Real Madrid: Stars Set to Head to Euro 2012
The teams have qualified, and the groups have been drawn. As of December 9th, the Euro is 182 days away.
When the summer arrives, teams around Europe will brace themselves to lose their top players. Real Madrid, current La Liga table-toppers, are no different.
In 2008, Los Blancos sent seven players to Austria and Switzerland, including those with the caliber of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben. All seven of these players headed to the quarterfinals, and four of them took part in the final of Spain against Germany. Iker Casillas, Madrid's captain, also lead Spain to their Euro triumph.
Here is look ahead at who Real Madrid could possibly send next year.
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Iker Casillas: The 30-year-old recently became Spain's most capped player, when the draw against Costa Rica saw him break the record formerly held by fellow keeper Andoni Zubizarreta. The lifelong Real Madrid man has been named in every Spanish Euro squad since 2000 and every Spanish World Cup squad since 2002. Considered by many to be best keeper in the world, count on seeing him in 2012.
Sergio Ramos: Debuting in a win over China, the defender held the record of youngest player to feature for the senior Spanish side for 55 years, until Cesc Fabregas broke it. The Blancos vice-captain travelled with teammate Casillas to Germany for the 2006 World Cup, to Austria and Switzerland for the 2008 Euro and to South Africa for the most recent World Cup. When Michel Salgado retired from international play in 2006, Ramos became a mainstay and will no doubt be called to Poland and Ukraine.
Xabi Alonso: The World Cup winner, similarly to his teammates mentioned above, has been named in every Spanish squad, for both Euro and World Cup, since the 2004 Euro in Portugal. The 30-year-old played every game in South Africa and was the victim of insane kick in the chest by Nigel de Jong. It will most likely be a similar situation in Poland and Ukraine (hopefully, minus the ninja kick).
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Raul Albiol: The former Valencia man made a few appearances for the U-21 team before being bumped up to the senior side, playing in a few qualifiers for the 2008 Euro. He was later called for the final squad, capping twice in the competition. Also named in the squad for the 2010 World Cup, he unfortunately didn't make any appearances due to an injury obtained in training. He is expected to be named for the upcoming Euro.
Alvaro Arbeloa: The defender made his internationals debut against then-world champions Italy in a friendly taking place in Malaga. The 28-year-old would later be selected in the 2008 Euro and 2010 World Cup squads. He will hopefully make an appearance or two in the summer.
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Karim Benzema: Although eligible for both Algeria and France, he turned down the former, preferring to play for the country of his birth. Heading to Austria and Switzerland with the French, he took part in the opening game, a nil-all draw against Romania. Though he missed the embarrassment inflicted on the French national team by the Netherlands, he featured in the starting lineup against Italy.
In 2010, he would become embroiled in an under-age prostitute scandal along with Franck Ribery, Hatem ben Arfa and Sidney Govou. Following that, he wasn't called up for the World Cup, due to his poor season and not his prostitutes. His form has since improved and he has received regular call-ups; expect him to be in Poland and Ukraine.
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Sami Khedira: Stuttgart-born Khedira started his senior national career in a friendly against South Africa after playing in various youth teams. He was named in his first senior tournament with Germany when the 2010 World Cup arrived. Due to Michael Ballack's injury, Sami filled in as defensive midfielder, becoming an important part in Germany's bronze medal finish. His only international goal was the winner against Uruguay in their final match of the World Cup. He will surely be called up for the upcoming Euro.
Mesut Ozil: Like Khedira, the World Cup in South Africa was Ozil's first competition for Germany. And also like Sami, Ozil played a major role in Germany's bright finish. He was also on the final 10 list to win the Golden Ball. In the 2012 Euro qualifiers, Mesut played 10 out of 10 and helped Germany to a perfect record. He will, without a doubt, be called up for Poland and Ukraine.
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Pepe: This 28-year-old, unlike the majority of other players, has never played for a youth team. Though born and raised in the Brazilian city of Maceio, Pepe moved to the Portuguese island of Madeira at the age of 18. Soon after moving to his current club, Pepe received his first call-up to play for Portugal in a Euro qualifier. Being selected to play in the 2008 Euro, the defender was named in the Team of the Tournament. He also travelled to South Africa and is expected to head to Poland and Ukraine.
Cristiano Ronaldo: There is little doubt whether the Ballon d'Or winner will be called to play in the upcoming Euro. Debuting in 2003 against Kazakhstan, he would be named captain of his national team five years later. His first competition with the senior side was the Euro 2004 in his home country. He would go on to be named in every squad for competition since.
Fabio Coentrao: After playing for a variety of Portuguese youth teams, Coentrao debuted for the first team in 2009 during his time at Benfica. He headed to the most recent World Cup and was first choice at left-back. He played every game in the contest until Portugal's exit in the first knock-out round. Now in his first season with the Royal Whites, he is also expected to play in the Euro.