EFT Euro 2008 preview special
Does no England = no interest in Euro 2008. No chance!
We at EFT and many other football supporters in England will be looking forward to watching a feast of football over the next three weeks. And by way of celebrating the start of the tournament we decided that we would each give our say on the teams and individuals to watch during the tournament...
It is a tight one to call but I like France for winning this tournament. They have a very solid and experienced defence supplemented by a very strong defensive midfield which should mean that they are hard to break-down. Up-front we will see Theirry Henry in his favoured position of central-striker and he will be hungry to prove a point after stagnating on the left of midfield tracking back for Barcelona. With the inventiveness and surging ambition of the likes of Benzema and Ribery supporting the great Henry I can see France just edging any tight matches that they will be involved in.
My outside team to watch are Turkey - they play with the integration and passion of a committed club side, and in Nihat they have a dynamo forward who I think can make an impact on the tournament.
The players I'm looking forward to watching are Henry, Ribery, Benzema, Vieira, Fabregas, Silva, Torres, Modric, Nihat, Arshavin, Simao, Ronaldo, Deco, Pirlo, Di Natale, Sneijder, Robben, van Persie (if he can get fit) Ballack, Gomez and the timeless duo of Alessandro Del Piero and Henrik Larsson. Watching fantastic footballers play at their best on the biggest stage - this is what I hope for.
My players to look out for in Euro2008 are of course Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Torres, to name two. However, the Russians have shown some guile in their progress of qualification, albeit they needed some help from the Croats to starve off the foolish English who know not about how good they are and take for granted they just need to turn up and earn their corn in providing entertainment. Such lacking desire, determination and thorough commitment has allowed the Russians to finish runners-up and with the likes of Arshavin, Pavlyuchenko and Pogrenbynak their attacking force from the Zenit St Petersburg contingent they could surprise us along the same lines as the Greeks did last time.
That said, I would opt for a semi-final of Italy, Germany, Spain and France. That in turn omits the Dutch and the Portuguese. The Dutch for me have a new attacking prowess of Sneijder, Kuyt, Jan Vennegor of Hessellink, Huntelaar and VNR but in turn I suspect their defence has weakened and is not as formidable as their reputation would usually endorse. The Portuguese have to look to Carvalho as the stalwart owl on the lookout under attack who also projects some calm on the ball, and while Ronaldo is one I would look to watch, others including Nuno Gomes, Quaresma and Simao could also show an alternative source of goals. Ricardo in goal could be the difference between the quarter-finals and the semi but I dont expect them to make it past the QF.
Team to watch: Russia
Players to watch: Ronaldo, Torres, Arshavin, Pavlyuchenko
Winner: France or Italy, practically another meeting, another stand-off in the final.
5 English finalists in the last 4 Champions League finals but England will not be taking part in Euro 2008. Astonishing! The likes of Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Holland are the usual pre-tournament favourites but I do not think anyone of these will win. Greece caused a huge upset 4 years ago and I believe that trend will continue.
I think Russia can win this. They have a superb manager in Guus Hiddink (who took South Korea to the semi-finals of World Cup 2002) and they have tremendously gifted players like Pavel Pogrebnyak and Andrei Arshavin who won the Uefa Cup with Zenit St Petersburg.
As a Liverpool fan I have got to go for Fernando Torres as the player to watch. He has had a great season and I am sure he will want to finish Euro 2008 with the golden boot.
I think that this tournament is going to be really enjoyable, even without England. Actually, scrap that last sentence – this tournament is going to be enjoyable because England are not in it. What a relief it is to look forward to some technical and skilful football without all the hype and hysteria which is whipped up by the media here. The England players should look at the football on show and try to better themselves next season by emulating what they see.
As for the tournament itself, I can’t wait to see how the Group of Death unfolds. It’s a shame that it’s certain that one of the big guns will go out at the first hurdle, but I have a sneaky feeling that Romania could spring a surprise also. Watch out for a resurgent Adrian Mutu!
My tip for the winner is France. They have a strong backbone to their team and I can see Karim Benzema really introducing himself to the world stage. I think they’ll beat a vibrant Germany in the final. Watch out for the Swiss though – I think they’ll have a really good tournament with home support taking them a long way.