Euro 2012: Power Ranking Every Team's Starting Lineup
Which nation will bring the best starting lineup to Euro 2012?
It's a question that will surely spark plenty of debate, so let's set some rules right off the bat.
These rankings take into account each team's starting lineup. No matches have been played yet, so we've done our best to project each and every team's starting XI.
Read on to find out who we ranked No. 1, and leave your rankings in the comments below.
Long Shots, Co-Hosts and a Former Champ
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
16. Greece (Kostas Chalkias; Vasilis Torosidis, Jose Holebas, Sokratis Papastathpoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos; Grigoris Makos, Kostas Katsouranis, Giorgios Karagounis; Sotiris Ninis, Theofanis Gekas, Giorgos Samaras)
Defensive football will be the strategy. The outcome almost surely won't match the near-mythical Euro 2004 title run.
15. Ukraine (Andriy Pyatov; Oleg Husyev, Olexandr Kucher, Taras Mikhalik, Yaroslav Rakitskiy; Marko Devic, Yevhen Konoplyanka, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Ruslan Rotan; Andriy Yarmolenko, Andriy Voronin
Almost half the team has been hit by a stomach bug. There's almost no point trying to predict who will play. Andriy Shevchenko (pictured) was world-class in his day, but his day passed long ago. He might not even start.
On the bright side, several of Ukraine's players are club teammates and several more are teammates for one of their rivals.
14. Poland (Wojciech Szczesny; Lukasz Piszczek, Damien Perquis, Marcin Wasilewski, Sebastian Boenisch; Ludovic Obraniak, Dariusz Dudka, Eugen Polanski, Adrian Mierzejewski, Jakub Blaszczykowski; Robert Lewandowski
The Borussia Dortmund contingent (Piszczek, Lewandowski, Blaszczkowski) is impressive for the co-hosts, as is Arsenal keeper Szczesny. Could that star power, along with home-field advantage, be enough in a weak Group A?
13. Czech Republic (Petr Cech; Michal Kadlec, David Limbersky, Tomas Sivok, Theodor Gebre Selassie; Jaroslav Plasil, Daniel Kolar, Petr Jiracek, Tomas Rosicky; Jan Rezek, Milan Baros)
Tomas Rosicky is fighting for fitness. His presence is crucial for the Czechs, but no player is more important than world-class keeper Petr Cech.
12. Republic of Ireland (Shay Given; John O'Shea, Sean St. Ledger, Richard Dunne, Stephen Ward; Aiden McGeady, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Damien Duff; Kevin Doyle, Robbie Keane)
The Irish have dangerous wingers in abundance, and Dunne could be the key man in the heart of the defense. The unit will be tested in a tough group with Italy and Spain.
Dangerous Dark Horses
Scott Heavey/Getty Images
11. Croatia (Stipe Pletikosa; Josip Simunic, Vedran Corluka, Domagoj Vida, Darijo Srna; Tomislav Dujmovic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic; Mario Mandzukic, Nikica Jelavic)
Ivica Olic has been ruled out due to injury, but Luka Modric and Nikica Jelavic remain key men in the attack.
10. Sweden (Andreas Isaksson, Mikael Lustig, Olof Mellberg, Jonas Olsson, Martin Olsson, Kim Kallstrom, Anders Svensson, Sebastian Larsson, Rasmus Elm, Johan Elmander, Zlatan Ibrahimovic)
Defense is a question mark, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic (pictured) was one of Europe's best strikers this past club season. If he's on, the Swedes could shock England or France (or both) in Group D.
9. Denmark (Anders Lindegaard; Simon Poulsen, Lars Jacobsen, Daniel Agger, Simon Kjaer; Dennis Rommedahl, Christian Eriksen, Michael Krohn-Dehli, William Kvist, Niki Zimling; Nicklas Bendtner)
Denmark's starting lineup is strong, with a potential superstar in the making in Christian Eriksen. The problem for the Danes is that Germany, Holland and Portugal also reside in Group B.
Would-be starting goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen has been ruled out with an injury, paving the way for Lindegaard.
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Projected XI: Igor Akinfeev; Aleksandr Anyukov, Aleksei Berezutskiy, Sergei Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirkov; Konstantin Zyryanov, Igor Denisov, Roman Shirokov; Andrei Arshavin, Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Kerzhakov
Aside from Arshavin and Dzagoev, there aren't many names that will stand out to non-Russian fans, but Dick Advocaat's squad is easily good enough to top a weak Group A.
Akinfeev is fighting for fitness, but if he plays, he will serve as an excellent building block. A slow defense, however, could be a concern.
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
Projected XI: Rui Patricio; Fabio Coentrao, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Joao Pereira; Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho; Nani, Hugo Almeida, Cristiano Ronaldo
Portugal's starting lineup features a few world-class talents and several supporting players most casual fans don't know as well.
That doesn't, however, make this a weak squad.
