N is for Nincompoop – In a word. Wayne Rooney.
N is for Nincompoop – In a word. Wayne Rooney. His ridiculous kick out at Miodrag Dzudovoic in England’s last qualifying game mean the forward will now miss England’s games against France and Sweden. We have come to expect moments of stupidity from Rooney but this really takes the biscuit. So we will have to rely on Welbeck, Sturridge, Zamora, Carroll, Defoe or Crouch to fill his boots, at least for the group stage. Who knows, they may do such a sterling job that Rooney won’t get a look in after that. Should we qualify from the group.
O is for Old Hands – This will be many players final chance of appearing in a major tournament. Players like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are getting caught up by the talent of tomorrow and experienced talents such as Antonio Di Natale, although still scoring freely in Italy, will not be able to carry on for much longer. Germany’s oldest player in their recent clash with Azerbaijan was Philip Lahm and he is only 27. The Spanish squad is also very young and even if players like Xavi and Puyol are getting older it is not as thought there are not adequate replacements.
P is for Prolific – Some of the greatest players in the world will be on show at the tournament and three of the most consistent finishers in world football will be in the same group. Robin Van Persie of the Netherlands, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Mario Gomez of Germany have been red-hot for the last 12 months and they will come head to head as the teams battle to qualify from the group of death. Who will come on top? It’s anyone’s guess.
Q is for Qualifying Strategy? – It is vital for England to finish top of their group to avoid Spain. For those unlucky (or lucky as you may look at it) enough to be in Group A they will have a tough match in the Quarter-Finals no matter who they play. I am pleased to see that the final group games will be played at the same time as their other group opponents. There have been fixes in the past and there will be fixes in the future. The only bad thing about this is I have to choose a match to watch. Hmmm.
R is for Results – Not the results you may have in mind. I am in fact referring to GCSE’s. The exams usually take place over the month of June and research has shown that many students spend more time talking and thinking about football than their exams. Results dropped by a quarter of a grade when exams were held over an international tournament. One doctor even suggested that the education authorities should look to move the exams forward three weeks. These students have got their priorities right. Good job.
S is for Surprise Package – I would say Poland from Group A. Lukasz Piszszek, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski (all of Borussia Dortmund) are excellent talents and will cause the opposition all sorts of problems. The pace of Poland will also be an important factor for the joint hosts. I will also say France. This may seem an odd choice but under Laurent Blanc, Les Bleus look much improved and have an excellent balance in the side now. Benzema has a new lease of life at Real Madrid and Koscielny is much improved at Arsenal.
T is for Travel – England will have to travel 5,000 miles in their group stage games. They could move base but Capello has his heart set on Poland. I fear this could be a mistake. And what about the fans? I know this couldn’t be helped but the travelling contingent can’t be happy.
U is for Underdogs – Teams like Russia will be probable favourites in Group A but once qualified (assuming they do so) they will face a team from Group B. Most likely Germany or the Netherlands. Russia played Holland in Euro 2008 and it was an excellent game. They will go into these games without fear but more importantly without high expectation. It will be a similar case for Denmark in Group B, Croatia in Group C and Ukraine in Group D.
V is for Vicious Tackles – In the 2006 World Cup there was a match that sticks in the mind for all the wrong reasons. And it could be relived in next year’s tournament! Holland vs Portugal brought 16 yellow cards and 4 red cards in the Round of 16 and what a game it was. Maniche scored the only goal but no-one remembers that. 17 June. Put it in your diary.
W is for WAGS – Fabio Capello has surprisingly allowed the players wives and girlfriends to stay in Krakow. After the kerfuffle of 2006 and Baden Baden it was thought they would be banned from seeing their husbands/boyfriends during the tournament. They will be able to see them after the matches and they have been welcomed by the Mayor of Krakow. I doubt they will be much interested in the culture the city has to offer though. Any good shoe shops?
X is for XIV – It is the fourteenth European Championships to be held since it began in 1960. I was struggling to find an X..give me a break.
Y is for Young Stars – Mario Gotze of Germany will be a star, whether he moves in January or not. The only question is whether he can play alongside Mesut Ozil. A front three-pronged attack of Ozil, Gotze and Podolski is truly frightening. Christian Eriksen of Denmark showed his ability in a friendly with England during 2011 and will shine even in the group of death. Phil Jones, Kyle Walker and Daniel Sturridge will also be ones to watch from England.
Z is for Zany Fans – The last few tournaments have shown the football fans around the globe in their best light. The wonderful noise and passion in South Africa and the colour and enormity of the event in Japan and South Korea will live long in the memory so it is up to the hosts to create an atmosphere that can rival those of the past. I can’t wait.