The EURO 2012 tournament is just around the corner and will feature the top 16 European soccer nations in an exciting group of matches located in Poland and the Ukraine throughout the month of June. Although not as global a tournament as the World Cup, the EURO will include many of the best players in the world such as Robin van Persie and Cristiano Ronaldo.
EURO 2012 is also a proving ground for many emerging talents that will hope to catch the eyes of major clubs across the continent. During the 2008 tournament, players like Lukas Modric, Andre Arshavin, and Roman Pavlyuchenko excelled and gained the recognition that led to successful moves to clubs like Arsenal and Tottenham.
Of further importance however is the opportunity to win a major trophy for one’s country. Typically a world power such as Spain or Germany claim the prize, but the shortness of the EURO tournament has led to dramatic upset victories such as the EURO 2004 championship by Greece.
This year’s tournament favorites are Spain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. However, each team is dealing with issues and will have to answer questions. Reigning 2010 World Cup Champions and EURO 2008 victors Spain look to continue their legacy, but will struggle without their defensive leader Carlos Puyol and main striker David Villa, who are both injured.
France is loaded with talent from players like Frank Ribery, Samir Nasri, and Hugo Lloris, but one has to question their focus after a 2010 World Cup that was marred by a mutiny over the exclusion of Nicolas Anelka. Both Germany and the Netherlands are loaded with stars but have defensive deficiencies which could prove problematic during later round matches.
England is typically a strong side as well but their team has a host of problems. Roy Hodgson took over the post only weeks ago, and many players have had to withdraw due to injuries like Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and Gary Cahill. Furthermore, striker Wayne Rooney is set to miss the first two matches due to suspension so they will be at a disadvantage from the get-go. Such adversity could crumble their EURO 2012 hopes but could also offer a rallying point and bring the players together. Two Englishmen who will be looking to make a statement are young forwards Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Mario Balotelli will look to inspire Italy to success though his wild antics could run their chances off the tracks if his immaturity results in a red card. However, on his day his scoring ability cannot be denied and he could emerge as a national hero. Another potential hero could be Cristiano Ronaldo who is probably the one player capable of winning it all by himself for Portugal.
Hosts Poland will be looking for success as well behind striker Robert Lewandowski and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. The Ukraine will have a tougher test as injuries have left them depleted in the goalie position. Pressure will be on aging strikers Andriy Shevchenko and Andriy Voronin to keep them in matches with goals.
The EURO 2012 will be an exciting affair and my prediction is that France emerges as winners. Their players look to be in the best of form and looked hungriest during warm-up friendly matches. But, the games must be played and are a sure bet to provide some serious fun this summer.