Identifying the Euro 2012 Qualifying Star Men

Ivan SoldoCorrespondent IISeptember 5, 2010

Identifying the Euro 2012 Qualifying Star Men

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    The marathon Euro 2012 qualifying campaign just started!

    Sixteen places are at stake and indeed each team hope to rely on one player in particular - their star man.

    These are the 51 star men competing for Euro 2012 qualification.

Group A

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    DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 07:  Bastian Schweinsteiger of Germany looks on during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Semi Final match between Germany and Spain at Durban Stadium on July 7, 2010 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Imag
    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Germany: Bastian Schweinsteiger (26, midfield, Bayern Munich)

    Schweini was one of the most vital players at the World Cup for the Germans and is one of the most complete midfielders in the world.

    Turkey: Arda Turan (23, winger, Galatasaray) 

    Turan already has more than 40 caps and his runs and crosses from the left wing are going to be very important for Turkey.

    Austria: Marc Janko (27, striker, Twente)

    The former Salzburg striker is a goal machine at modest levels and has seven goals in 17 international appearances. Austria need him at his best.

    Belgium: Vincent Kompany (24, defender, Manchester City) 

    Kompany has been called up and capped 32 times. No other player in the current squad has as many caps having been picked after every call up, which highlights how important he has been to a succession of managers.

    Kazakhstan: Andrei Karpovic (29, midfielder, Aktobe)

    The defensive midfielder will be one big hope for European minnows Kazakhstan. His experience will be vital for his team's chances.

    Azerbaijan: Elvin Mammadov (22, midfielder, Qarabag)

    A goalscoring midfielder, Mammadov has struck seven times in 22 international appearances. Azerbaijan are not expected to do much in this group, but Mammadov will be vital for them in terms of achieving something respectable.

Group B

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    Russia: Andriy Arshavin (29, midfielder, Arsenal)

    A versatile player who can feature either as a midfielder or second striker, Arshavin was immense for Russia at Euro 2008. His creativity and force from the midfielder will be crucial.

    Slovakia: Marek Hamsik (23, midfielder, Napoli)

    One of the most complete young midfielders on the planet, Hamsek was a disappointment in South Africa. But his creativity, invention and vision from the midfield cannot be underplayed.

    Ireland: Robbie Keane (30, striker, Tottenham)

    The Irish legend will again be spearheading his team's attack. With 43 goals in 100 appearances, Keane has often delivered for his nation.

    Macedonia: Goran Pandev (27, striker, Inter)

    Pandev is one of Macedonia's most talented players and will be his nation's main hope. The former Lazio striker has goals in him and can also support the midfield.

    Armenia: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (21, midfielder, Shaktar Donetsk)

    Blessed with creativity and vision, the 21-year-old could emerge as one of the best and most productive youngsters of the qualifying campaign.

    Andorra: Ildefons Lima (30, defender, Bellinzona)

    Andorra will have to be strong at the back and the much experienced Lima is the one most likely to provide the shield in defence.

Group C

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    Italy: Antonio Cassano (28, striker, Sampdoria)

    The trequartista is back in the Italy fold after two years and his return assures the re-injection of creativity and vision in what had been a largely uninspiring Italy attack.

    Serbia: Nemanja Vidic (28, defense, Manchester United)

    Regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the world, Vidic's heroics at the back secured Serbia a place in the 2010 World Cup finals. He will again be crucial for the Europeans at the back.

    Slovenia: Valter Birsa (24, midfielder, Auxerre)

    Birsa became the youngest player ever to play for Slovenia and his exploits in France have made him one of Slovenia's biggest hopes.

    Northern Ireland: Steven Davis (25, midfielder, Rangers)

    He became Northern Ireland's youngest captain in the modern era at age 21 and has not disappointed.  He is coming off consecutive seasons as Rangers' player of the season.

    Estonia: Andres Oper (32, striker, Den Haag)

    The veteran Estonian has yet to lead his team to a major competition and this is probably his last chance to do so. He will spearhead Estonia's attack.

    Faroe Islands: Christian Høgni Jacobsen (30, midfielder, Runavik)

    Faroe Islands have not much hope in the qualification campaign and will be looking towards Jacobsen for inspiration.

Group D

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    France: Florent Malouda (30, winger, Chelsea)

    Malouda is one of the best left-wingers in the world and his return to the France team will be key for les Bleus as they look towards a brighter future.

    Romania: Christian Chivu (29, defender, Inter)

    The former Roma centre-back is often injured but, when fit, is one of the best defenders in European football. Chivu will marshal the backline for Romania.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina: Edin Dzeko (24, striker, Wolfsburg)

    The highly rated forward is a goal machine and has been a top goalscorer in Germany for a number of years. His goals could determine if Bosnia progress.

    Belarus: Aleksandar Hleb (29, midfielder, Birmingham City)

    Sent on loan to Birmingham City by Barcelona, Hleb's career is not progressing much but he remains the best player for Belarus at the moment.

    Albania: Lorik Cana (27, midfielder, Galatasaray)

    The defensive midfielder was one of the best players in France and recently moved to Galatasaray in Turkey. Cana's strength and tackles in the midfield offer Albania some hope.

