The 2008 European in Austria and Switzerland is only two weeks away, and the predictions and analysis of the tournament have kicked into full swing.
The tournament consists of four groups of four teams, which are placed as follows:
Czech Republic, Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey
Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland
France, Italy, Netherlands, Romania
Greece, Russia, Spain, Sweden
Today, we'll start with a look at Group A.
As listed above, this group consists of tournament co-hosts Switzerland alongside strong Portugal, a fading Czech team and group wild card Turkey.
Players to watch for:
A good young left back who was recently signed by Liverpool FC. However, his fitness for the tournament is in question.
On his day, he can be among the best backs in Europe, but he is inconsistent. The question for the Swiss is, will he have his days in June?
A good young midfielder, but he is doubtful for the group stage of the tournament due to injury.
The team's backbone. The tournament will most likely be his last chance to shine in the red and white, and he will have to carry the team on his shoulders at times.
Switzerland's star striker from Borussia Dortmund may shine like never before with home pitch advantage.
Just mentioning his name is enough to strike fear in the hearts of opponents. The only concern is that he may be burnt out after the long season he had.
R. Carvalho and Bosingwa
Both of these backs should provide protection against any counter attacks mounted by the opposition.
He will be the conductor of Portugal's offensive march.
They will provide a threat down both flanks, and a support for Ronaldo.
The glue that holds the Czech back line together.
One of the great offensive partnerships in international football, but they will need to be extraordinary this time around.
The best goalkeeper in the world, there is no other like him. He will have to stand on his head and helmet this tournament.
Gökhan Gönül (23 back) Sarıoğlu (23 back/wing)
The young Turkish defensive duo, both are rising stars and Sarıoğlu provides a threat down the right wing as he can sometimes conjure up menacing runs.
The Bayern Munich regular will provide a threat to any defensive and strength in midfield with his offensive flare and creativity if fit for the tournament.
Another young rising star in Turkish football who might surprise many skeptics this summer.
The Villarreal forward will need to come up big with coach, Fatih Terim, deciding to go with youth, scratching former Turkish star striker, Hakan Şükür.
Portugal should top the group with no trouble gaining the full nine points. Second place however, is up for grabs. Out of the three remaining nations, the Swiss arguably have the best team, but the fitness of some of their star players is in question and may prevent them from advancing.
Turkey could very well surprise many and advance past the group stage with their strong young talent.
The Czech Republic, on the other hand, is the team who should be favorites to grab the second spot, and will most likely be in a fight to grab the pride position. Although they have a strong defense and decent strikers, those will not be enough without the creative touch and offensive talent of team captain Tomáš Rosický. Even the best keeper in the world won't be able to save them this time.
The key for the Swiss is to get off to a good start against the Czech Republic, in order to build momentum going into their second game versus Turkey. The second tilt for both nations, Turkey and Switzerland, should decide their fate. Anything else but a win for either side might (and I say "might" with the strongest reservations) allow a weaker Czech side to slip through.
The openeing match for this group and the tournament will be played on June 7th at 18:00 (Local Time) and 12:00 (EST).
Here is the official schedule for Group A: