kazim-Richards, Hamit Altıntop

Group B: Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland
Austria -> There are always those that have argued that the host nation should not have automatic qualification. On this occassion, most of those against automatic qualification would be English! The Austrian team has very little to talk about, and being in the same group as Germany and Croatia they certainly must be sweating now.
Players to look out for - Martin Stranzl

Croatia -> The team that famously prevented England from qualifying for Euro 2008 has a tactically sound manager leading them. The team has done very well as a unit during qualification, ending up the winners of Group E. Having had a good qualification run is one thing, but turning it into a magical Euro 2008 is quite another. Lots is expected of this team, and getting past the group stage is only the begining.
Players to look out for - Dario Šimić, Niko Kovač, Darijo Srna, Ivan Klasnić

Germany - Another one of the favourites to lift the cup. Many pundits have Germany as the top team of the Euro 2008. The team looks strong with most of the young brigade having already gained a lot of international exposure and success. The loss in the semi-final of the World Cup 2006 at home was heartbreak, and the German team is out to correct that. They would need Michael Ballack to be at his inspirational best.
Players to look out for - Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Michael Ballack, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Hitzlsperger

Poland - Surprise winners of group A in the qualifications, but would they be able to sustain their momentum against the likes of Germany and Croatia? With only the top two teams from each group going through to the next round, Poland's chances are bleak, especially having seen their World Cup performance in 2006. However, two years is a lot of time to improve, and lets hope they provide some entertainment.
Players to look out for - Euzebiusz Smolarek

Group C: Netherlands, Italy, Romania, France - The group of death
Netherlands - The Orange brigade is looking strong, with coach Marco van Basten haven buried the hatchet with Ruud van Nistelrooy. The team is on a roll, creating chances and finishing them well. Of course, this group is not an easy one to qualify from. The dutch would have to get past the Italian defence and the French guile to have a chance of progressing.
Players to look out for - Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben,Rafael van der Vaart, John Heitinga

Italy - The World Champs have just had their first shock of the tournament, and it has not gotten underway yet. Their inspirational captain Fabio Cannavarro is out with an injury and will take no part in the Euro 2008. What a loss! Suddenly the much fabled Italian defence does not look so miserly. The strike force still looks good, but the mid field seems to be aging fast. Being in a tough group, means no easy matches and now their chances don't look so good after all.
Players to look out for - Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo

Romania - Certainly the bashing boys of Group C, they must consider themselves extremely lucky if they manage to get a single point. They have no easy match, having to play France, Italy and Netherlands (in that order). Progression to the next round is a dream for them.
Players to look out for - Cristian Chivu, Adrian Mutu

France - A team that has overcome the shock World Cup of 2002 and looks to be playing good creative football again. Their World Cup 2006 campaign was much better, as they peaked at the right time to reach the finals. They are looking good, but some players like Maluda and Henry have had a nightmare season and are struggling to find form. With no easy games in the group stage, their work only becomes tougher!
Players to look out for - Karim Benzema, Thierry Henry, Patrice Evra, Franck Ribéry

Group D: Greece, Sweeden, Spain, Russia
Greece - The current Euro champions have not had the best time after their fantastic Euro 2004, in which they defeated Portugal and France. Most of the squad has aged and is looking fragile. However, they are in a relatively easier group and so no one can write them off.
Players to look out for - Angelos Basinas, Stelios Giannakopoulos, Angelos Charisteas

Sweeden - Nothing can define their desperation more than their recall of 36 year old, mutiple-retiree, Henrik Larsson to their squad. they have always done well in the qualifications but never done well in the main events. Somehow they manage to get into the second round, and then play like their target has been achieved and nothing else is required of them. This time around, they might want it to be different.
Players to look out for - Henrik Larsson, Olof Mellberg, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Sebastian Larsson, Christian Wilhelmsson

Spain - Another team that has a long history of doing exceedingly well in the qualifications and the first round of big events, but faltering there-after. Spain is so full of talented football players that its quite a rude shock that they have not won a prestigious cup in a long long time. Once again they promise a lot, whether or not they deliver is something else. The forward line looks lethal led by an in-form Fernando Torres. The mid field is as usual silky with the likes of Xavi. The defence is rock solid led by Carlos Puyol. Another contendor for the tournament for sure.
Players to look out for - Iker Casillas, Carles Puyol, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi, David Villa, Fernando Torres, Cesc Fàbregas, José Manuel Reina

Russia - Guus Hiddink is known to work wonders. He took South Korea on that magical run in the World Cup 2002 to the semi-finals. He led Australia to the World Cup finals for the first time in 2006. Now he manages Russia. Being in an easy group, gives Russia a realistic chance of moving into the next round. They would, however, have to work very hard for that to materialise.
Players to look out for - Andrei Arshavin, Sergei Ignashevich

Heres hoping for a fabulous Euro 2008. May the best team win. Cheers!

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