With the domestic season behind us, I thought it would be fitting to predict the outcome of the upcoming European championships in Poland and Ukraine, which promise to light up june and provide exciting action for football lovers.

Group A

Group A without a doubt is the most open group of the tournament with Hosts, Poland, Greece, Russia and Czech republic battling it out. Of course, like all the groups their is a favourite and Russia are that. They are not way ahead of the others,but an impressive qualifying round and some quality players at their disposal its easy to see how Russia are favourites. Russia will want to go one better than euro 2008′ in which they reached the semi finals eventually losing out 3-0 to Spain. But they will need their stars to perform, Pavel Pogrebnyak has enjoyed his time at Fulham since signing in January and old stars of euro 2008, Arshavin and pavlyuchenko have enjoyed their time back in Russia, after Arshavin returned to zenit on loan while Pav returned to Moscow, to play at lokomotiv.

Co-hosts, Poland are rank outsiders to make out the group being the lowest ranked team in tournament at 65 in FIFA rankings, their chances don’t bode well. However they do have some decent players such as Robert lewandowkski and Jakub Blaszcykowski who both ply their trade in Germany with bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund. With Robert, bagging a hat trick in their recent German cup Final win against Bayern. They also have a good goalkeeper between the sticks, Woijech Szczensy. Who of course, plys his trade at Arsenal, emerging as the clear predercessor to Jens Lehman, producing wonderful performances that ensured his side of a champions league spot. I do fancy Poland at the championships, fan supports added with the talented squad they have, could pull them across the line.

Greece emerged into the footballing spotlight in 2004 after shocking Europe by winning Euro 2004. Although things haven’t quite been as glorious Greece despite maintaining a high place in the FIFA rankings. The Dissapointment of failing to qualify for the world cup in 2006 was met with two consecutive qualifications for Euro 2008 and World cup 2010. However failure to get into the knockout stages has been annoying for the Greek fans. Fernando Santos took the reings after the 2010 world cup from Otter Rehhagel and managed to guide Greece to top of a qualifying group with Croatia in it. The view from Greece is one of positivity and the feeling is with the veterans such as Karagounis and young emerging players such as Sotiris Ninis in the side coupled with the draw, Greece can go a long way in the championships.

Czech republic are a far cry from their semi final appearance in the 2004 edition of the euroepean championships. However after failing to qualify for the world cup in 2010, Czech republic have emerged as a strong side for the competition after qualifying in second place behind Spain in Group I, winning a qualifying playoff against Montenegro to qualify. The Czech’s do have a good chance of qualifying from the group with some top class players that are in the form of their life such as Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky. They may struggle for goals, but it is hoped the age old, Milan Baros can recapture his form from euro 2004, in which he finished top scorer. However, eight goals in the Turkish superlig begs to differ. They will be also fresh optimism for Tomas Necid, the young forward broke onto the scene four years ago in the Uefa under 19 championship. And earned himself a move to Cska Moscow, he had a good first season, scoring nine goals. His second season didn’t go drastically bad, as he scored seven goals. But in his 2011 season his form massively dipped as he only managed three goals, a dire season for a striker.

Final standings
1. Russia 7pts
2. Poland 5pts
3. Czech republic 4pts
4. Greece 0pts

Verdict
Russia’s stars should be too much for the rest of the group to handle, the likes of Pav and Arshavin should hit form when necessary. Poland, meanwhile shall benefit from fan support, so I’m sure they can nick a win from Greece in the opening game and peg back both Russia and Czech Republic. As for the Czech’s I’m not sure what to make of them, I’m sure Cech will be solid as ever, but a goalkeeper alone can’t win football matches, so I think goals will evade them. I don’t think Greece will do much, they have a squad full of players that are probably past their sell by dates, they also don’t have any world class talent, that is vital to win a European championship.

Group B
The ‘group of desth’ Is a difficult group to pick a winner, the group will promise goals, with some of europes top goalscorers gracing the field. Germany will want bury any negativity brought about from the failures to win silverware at the last two major international competitions. Portugal will keep their fingers crossed that Cristiano Ronaldo can emulate his club form to the international stage. While Denmark and Holland will look to 88 and 92 for inspiration that this might be their year.

Germany
Germany, of course will promise to be strong suit in the competition, with their young squad from south Africa 2010 producing a excellent 100% qualifying round, as well as being more mature footballers. Loew will be hoping that Bayern Munich’s champions league failure won’t effect players such as bastian schweinsteiger, Phillip Lahm and Thomas Muller. Miroslav Klose will most probably recapture his goalscorers form, something he seems to do when he puts on the Germany shirt. While Mario Gomez will be quick to put his dreadful tournaments of 2006 and 2008 behind him and will be focusing on emulating his form in the bundesliga to the major international stage.

