Spain’s golden era started four years ago following their Euro victory in Austria/Switzerland. They won the World Cup two years later in South Africa and are on top of the FIFA rankings. Holders and World champion Spain are clear favourites for the title for the second time in a row but they will be without record scorer David Villa and talismanic centre-back Carles Puyol. Both have fallen victim to injury. Also, playmaker Xavi Hernandez is also dealing with problems with his Achilles tendon even though he was declared fit for the tournament.
Germany, drawn in the Group of Death, is one of the favourites for this year’s title. Having won the title three times, Germany have made it to the final in 1976, 1992 and 2008, thus making them the most successful team in European Championships. They probably have the team at par to dethrone Spain, who proved a major obstacle in their pursuit of a major title since 1996 in the past two international events.
With the likes of Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos, Mario Gomez in their squad, Germany have sent a young team to Euro 2012 to finally end their title drought. The midfield trio of Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil is considered one of the best in the world and could prove quiet a handful for the world number three-ranked team this time round.
Last two major tournaments were not encouraging for Les Bleus after crashing out of the Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup in the group stages. Internal conflicts marred their World Cup campaign under Raymond Domenech. There was player mutiny in the French camp after Nicolas Anelka was sent home after a spat with Domenech. Patrice Evra, who led the protest, was stripped of his captaincy and did not play in the final group game against South Africa. Since then, Laurent Blanc has developed it into a strong pack. The two-time European Championship winners are unbeaten in 22 games and are tipped favourites to win against England in their Group D opener.
France have an experienced hand upfront in the form of Franck Ribery, whose wily presence upfront could assist Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema in the attack. Samir Nasri, often compared to French legend Zinedine Zidane, can rival any attacking force in Europe. France will be hoping to click as a unit to banish World Cup woe.
Having world class performers at their disposal, the Oranje were known for choking at the final moments. The world number 4-ranked team holds the record for playing the most World Cup finals without ever winning the final. However, the 2010 World Cup finalists are in their formidable best to end the Euro title drought which is haunting them since 1988. After having an easy draw on the road to qualifying, the Dutch are drawn against Portugal, Germany and Denmark in the Group B. Netherlands would want their key performers Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Mark van Bommel to fire to clear past Germany and Spain if they were to win the title.
Portugal bank on Cristiano Ronaldo to win their first Euro title
Boasting a team of world class players, Portugal had to struggle through the qualifying phase. However, Portugal’s hope solely rest on the shoulders of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who had a terrific domestic season. His 46 goals helped Real Madrid dethrone Barcelona as La Liga champions. His scoring in the European competition is also flattering, coming second only to Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. The biggest challenge they face is their group itself as they face Germany, Netherlands and Denmark in the Group of Death. Ronaldo’s goals were crucial in Portugal’s Euro qualification and they would like to bank on his scoring agility to advance in the Euro 2012.