Torres, Ronaldo Etc: England Football Fans Should Look Forward to Euro 2008
A recent radio debate asked the English footballing public "Now England aren't going to appear, what will you be doing during the summer?"
My answer is quite simple. I'll be watching Euro 2008 and watch the cream of the Premiership strut their stuff in Austria and Switzerland.
That got me wondering how many players are likely to play in the tournament that ply their trade over here. The answer, 52, and here is a round up of all the qualifiers and their English based contingent including the one to watch.
Out of the 16 qualifiers 3 don't have any players that play in England, they are Romania, Russia and Italy. Numbers in brackets are the latest odds.
Czech Republic (16/1) - Petr Cech (Chelsea) 56 apps
Cech has had another outstanding season for Chelsea this year pulling off numerous world class saves to not only keep the blues in the Champions League but also the Premier League title race. A facial injury in April kept him out for a while and Chelsea's title bids faltered but on his return the clean sheets returned. The Czech Republic are in a difficult group with Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey but with Cech between the sticks they should have enough to qualify past the group stages.
Other Premier League players: Marek Matejovsky (Reading), Milan Baros (Portsmouth), Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal) although injury may keep him out.
Portugal (8/1) - Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) 54 apps 20 goals
Who else could I pick. The boy from Madeira seems to be having his cake and eating it this season. Goals and assists galore and undoubtedly the best player on the planet. Like Cruyff in 74 and Maradona in 86 could Euro 2008 be the tournament where one player can single handedly guide his side to glory. Portugal's best chance surely. Group favourites, Portugal could well be peoples tip for the crown and cap of a season to remember for young Cristiano
Other Premier League players: Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea), Nani (Manchester United)
Switzerland (25/1) - Philippe Senderos (Arsenal) 26 apps 3 goals
One of the outsiders for the tournament there isn't much quality in their squad and out of the 4 players based in England Philippe would be the only choice as their one to watch. Senderos has had an indifferent season at the Emirates this season and if rumours are true he could well be heading for the exit. A can be a solid defender but has struggled to nail down a place at Arsenal and a few high profile gaffs has affected his confidence and the Swiss will be hoping he leaves his Arsenal form in England if they are to stand any chance of qualifying out of their group.
Other Premier League players: Gelson Fernandes (Manchester City), Johan Djourou (Arsenal), Blerim Dzemaili (Bolton Wanderers)
Turkey (50/1) - Tuncay Sanli (Middlesbrough) 51 apps 14 goals
Prolific for Fenerbache it was seen the free signing for Middlesbrough of Tuncay was a nice piece of business for Gareth Southgate but after a first season where it took 12 appearances to notch his first goal some fans were starting to wonder whether this free transfer was worth the money!!! and even for a majority of this season Tuncay did nothing to quell those fears but what will please the Turkish fans heading to Switzerland is his end of season form where he has scored the goals that ensured Boro will be playing Premier League football next season. Whether this will be enough to get his nation past the first hurdle remains to be seen
Other Premier League players: Emre Belozoglu (Newcastle United)
Austria (125/1) - Emanuel Pogatetz (Middlesbrough) 25 apps 1 goal
Austria sole Premier League player "The Pog" is loved by the Boro fans for his 110% commitment to every game and Austria need this from all of their players. A very tough group should see the co-hosts eliminated at the first stage but one thing that won't be questioned is Emanuels commitment. Banned for an outburst aimed at coach Josef Hickersberger Pog is still one of the main men in the Austrians squad but even he won't be able to get Austria through.
Other Premier League players: None
Croatia (14/1) - Niko Kranjcar (Portsmouth) 39 apps 6 goals
While others get the credit Niko Kranjcar is the unsung hero. Not only for Portsmouth but also for his national team Croatia where he plays with pride and hunger and will do anything to get his team a victory. Famous for "that" goal against England in the final qualifier Niko & Co are my tips as the dark horses for the tournament and with this engine in the centre of midfield they really could go places. With the addition of coach Slaven Bilic signing a new contract the future looks bright for this nation and I can only see good times ahead
Other Premier League players: Vedran Corluka (Manchester City), Luka Modric (Tottenham Hotspur)
Germany (4/1f) - Michael Ballack (Chelsea) 79 apps 35 goals
Always likely to be up their with the favourites the Germans have a strong squad this year and the main man has to be Michael Ballack. In his second season at Stamford Bridge Ballack is showing the quality that made him one of the worlds best midfielders when he was with Bayern Munich and is the main threat for the Germans. Looking at Group B only Croatia are a threat to this side so I expect them to qualify with ease.