Portugal
It’s without a shadow of a doubt that Portugal will be putting all of their tournament hopes on Cristiano Ronaldo. However, its something he can handle, 46 goals in 38 appearances in la liga tells the story, Ronaldo is simply unstoppable at the moment and his national team mates are too also, Raul Merieles will already feel like a king of europe after Chelsea won the champions league. Portugal were frailing under Carlos Queiroz, after a 4-4 draw with Cyprus and a defeat to Norway, Queiroz was fired and replaced by Paulo Bento, who managed go steer them to qualification via the playoffs, beating Bosnia 6-2 in a playoff.

Netherlands will come to the tournament as strong side, with two of their forwards, Robin Van Persie and Klaas Jan Hunterlaar in the form of thir lives, goalscoring looks like it won’t be problem for the Dutch. However, Robben’s penalty miss in the champions league final could play on his mind, forcing him into a poor tournament and it will be questionable whether, Sneijder has fully recovered from Inter’ s dire fortunes in Serie A. Questions have been raised whether the world cup final in 2010 was their peak, although time will only tell.

Denmark are a side that could produce heroics or just completely fall apart, looking at their group, the latter seems more obvious. However, the Danes will go with Optimism, they did finish above Portugal in the qualifying stages and their forward, Nicklas Bentender has managed to score a fair few goals in the premier league this season on his loan to Sunderland,8 in all. Resulting in it being his best premier league season yet. Denmark do of course have thei young starlet, Christian Eriksen, who they are pinging the nations hopes onto. And rightly so, 19 assists in the Dutch league paints a picture that this man has a lot of creativity in his boots and his creativity could be what Denmark need when faced with the challenges these sides will offer.

Final standings
1. Germany 9 points
2. Portugal 6 points
3. Netherlands 1 point
4. Denmark 1 point

Verdict
I think Germany will sweep the group with their attacking power and their tournament experience, Klose will have the shooting boots on, while Neuer will ensure the backline will stay tight. I feel Ronaldo will finally emulate his club form into international football, Moriniho has moulded him into a real team player and his maturity coupled with his confidence from his best seasons yet should ensure a quality tournament. For Holland, the weight of expectation could cripple them, Rvp and Kjh could fail to repeat their club form their country. While van Marwijk will feel spoilt for choice in the striking department, leading him to picking the wrong team for the games. As for Denmark, the group has been too cruel on them. Eriksen is a great players, however the weight of nation on his shoulders could be too much for him to take at a young age. They also don’t have many striking options, with their best hope being s deadbeat arsenal forward.

Group c
We come to group c, where the favourites Spain match up against Italy, Croatia and Ireland. This group is difficult group to call, Del Bosque will be attempting to add the European championships to his impressive cv after he became the second coach behind Marcello Lippi to have won both the champions league and the world cup.

Spain
Spain will miss the likes of David Villa and Carlos Puyol after the both announced they will miss the championships through injury, the news came as a severe blow to Del Bosque. However, Spain do still have a star studded squad, Fernando Llorente and Roberto Soldado have emerged as players that could fill the boots of Villa, scoring 34 goals between them in la liga, with Roberto Soldado impressing in a friendly against Venezuela in February, scoring a hat trick in a 5-0 win. There have been eyebrows raised at whether the side can do it again, with friendly defeats to Argentina, Portugal and England. Although they remain unbeaten in competitive football since a 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in the world cup group stage, the threat of underperformaning is not a concern of the Spanish fans.

Italy
Now under Prandelli following Lippi dismissal after the poor world cup, Italy head to the Euros looking to rebuild a regime that ruled the world in 2006. However the situation is much different these days, they are no real strikers that have emerged in the Italy camp, with Di Natale struggling to grab his club form for the national side. Balotelli could be make a major mark on Europe football, if he hasn’t already. But he will have calm his temperament after it cost him a place in Italy’s recent friendly internationals.

Croatia
Croatia head to their third European championships in a row after the disappointment of failing to qualify for south Africa in 2010. Croatia promised a lot at euro 2008, but they fell short in the quarter final to some Turkish magic from Semih Senturk. However, they head to euro 2012 with a good quality squad. Jelavic and Modric are some world class talent in their squad to name, with Jelavic scoring 9 goals for Everton since his move from Rangers. Croatia will be wary of their European opponents after Sweden brushed them aside 3-1 in friendly.

Ireland
Competing in their first European championship since 1988 and their first major international competition since 2002, Ireland head to the euros under the guidance of their experienced Italian, Giovanni Trapattoni. He has had experience of the European championships before as a manager with his native country of Italy in 2004. However, he failed to get the group stage, losing out in a group with Denmark, Sweden and Bulgaria. Ireland do have a good record of upsetting big sides, with their most recent victory coming in a 2-0 win against Italy in 2011. A bit of ‘luck of the Irish’ could help them along, with Robbie Keane looking to emulate the form at euro 2012 that he has shown in the premier league over the years.

