Spain gets to enjoy four years as European champions, but in two years time, qualification for Euro 2012 will begin. A look at six potential contenders—three teams from Euro 2008 plus three outsiders—follows.
1. Spain. The champs are an obvious choice. Torres, Villa, Fàbregas, and Silva will be major components of the attack. Ramos, Marchena, Navarro, Albiol, and perhaps even Puyol will remain in defense. Captain Iker Casillas will be in the prime of his goalkeeping career, and having an elite backup in Liverpool’s Reina is a major plus.
2. Portugal. Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo will be in his late twenties and potentially still the best player in the world, but more importantly, Nani, Miguel Veloso, Ricardo Quaresma, and João Moutinho will be seasoned attacking options by 2012.
Defenders Pepe and José Bosingwa will also still be under thirty. Goalkeeping could be a question mark if Ricardo retires from international duty after the 2010 World Cup.
3. Netherlands. The embarrassment of attacking options from the forward and midfield positions will be back in four years. The likes of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie, Ibrahim Afellay, Wesley Sneijder, and a healthy Ryan Babel will all be under thirty in 2012.
Can the Dutch find defenders and a goalkeeper to place behind this offensive juggernaut?
And now three teams who were on the outside looking in at Euro 2008. These three national teams could make a splash at Euro 2012.
1. England. The obvious choice here, with a bevy of skilled attackers and world-class defenders to choose from. Assuming Fabio Capello is in charge after a successful World Cup run, he should have a solid defense with the likes of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, David Wheater, Micah Richards, and Steven Taylor to select from.
In midfield, Stewart Downing, Ashley Young, David Bentley, Joe Cole, and Michael Carrick are likely components. up front, Wayne Rooney will still be years away from thirty as will the likes of Theo Walcott, Dean Ashton, etc.
2. Scotland. The Scots are entering a phase where most of their top players are under the age of 25, meaning serious runs in the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 are likely. Attacking options in 2012 could include Shaun Maloney, Kris Boyd, Steven Fletcher, James McFadden, Steven Naismith, and Darren Fletcher.
In goal, Scotland has Craig Gordon (26), David Marshall (23), and Allan McGregor (26) to select from. Defense will be a concern, but if the Scots can steal some away points like the historic victory against France in the run up to Euro 2008, the team could be in the final 16 at Euro 2012.
3. Ukraine. The team receives an automatic bid because Ukraine co-hosts the tournament with Poland. Without having to worry about qualification battles, the Yellow-Blues can work on technical development. Young stars include Dmytro Chyhrynskyi, Andriy Rusol, Oleh Husev, and Artem Milevskiy. The country has a stable of rich investors who will be looked upon to help the national team succeed in four years' time.