Other Premier League players: Jens Lehmann (Arsenal), Robert Huth (Middlesbrough)
Poland (50/1) - Grzegorz Rasiak (Bolton Wanderers, loan) 37 apps 8 goals
All Polands main players ply their trade away from the Premier League and out of the 3 that do play in England only Rasiak has seen any kind of regular football. On loan from Championship side Southampton Rasiak was brought to everyone's attention after a successful season with Derby County where he took the side to 4th place but failure to gain promotion led to his sale to Tottenham Hotspur and since then he has been on the gradual decline. If Poland have any chance to get past the group stage they better not rely to heavily on Rasiak who averages a goal every 5 games.
Other Premier League players: Lukasz Fabianski (Arsenal), Tomasz Kuszcak (Manchester United)
France (17/2) - Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea) 44 apps 11 goals
A force in world football France will be looking to regain their European crown and no-one is more likely to help them achieve this than "Le Sulk". Transfered from 8 clubs in 10 years for over £87m in transfer fees Nicolas Anelka is a fantastic footballer with quality finishing and lethal pace in his locker but his attitude towards football differs and if the Anelka we know and love turns up to the tournament then France just might have a chance of winning the trophy. They couldn't have wished for a tougher group though and with opposition like Italy, Holland and Romania the French will need everyone on their game.
Other Premier League players: Gael Clichy (Arsenal), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Mikael Silvestre (Manchester United), William Gallas (Arsenal), Lassana Diarra (Portsmouth), Claude Makelele (Chelsea), Florent Malouda (Chelsea)
Holland (14/1) - Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) 23 apps 7 goals
Fatigue shouldn't play a factor in Van Persies tournament as he has missed most of the campaign through injury and whether he can get to 100% match fitness by the time the tournament kicks off determines how well the Clockwork Orange will fair in this years competition. With Spain and England Holland are the underachievers of world football but they have the players to win tournaments so why don't they? With Ryan Babel on the wing and a fit Van Persie knocking in the goals could Holland win their second European competition?
Other Premier League players: Edwin Van Der Sar (Manchester United), Mario Melchiot (Wigan Athletic), Wilfred Bouma (Aston Villa), Andre Ooijer (Blackburn Rovers), Ryan Babel (Liverpool), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool)
Greece (25/1) - Stelios Giannakopoulos (Bolton Wanderers) 72 apps 12 goals
Like Poland Greece only have one English based player in their squad which made the selection easy. Only been used sparingly for Bolton Stelios's future may well lie away from the Reebok so he will use this opportunity to showcase himself to the worlds coaches and engineer a move, maybe back to Greece.
The reigning champs have it all to do if they are to retain their title but this group is difficault and I can see them heading home early.
Other Premier League players: None
Spain (13/2) - Fernando Torres (Liverpool) 46 apps 15 goals
Still only 24 years of age it Fernando Torres is already one of the continents lethal strikers. Many thought he would struggle in the Premier League but 23 goals in 32 appearances has proven the doubters wrong as he has formed a lethal partnership with Steven Gerrard that will soon be feared by defenders all round the world.
The underachievers tag is firmly stuck with the Spanish as they have continually failed to get that first title under there belt but with a Premier League spine through their squad could this be the tournament?
Other Premier League players: Jose Reina (Liverpool), Alvaro Arbeloa (Liverpool), Xabi Alonso (Liverpool), Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
Sweden (33/1) - Sebastian Larsson (Birmingham City) 2 apps 0 goals
Could this Larsson bring as much success to the Swedish side as his namesake Henrik achieved in the 90's and 00's? Still new to the international stage Sebastian is slowly making his name in the Premier League as a deadball specialist for Brimingham having recently scored a couple from more than 25 yards and opta stats reveal he is more accurate than Cristiano Ronaldo and is infact the most accurate free kick taker in the Premier League.
Sweden have an outside chance of getting past the group stage but they will need players like Larsson to hit top form quick to avoid going out of the tournament early.
Other Premier League players: Andreas Isaksson (Manchester City), Erik Edman (Wigan Athletic), Olof Mellberg (Aston Villa til July 08!!), Freddie Ljungberg (West Ham United injury permitting), Rade Prica (Sunderland)
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