Standings
1. Spain 7pts
2. Croatia 5pts
3. Ireland 4 pts
4. Italy 0 pts

Verdict
Spain’s recent tournament pedigree should get them through the group, there is too much talent in the squad to faulter in the group stage. And goals should come from all areas on the pitch with the strikers, Soldado, Llorente and even Torres hitting top form for their club sides at the end of the season. Croatia have a great chance of finishing second with the talent they have in their squad, Modric, Eduardo and Jelavic should be on fire to make sure Bilic’s side can go to the quarter finals again. For Ireland, tournament inexperience could cost them, the draw has also been cruel to them with three sides that are higher than them in the FIFA rankings. A quarter final place is achievable for them. A win against Croatia is an absolute must as it will be hard for them to compose themselves against two of europes top names. As for Italy, I feel it will be another horrorshow, Prandelli will fail to gain a positive mood in the camp. The striking problems won’t be solved and Balotelli shall get up to his usual antics, a repeat of the French team at south Africa 2010 is well and truly on the cards.

Group D
Group d is quite a hard group to predict, I think all the sides have the capability to finish as group winners. France are obviously the favourites for the group, while England are close second. However we cannot rule out the co-hosts Ukraine, they have a whole nation backing them and their playing in front of them! As for Sweden they have had some decent tournaments in the past and they do have some fine players, Ibrahimovic to name one.

France
Now under Laurent Blanc, France are far from their world cup 2010 bust up. But still miles off from their 1998 world cup and euro 2000 double winning team. After starting of the qualifying round in bad shape losing 1-0 to Belarus they came back strong to qualify in first place. I’m not sure what to make of them coming into the tournament, it’s certainly a different side from their world cup 2010 squad. But there is still a lot of talent in the squad, Karim Benzema is now in the team after getting left out of the world cup squad by Domenech and he has had an impressive season with real Madrid, scoring 21 goals. There is also Olivier Giroud, who has emerged as a real striking talent in ligue 1 with shock title winners, Montpellier. And with 21 goals in ligue 1, he finished as top goalscorer. His impressive goalscoring earned him his first cap against Germany in Febuary, he repaid Blanc with a goal as France ran out 2-1 winners.

England
England are always amongst the favourites to win a competition and expectation is usually sky high. But this year it is very different, after Capello left in January the mood has been that it is probably too early for a manager to come and in guide England to a tournament victory. Roy Hodgson had the honour of taking the reigns from Capello and he did come under scrutiny from the masses who thought Redknapp was the right man. Criticising him for his poor run at Liverpool, but ‘king kenny’s’ failure shows that it is probably the team. Should be it be different at England? Maybe, he comes in as the only manager to have experience in international management, which has to be a good thing. An impressive run managing, Finland, Switzerland and UAE should not go unrecognised. However this is England and you seem to get criticised for every move you make by the media if you’re England manager. And it has been no different for Roy, he has been criticised for including Downing in the squad. Something that could work as good, he did get no assists for Liverpool this season. But, I think Roy has took into account that Andy Carroll captured some form towards the end of the season and downing has worked with Carroll all season. And as a Boro fan, I know he can come good, his pin point cross for Maccarone against a certain, Steau comes to mind.

Sweden
Sweden are counting on their big man up top, Zlatan Ibrahimovic to deliver and with 28 serie a goals with AC Milan, you can exactly see why. Sweden will be looking to go one better than euro 2008 after they went out in the group stage, Ibrahimovic’s belter against Greece,the only highlight. However, they do same to have made an improvement this year, three wins out of three in 2012 has the fans hoping, with the most recent being a 3-1 win over fellow tournament rivals, Croatia. Ibrahimovic and Larsson firing in the goals to capture an impressive win.

Ukraine
There is no much to say about Ukraine, apart from they’re the co-hosts and their pinging their hopes on a 35 year old who has scored 6 goals in the Ukrainian premier league. This 35 year old is of course, Andiry Shevchenko, who has been Ukraines best player for many years, scooping up the ballon d’or in 2004 in season, he managed 24 goals for AC Milan. Ukraine do have a decent record in recent internationals, unbeaten in their last five. Drawing impressively against Germany in November. They have, however lost to of their group sage opponents in the last year losing to France and Sweden in June and August last year.

Standings
1. France 7pts
2. England 5pts
3. Sweden 4pts
4. Ukraine 0pts

Verdict
I feel France will win the group as they will have too much for England in the opening game, the sense of a refreshed side should help them along. As for England I think Roy will make sure they have enough to make it past Sweden and Ukraine. Sweden will most probably weigh too much expectation on Ibrahimovic, who I sense disappointing in the tournament. As for Ukraine, five years ago I may have given them a chance. But relying on a 35 year old seems a bit desperate to me. A win against Sweden though could set them on their way to bigger and better things.

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