Arguably the most competitive football tournament on the planet is just round the corner, and we have our football experts at ‘Final Whistle’ do a full blown preview of Euro 2012. Read their latest issue for an in depth analysis of what to expect from the tournament, along with the predictions and interesting trivia. We suggest you download and read for the best experience.
Meanwhile, here is a teaser of what is there in the issue, as they chart out the marquee players for each team, central to the hopes of their nations in the European Championship.
Poland – Robert Lewandowski
After firing German champions Borussia Dortmund to their second successive Bundesliga title, Robert Lewandowski will be fired up for the Euros. He has quick feet and a solid physical presence and if the likes of Mierzejewski, Obraniak and Blaszczykowski can provide him with decent service, expect him to find the back of the net on a regular basis.
Russia – Andrei Arshavin
Despite his fall from grace and complete loss of form at Arsenal, Arshavin remains key to Russia’s hopes of making it big this summer. He is still the chief attacking midfielder of the side alongside Alan Dzagoev and may just be able to inspire his country for one last time on the big stage. He seems to perform best when paired with Kerzhakov up front but Advocaat seems to prefer Pavlyuchenko or Pogrebnyak which seems a bit odd.
Greece – Kyriakos Papadopoulos
Euro 2012 could be the coming of age for Schalke and Greece’s young, elegant ball-playing center-back, Kyriakos Papadopoulos. He is comfortable playing as a defensive midfielder but prefers playing at the heart of the defence – he was in the Bundesliga top five for tackles, interceptions and blocked shots in the season gone by. The stage is set for the young star to announce himself to the world.
Czech Republic – Tomas Rosicky
Rosicky has looked sluggish, out of sorts and well past his prime in recent seasons. But since February, he has found a fresh lease of life at Arsenal and that form has carried into the international matches. There is a sudden resurgence in his playing style and he looks like the Rosicky of old. Fit and fresh going into the tournament, the old schemer will be hoping to drag his country to success this summer.
Netherlands – Robin van Persie
Arsenal fans have a saying – “Who needs Batman, when you’ve got Robin” – which highlights the importance of the man in any side he plays in. Van Persie is one of the most gifted footballers of his generation and is coming into the tournament of the back of a fantastic season with Arsenal. With Robben and Sneijder supplying the service, expect him to be up there in the goal-scoring charts.
Germany – Mesut Ozil
Historically known for their industrial team ethic, the current German side is also bursting at the seams with flair and creativity and no one has more of both qualities than Mesut Ozil. Notching up five goals and seven assists in the qualifying rounds, he has been unstoppable for both club and country this season. His clear vision and an eye for a pass are right up there with the best in the world of football.
Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo
We have run out of superlatives to describe the goal-machine that is Cristiano Ronaldo. He is in the form of his career right now and this tournament may have come at just the right moment for him. He’s been breaking all sorts of records at club level, and there may never be a better time for him to do that for his country. The burden of expectations has never affected the Portuguese star. In fact, he seems to thrive under it. If he gets going, expect fireworks.
Denmark – Christian Eriksen
The current Danish Player of the Year is without a shadow of a doubt Denmark’s player to watch this summer. The youngest player at World Cup 2010 and the youngest ever scorer in Euro qualifying, Eriksen is a young star (still only 20) with a bright future ahead of him. He is not inexperienced though, as he already has a taste of title winning and Champions League football under his belt.
Spain – Xavi
Spain possess an abundance of talent, but the one man who keeps them ticking over, the orchestrator of the symphony, is Xavi. The Catalan playmaker is the heartbeat of the Spanish side. He loves controlling the tempo of the game, pulling the strings from the center of midfield and has been aptly nicknamed ‘The Puppet Master’. Stop Xavi and you stop Spain from functioning as a unit.
Italy – Andrea Pirlo
Released by AC Milan, even Pirlo could not have imagined in his wildest dreams the season he would have with Juventus. The team went unbeaten throughout the Serie A season, and Pirlo was at the heart of everything good about them. Italy will be looking to their playmaker again as they harbor hopes of ousting Spain as tournament favorites. The Italian midfield looks fluid, expect Pirlo to have a brilliant tournament.
Croatia – Luka Modric
Since joining Tottenham Hotspur in 2008, Luka Modric has developed into one of the most influential midfielders in the Premier League. Olic and Jelavic will look to the diminutive playmaker to pull the strings in the center of the park and provide them the requisite service. A fine passer of the ball who also possesses sublime vision, Modric will be looking to dictate the tempo of the play against the likes of Spain and Italy.
Ireland – Robbie Keane
He was the top scorer in qualifying with seven goals and will be Ireland’s main threat at the Euros. He may have lost a yard of pace but possess a very good footballing brain which still enables him to play at the highest level. The 32-year old skipper knows this is going to be his last crack at a major tournament – how’s that for incentive?
Ukraine – Andriy Yarmolenko
Yarmolenko isn’t a name many are familiar with outside Ukraine, but he is capturing hearts in his own country. He was originally used as a winger and occasionally a left-back but is now deployed as a playmaker and loved pulling the strings. He has been dubbed as the ‘new Shevchenko’ such is his growing reputation. His strengths include a frightening pace and quick feet. He has had a superb season at club level (Premier League clubs are monitoring him closely) and will be looking to add to his glowing stature in June.
England – Steven Gerrard
Gerrard has long been Mr. Consistent for his national team and they will need him to step up to the plate once more in Poland/Ukraine. With increased responsibility on his shoulders in the absence of Wayne Rooney, he will have to grab the initiative in the group stage and get England going. He thrives on the big stage and will be relishing going into battle in what may well be his last big international tournament.
France – Karim Benzema
With 3 goals in qualifying and the winner against Brazil under his belt, Benzema has repaid Blanc’s faith in him by scoring on a consistent basis on the big stage for France. He’s coming into the competition on the back of a hugely successful season at Real Madrid where Jose Mourinho has managed to bring out the best of his qualities. He is close to fulfilling the promise he showed during his days at Lyon and this represents a chance for him to shine on the big stage and cement his credentials as a world-beater.
Sweden – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
He has failed to shake off the tag of ’big game choker’ as he consistently flops in the important games for both club and country. He is supremely talented and boasts extreme self-confidence but he has unable to marry that into his game when the occasion calls for it. But this tournament might be the 30-year old’s last chance to prove his doubters wrong and carry his team through. Sweden’s success will all come down to whether Ibrahimovic can fire from the start. Fail to inspire, and that might be the end of the road for the giant striker.