    Luxembourg: Mario Mutsch (25, midfielder, Metz)

    The midfielder is one of the few recognised players from the small country and indeed he will be key to their hopes of avoiding a whitewash.

Group E

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    Netherlands: Wesley Sneijder (26, midfielder, Inter)

    The Dutch maestro is arguably the most creative midfielder for the Netherlands and also scored five times for the Netherlands in the World Cup.

    Sweden: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (28, striker, Milan)

    One of the most talented players in Europe, Ibrahimovic couldn't inspire Sweden to the World Cup in the summer. However, he will feel rejuvenated  and carry them to the Euro 2012 finals.

    Finland: Sami Hyypia (36, defender, Bayer Leverkusen)

    The ever-lasting Fin will once again be at the heart of the defence for Finland and once more his experience and ability to control the backline will be invaluable.

    Hungary: Balazs Dzsudzsak (23, midfielder, PSV)

    One of the more entertaining players in the Dutch league, Dzsudzsak will be looking to inspire his country with his silky skills.

    Moldova: Alexandru Epureanu (23, midfielder, Dynamo Moscow)

    Epureanu's experience in the Russian Premier League will come into use as Moldova try to stave the rot.

    San Marino: Andy Selva (34, striker, Hellas Verona)

    The much traveled veteran will have his final chance to take little San Marino to the Euro 2012 finals, however unlikely that may be.

Group F

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    Croatia: Dario Srna (28, defender/midfielder, Shaktar Donetsk)

    A versatile player who can feature either as a right-back or a right-winger, Srna is one of Europe's and Croatia's more influential wing-players.

    Greece: Giorgios Samaras (25, striker, Celtic)

    Not exactly prolific for Greece, Samaras is, nevertheless, the Euro 2004 champions' main striker.

    Israel: Yossi Benayoun (30, midfielder, Chelsea)

    Arguably the best Israeli player in the modern era, Benayoun is his national team's inspiration and talisman.

    Latvia: Andrejs Rubins (31, midfielder, Quarabag)

    The left-winger's play will be important for his team as they look to repeat their shock qualification from 2004.

    Georgia: Levan Kenia (19, midfielder, Schalke )

    Kenia is a promising teenager and his influence from the midfield is worth watching out for.

    Malta: Shaun Bajada (27, midfielder, Birkirkara)

    Malta wouldn't fancy their chance of going through from this group but the midfielder will be looking to make a name for himself in the qualifiers.

Group G

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    England: Ashley Cole (29, defender, Chelsea)

    With Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard consistently under-performing when it really matters, Cole has established himself as England's most reliable player, and the only one to perform at a top level at the World Cup.

    Switzerland: Gokhan Inler (26, midfielder, Udinese)

    The highly rated midfielder, with elegance and vision, will once again be looking to marshal the Swiss to another successful qualification campaign.

    Bulgaria: Stiliyan Petrov (31, midfielder, Aston Villa)

    The former Celtic man is one of the best Bulgarian players to have emerged in recent times and his midfield abilities will be important for a somewhat struggling team.

    Wales: Gareth Bale (21, defender, Tottenham)

    A versatile player who can play either as a left-back or as a left-winger, Bale is in stunning form currently.

    Montenegro: Mirko Vucinic (26, striker, Roma)

    One of the best players in Serie A, Vucinic is his country's big hope in the qualifiers. A lot rests on his shoulders with Stevan Jovetic injured for the long-term.

Group H

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    Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo (25, winger, Real Madrid)

    The galactico has yet to perform at his best for the national team and was a disappointment in South Africa. However, the former Manchester United star is one of the most talented players in Europe and Portugal's trump card.

    Denmark: Simon Kjaer (21, defender, Wolfsburg)

    One of the best young centre-backs in Europe, Kjaer was an important figure in Denmark's qualification campaign for the 2010 World Cup finals and his presence in the heart of the Danish backline will be crucial for his team's chances.

    Norway: Brede Hangeland (29, defender, Fulham)

    The Norwegian centre-back is one of the better defenders in the Premier League and his experience in English football will be crucial for his side.

    Cyprus: Efstathios Aloneftis (27, winger, Omonia Nicosia)

    The Cypriot veteran's magic down the wings and creativity will be relied upon heavily by the strikers.

    Iceland: Gretar Steinsson (28, defender, Bolton)

    Steinsson's Premier League experience will be heavily called upon by his side in the qualifying campaign.

Group I

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    Spain: Xavi (30, midfielder, Barcelona)

    Best centre-midfielder in the world, Xavi's vision is unparalleled. The Barcelona maestro will again be the central thread of Spain's web.

    Czech Republic: Petr Cech (28, goalkeeper, Chelsea)

    Cech has been suffering from injuries for quite a while but when fit, the 28-year-old is one of the best in the world between the sticks.

    Scotland: Scott Brown (25, midfielder, Celtic)

    Brown's influence will be huge for Scotland's chances to progress, especially with the more-heralded Darren Fletcher often underperforming for his country.

    Lithuania: Marius Stankevicius (29, defender, Valencia)

    The Valencia defender, on loan from Sampdoria, is one of the few recognisable players from Lithuania, and his pace and fighting spirit is always an asset.

    Liechtenstein: Mario Frick (35, striker, St.Gallen)

    This is probably the last chance for the veteran to try to lead his nation to a major international competition.

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