As Bleacher Report's Dan Renfro writes, Portugal will have a hole at center forward. But Paulo Bento's side will come down to the performance of world-class midfielder/forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who could flourish in the 4-3-3 system (per Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe).
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Projected XI: Joe Hart; Ashley Cole, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Glen Johnson; Scott Parker, Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing, Theo Walcott; Ashley Young, Andy Carroll
Injuries have hit England hard, and some fans were already upset at the exclusion of several deserving players. Defender Gary Cahill (pictured) and midfielders Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry have all been ruled out since manager Roy Hodgson named his 23-man squad.
Still, England's starting XI is full of world-famous names like Ashley Cole, John Terry and Steven Gerrard. Joe Hart is a rising star at goalkeeper, and Scott Parker was a favorite of many a pundit this past season.
Critics will point to the inclusion of Liverpool's Stewart Downing (no goals or assists in league play this past season) and Andy Carroll (who struggled at times for Liverpool after a big-money transfer).
Even so, there should be plenty of quality on the pitch every time England lines up.
Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images
Projected XI: Gianluigi Buffon; Ignazio Abate, Andrea Barzagli, Federico Balzaretti, Giorgio Chiellini; Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi, Riccardo Montolivo, Claudio Marchisio; Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli
Andrea Pirlo (pictured) and Daniele De Rossi are top-class in the midfield. They figure to play in a four-man midfield diamond without much in the way of wing play. For more on the midfield, read an excellent explication here from Bleacher Report's Daniel Manichello.
At the back, Gianluigi Buffon is one of the best in the biz, but an injury to Andrea Barzagli could limit Cesare Prandelli's options.
Up top, Antonio Cassano is a goal machine, and Mario Balotelli can be either a game-changing genius or a mad menace.
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Projected XI: Hugo Lloris; Mathieu Debuchy, Adil Rami, Philippe Mexes, Patrice Evra; Yann M'Vila, Yohan Cabaye, Samir Nasri, Hatem Ben Arfa, Franck Ribery; Karim Benzema
France's lineup has few weaknesses, though some would argue for Laurent Koscielny and Gaël Clichy ahead of Philippe Mexes and Patrice Evra.
The health of Yann M'Vila is another concern, but otherwise, France features strong players throughout the pitch, starting with a top-class keeper in Hugo Lloris.
Karim Benzema (pictured) has scored more goals over the last two years for Real Madrid than anyone not named Cristiano Ronaldo, and he should have excellent service from creative midfielders Samir Nasri and Hatem Ben Arfa.
Franck Ribery, meanwhile, remains a nuisance to fullbacks and prostitutes the world over.
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Projected XI: Maarten Stekelenburg; Jetro Willems, Joris Mathijsen, John Heitinga, Gregory van der Wiel; Nigel De Jong, Mark van Bommel, Ibrahim Afellay, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben; Robin van Persie
It's becoming Holland's national obsession. Robin van Persie (pictured) or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar?
Bleacher Report's I.J. Yarison opted for RvP (in the link above), so I will too.
The Dutch should receive excellent wing play from Arjen Robben and Ibrahim Afellay, and central playmaker Wesley Sneijder will hope to shake off an up-and-down club season with Inter Milan.
Concerns remain at the back, however, despite Nigel De Jong—or possibly Kevin Strootman—and Mark van Bommel providing a stout shield for the back four.
Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Projected XI: Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Holger Badstuber, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira, Thomas Müller, Lukas Podolski, Mesut Özil; Miroslav Klose
Germany's lineup was young and perhaps a bit inexperienced during the semifinal run at World Cup 2010. That shouldn't be a problem now.
One player who isn't young is forward Miroslav Klose, who is likely playing in his final major tournament. Don't expect the 33-year-old (he turns 34 on June 9) to slow down (63 goals in 116 senior caps), but if he does, expect to see 26-year-old Mario Gomez (41 goals this season for Bayern Munich in all competitions) in his place.
Speaking of Gomez, he's one of several Bayern Munich players on this roster. Despite the disappointment of this season's Champions League final, having so many Bayern players could prove beneficial to the Germans.
The contingent of Bayern players know each other well, as do Real Madrid's Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil. Moreover, most of these guys played together two years ago in the World Cup.
In short, this is a fearsome lineup, arguably bested by only Spain's midfield.
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Projected XI: Iker Casillas; Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba; Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Silva; Fernando Torres
Few would deny that Spain have the world's best midfield. The fact that Cesc Fabregas finds no spot in our projected XI speaks to the quality of their pass-happy unit.
Further up the pitch, Fernando Torres struggled for much of the season with Chelsea, but seems to have rediscovered his form. If he doesn't start, another Fernando, Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente, could be waiting in the wings with the potential to create something spectacular.
At the back, Iker Casillas remains one of the world's top keepers, if not the very best. The defense should be solid as well, despite the absence of Carles Puyol due to injury.