Euro 2008: Should Be A Cracker!
With no British or Irish representation in this year's European Championships, it will be a simply neutral point of view!
No Three Lions, Shamrocks or Bagpipes to cloud the judgement of what should be a cracking month!
The tussle for the title of European Champion will be fought competitively by sixteen teams. The favourites for the crown include Portugal, Germany, France, Holland, Czech Republic, Spain and World Cup winners Italy.
As Greece showed in 2004 the smaller teams can have a big impact on the tournament. Croatia, Sweden, Russia and Turkey will fancy their chances coming off the back of impressive qualifying campaigns.
The event is being held in Austria and Switzerland and the consequence of that is Austria's first ever Euro appearance. The Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna will host the June 29 final.
So which team is best equipped to win this years version of the 48 year old competition. Will it be the Ronaldo driven Portugal, the effective Germans, counter-attacking Italy or will French flair ignite Austria?
First Portugal, they hold one weapon no one in Europe can counter, Cristiano Ronaldo. The scorer of 30 EPL goals and the Champions League top scorer with seven.
Can the players around him reach to his standards? Deco, Maniche, Nani, Queresma and Gomes. The quality is there to succeed.
The Germans come in on the back of a scintillating qualifying campaign, rounded off by a record 13-0 drubbing of San Marino. If Joachim Low continues Klinsmanns policy of attack, with the players available then Germany stand a great chance of glory.
The Netherlands are the underachievers of world football, with a deadly attack and quick midfield the Dutch should be reaching the latter stages each time. A no-show in 2002, played poorly in 2004 and went out in the last 16 in 2006.
Van Basten will be expected to lead the Orangemen to the semis and beyond in his last year in the job
The Czech Republic are a dogged yet classy eleven. Galasek, Matejovsky, Baros and the giant Koller are well capable of scrapping with the more established names. An effective team in which everyone knows their role. Can they gatecrash Switzerland?
Spain, with a deadly attack, skilful midfield and solid defence have one of the best eleven's on paper. Problem is football isn't played on paper. Like the Netherlands their recent history suggest decline but with players like Ramos, Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Torres and Villa the Spanish team have the quality to beat anyone on their day.
France, bounced back from defeat to Greece in 2004 to reach the World Cup final against Italy marred by Zidane's red card. Les Bleus have every component of champions bar the mindset. As unbelievable as it sounds Gallas, Henry, Malouda and Abidal when wearing the blue are completely different players devoid of confidence. Will the French media cause Les Bleus to crash out?
Finally World Champions Italy, go in on the back of a shaky qualifying round when losing out to Scotland became a real prospect. They scraped through but this isn't the side that won in Berlin two years ago. Older, slower and prone to more mistakes.
However the Italians have great players in nearly all positions and will expect to go far. Can the Azzurri do the double?
Personally I can't wait for the start and what I'm looking forward to most is none of the "best team since 1966" crap on the BBC!
Let's enjoy the football marathon objectively and let the best team win.
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