Euro 2012: A Player to Watch from All 16 Sides in the Tournament
Qualification for Euro 2012 is now complete and already it is looking like a fantastic tournament. Not only is this the first major tournament to take place in Poland/Ukraine, but we will also get to see some of the best footballers in the world play in eastern Europe.
Of course stars such as a Cristiano Ronaldo and a Wesley Sniejder will be playing in this tournament, but we can also see players such as a Christian Eriksen or a Phil Jones break out an become a star.
Here are my selections for a player to watch from all 16 sides in the tournament.
Croatia: Luka Modric
Club: Totttenham Hotspur
One of the most important players on Tottenham, Luka Modric has helped Croatia to qualify for another European championship after playing an important role in midfield throughout qualification.
Modric's abilities with a Croatian side that he has been a part of for the last several years (and in some cases, playing on the same club as some of the players) will make him not only Croatia's most important player, but the person who could be the difference between a deep run in the tournament or a side that falls in the group stage.
Czech Republic: Michal Kadlec
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
An emerging player for Bayer Leverkusen, Michal Kadlec goes into this European championship with a chance to help further boost his resume.
Kadlec has been an integral part of both the Leverkusen and Czech squads over the past several years, and will look to help the Czech's perform better than their disappointing Euro 2008 tournament.
The Czech Republic don't have the odds with them going into this tournament, but Kadlec's performances could very well help the Czechs get back into a winning position that they used to be accustomed to.
Denmark: Christian Eriksen
One of the best emerging young players in Europe, Christian Eriksen played a massive role in Denmark's qualification for Euro 2012 and certainly will move to a bigger club after the tournament ends.
Eriksen already made a major impact for an Ajax squad that looks like they could advance onto the knockout stage in the Champions League, and was the youngest player to play in the 2010 World Cup.
Considering how well Eriksen has already played, much will be expected from him in this tournament and he certainly could be one of the best players in Euro 2012.
England: Joe Hart
Club: Manchester City
Joe Hart is quickly becoming one of the top goalkeepers in the world and he will be the best English goalkeeper in a major international tournament since David Seaman played in the 2002 World Cup.
Hart was a major part of England's qualification with some fantastic performances in goal, and certainly will be one of the most closely scrutinized players on England's squad by the British media.
If Hart can put together a strong performance in Euro 2012, England will be able to advance further than they probably should be in this tournament.
France: Loic Remy
Loic Remy is one of the top emerging players in the world and he will have a major role in the French attack during Euro 2012, should it be as a starting striker or if he is a super-sub.
Remy has emerged into a fantastic player over the last few years with Nice and Marseille, and that has translated into success with the French national team, with whom he has made a big impact during the last several months.
France certainly are a team to watch in this tournament, and Remy certainly could be the player that gets Les Blues into the quarterfinals, if not further.
Germany: Miroslav Klose
He's one of the greatest players to ever play for Germany and this will be Miroslav Klose's last European Championship, which incidentally partially takes place in the country that he was born in, Poland.
Klose has scored 62 goals with Germany and has been a constant force to be reckoned with throughout the past decade.
In this tournament, Klose will look to win his first major international trophy. The question that remains is how big of a role will Klose play in the tournament.
We know he can score plenty of goals but what really is important is how much of leadership will he show for a young German side.
Greece: Georgos Samaras
A player known for still not reaching his full potential, Georgos Samaras played a massive role in Greece's qualification for Euro 2012 with some clutch performances in the final qualification matches.
Samaras will look to keep up his strong form in Poland and Ukraine this summer and certainly could be a player that allows the Greeks to have another deep run in a tournament with the odds against them.
Considering the poor Greek economy and the disrepair that the country is in, Samaras help out a nation that desperately needs it.
Ireland: Robbie Keane
Club: Los Angeles Galaxy
Robbie Keane has been with Ireland throughout their highs and lows during this millenium. After going 10 years without appearing in a major international tournament, Keane will lead the Irish into Euro 2012.
Keane was his brilliant self in qualifying, netting seven goals and providing plenty of crucial leadership as Ireland made their first European championship since 1988.
