A-Z of European Championships 2012 part 1

The draw for the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine was made yesterday with some very interesting match-ups.

The draw for the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine was made yesterday with some very interesting match-ups. This A-Z guide should enlighten, confuse, bore or maybe even fascinate some of you football fans.

A is for Absence – The group games are being played at 5pm and 7.45pm UK time which should mean that many of us will get home in the nick of time to see England kick off against France on the 11th June. However, should people work evening shifts, there are sure to be absentees. In the 2010 World Cup when England played Algeria there was a 42% rise in absences from the previous month. And that game didn’t kick off until 7.30!

B is for Base – Although Fabio Capello will have been delighted at the draw yesterday he would not have been pleased about the group. Group D means England will play their games in Ukraine, despite having their base at the Hutnik stadium in Krakow, Poland. Capello will not move the base meaning huge journeys in-between games that are only 4 days apart. In honesty, it would have been better to play Spain in Group C if it meant staying in Poland? You have to beat the best to be the best.

C is for Club Clash – Inevitably, with only 16 teams competing, many club mates will come face to face in the group stages. Robin Van Persie and Per Mertesacker have already posted a Twitter picture representing the Holland vs Germany clash. Mesut Ozil and Pepe of Real Madrid will go toe-to-toe in the same group. Also Gareth Barry and Samir Nasri could both be starters in Group D. Feisty.

D is for Don Fabio – This will be the last time we see Capello as the manager of England. Who will replace the man who appears to have reformed England and certainly given them a new sense of self-belief? His willingness to introduce new talent such as Danny Welbeck and Phil Jones is refreshing and he also gave Jack Wilshere his big break in the middle of the field. Can he go out with a boom? I doubt it. But it would be a fitting end to a man who has done just about everything.

E is for Expectations – There will be a lot of pressure on the big nations to perform. Spain will be expected to win after their last two outings in international tournaments with Germany also strong contenders. The pressure piled on England by the media will again affect the team and most likely reinforce the fact that all we can boast is a bunch of prima donna’s. I hope I am wrong.

F is for Favourites – Spain. They boast talent all over the field and cannot even accommodate Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez. Players such as Fabregas and Mata and perhaps Silva may have to be substitutes. Phenomenal. Germany and Holland will be their closest challengers. If I had to tip anyone it would be the Germans.

G is for Group of Death – Group B. The Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Denmark. All these sides have realistic aspirations of qualifying from the group. The Danes finished above Portugal in the qualifying rounds but I still expect them to prop up this group. A Portuguese side, held afloat by Cristiano Ronaldo, will not be above to compete with the two heavyweights of this group. Holland often rely on their strikers to outscore the amount they concede as their defensive prowess does not compare to their attacking threat. Germany are efficient and effective all over the pitch. I back them to come top. Group C looks nasty as well.

H is for Home Advantage – Poland and Ukraine will have a strong fan base for this competition. With the home fans always creating an atmosphere to relish, the Poles and Ukrainians will look to South Korea, Japan, and South Africa when they played at home. The wave of euphoria that comes with an international football tournament will give the sides extra energy and confidence and with Poland getting such a favourable draw and Ukraine also possibly progressing from Group D, the noises coming from these countries could be prolonged beyond expectation.

I is for Ireland (Republic) – After the injustice of the Republic of Ireland not reaching the last World Cup, they were given a highly favourable draw against Estonia in the play-off’s for next year’s championships. After winning comfortably, they have been drawn in the same group as Spain, Croatia and Italy. Although a tall order, with the astute management of Giovanni Trapattoni, Ireland will look to beat Croatia and claim points off Italy. The inconspicuous Doyle and Long up front can cause problems for any defence.

J is for June – What a June it will be. From 8th June to 1st July we are in for a football feast. Even year’s are always the best. We have only a month to wait before the start of the 2012 Premier League season. I know it’s too long but we can’t really complain.

K is for Knock-Out – The knock-out stages of the competition take us from the group stage straight to the Quarter-Finals. England’s habit of losing at this stage must come to an end at some stage but to avoid it happening again they must finish top of the group. If not it’s very likely they will play Spain and even if they finish second there is a strong chance of playing Italy, who’s new younger generation look fresher and more dangerous, but still with a reliable defence. We always knew it was going to be tough.

L is for Limited Tickets – Should England qualify from their group they will only have 5,000 tickets for fans, who will already have to endure a ludicrous amount of travelling to support their side in the championships. This has been done to give other fans from smaller countries their fair share of tickets. I don’t know why England fans would bother going anyway. You spend loads of money, do loads of travelling, but know you will end up disappointed, am I missing anything?

M is for Moving on – A lot of club players spend their weeks on the bench, seemingly watching the season pass them by. However, to appear for their national sides they need minutes on the pitch and a lot of top players will have to move in January to make sure they go to Poland/ Ukraine. Raul Albiol of Real Madrid is not getting a look in ahead of Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho and, occasionally, young Raphael Varane. Gary Cahill of England plays for Bolton who are languishing at the bottom of the Premier League. How long will he remain alongside John Terry? Especially as Lescott and Jagielka were so good against Spain. Jermain Defoe is not getting a look in at Spurs with Adebayor often being supported by one attacking midfielder. Fabio Quagliarella of Juventus has barely had a sniff this season and would be a good choice for Italy. Given Cassano’s heart surgery and Balotelli’s temperament, he is an option and Milan are said to be interested.

Look out for part 2 (N – Z) on Friday