Much will be expected from the Irish captain in this tournament and Keane certainly will be a player that could lead the Irish deep in Euro 2012.
Italy: Mario Balotelli
Club: Manchester City
Mario Balotelli is one of the most controversial footballer in the world and will be one of the most important players for the Italian national team in Euro 2012.
Balotelli is by no means a popular player in Italy due to the color of his skin, but Italian fans will need to accept Balotelli considering Giuseppe Rossi's damaged knee ligaments and the heart surgery that Antonio Cassano recently underwent.
If Balotelli fulfills the expectations that many expect out of him, not only will Italy advance far in this tournament, but Italian fans might finally accept him for the great player he could be, not his actions or his race.
Netherlands: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Club: Schalke 04
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has not always been a star with the Dutch national team, but his efforts in the Dutch European qualification campaign cannot be understated. Huntelaar has scored a remarkable 12 goals in Euro 2012 and has been one of the best players for the Dutch during this time.
Huntelaar has been in great form for both the Dutch and Schalke squad's since the 2010 World Cup and he will look to keep up that effort in Poland/Ukraine.
Considering the Dutch have gone 24 years since winning a trophy and their failure to capture the World Cup last year certainly will put pressure on this Dutch squad. It will be up to performances from players such as Huntelaar that will help the Dutch fulfill their own expectations.
Poland: Robert Lewandowski
Club: Borussia Dortmund
One of the young stars on the defending Bundesliga champion's squad, Robert Lewandowski could certainly be the star player for the host country in this tournament.
By no means are Poland the best side in this tournament, so Lewandowski's performances will be humongous for the host nation.
If Lewandowski has a massive tournament, he will certainly help out his stock on the transfer market and he could get the Polish national team into the quarterfinals.
Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo
Club: Real Madrid
He is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world and Cristiano Ronaldo played a massive role in Portugal's qualification for this tournament.
For Ronaldo, Euro 2012 has the potential to be his tournament. Ronaldo will be the biggest star competing in Poland/Ukraine and he will want to capitalize on this situation with a great tournament.
Ronaldo is a player who loves the spotlight, and it is plausible to think that Ronaldo could own this tournament.
Russia: Aleksandr Anyukov
Club: Zenit St. Petersburg
The captain of Zenit St Petersburg, Aleksandr Anyukov is one of Russia's top players and certainly will be an important player for Russia in this tournament.
Anyukov was important in the Russian defense throughout qualification after they failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
Considering how little attention has been given to him due to his advancing age, Anyukov could be a surprise player for anyone watching this tournament if he plays as well as people who have watched him know he can play.
Spain: Andres Iniesta
He is one of the most famous players in the world and Andres Iniesta will be one of the defending champion Spain's top players.
Iniesta was one of Spain's best players during their qualification campaign and after his great performance at last year's World Cup, it will be expected that he has another great tournament.
If Spain are going to repeat, Iniesta will need to play his best. If Iniesta does not play well, Spain probably will not win the tournament.
Sweden: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Club: AC Milan
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been considered to be one of the most overrated players in the world throughout his career. Despite winning his domestic league numerous times, Ibrahimovic has never produced for his club in European competitions.
Ibrahimovic now will be the leader for a Sweden squad that got the final automatic berth in Euro 2012. Sweden already are a dark horse team to win the tournament and Ibrahimovic will be the star of that Swedish squad.
If Sweden are to fulfill those early dark horse expectations, Ibrahimovic will need a strong performance and will need to actually fulfill the expectations that are allotted to him.
Ukraine: Andriy Shevchenko
Club: Dynamo Kiev
He is Ukraine's most famous player and Euro 2012 will be Andriy Shevchenko's final tournament with Ukraine after spending the past 16 years playing for the Ukrainian national team.
Shevchenko will be the most watched player on Ukraine's squad and can quite easily one of the biggest stars of this tournament despite being 35 years old.
Ukraine are definitely going to be one of the most scrutinized sides in this tournament because they are a host nation. Shevchenko can make Ukraine at the very least reach the quarterfinals if he performs up to the level he used to display at AC Milan.
Follow me on Twitter @Andrew_Jordan