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The European Summit

Although drawn in a tough group at Euro 2008, Italy are in with an excellent chance of winning their second major tournment in a row.

Tony Cascarino, 11 Jun 2008

When you’re talking about potential winners of Euro 2008, I don’t think you can ignore Italy, with them being the reigning World Champions. They’re a side full of talent who’ve got lots of experience, and I don’t think you can compare their club teams to their national teams. With the likes of Cannavaro, Zambrotta and Grosso and Materazzi at the back, they’re going to be a very hard team to beat, and you can tell they’re going to come up with goals. Del Piero has had a great season for Juventus, and I’m sure he’ll play his part for Italy.

Admittedly, Italy are in a tough group alongside France and Holland, but I must say I’m not a great fan of the Dutch and I think they’ll underachieve. France, meanwhile, are difficult to assess. They can be frustrating to watch and there isn’t any real star in their team this time around. Henry has had an indifferent season and isn’t this side’s Zidane, that’s for sure. Also, Viera has been patchy for Inter when’s he played. Ribery looks like the one player who might produce big things for them, and if France are to really make an impact on the tournament, he’ll have to deliver the goods.

Germany have been quoted as favourites, and in the 2006 World Cup Klose was the top scorer, but I’m not sure if he’ll even play this time around. They played with a very aggressive style in that tournament, and I don’t know if they’ll adopt a similar approach in Austria. But they had a good qualifying campaign and secured their place in the competition quite comfortably. In much the same way that Ribery will have to perform for France to do well, Ballack needs to be on form for Germany to succeed, because he is one player who can turn games.

Overall, I just feel that Germany might be a bit lacking in the goalscoring department. Klose has had a funny season and I’ve never really been convinced by Podolski. FC Schalke striker Kevini Kuranyi is another player with a lot of potential, but I really feel that Germany’s fortunes will hinge on how Ballack performs. Germany are in the same group as Croatia, who some people have tipped as a good outside bet, but I thought they were pretty mediocre in their qualifying campaign. Yes, they knocked out England, but I felt that England handed them the game at Wembley. Croatia could easily get out of their group, but I don’t see them progressing much further than that.

Another team many are tipping to do well are Spain, who certainly have quality forwards in the likes of Villa and Torres, but again a lot will depend on what system they play. If they play an aggressive style with two up front, Torres will be a serious threat to any team. Defensively, though, Spain are suspect and I feel that Puyol in particular is slightly overrated. They will definitely have plenty of flair in midfield with the likes of Fabregas and Alonso, but I just feel that their defence could be a weakness.

In terms of possible winners, I actually would fancy Portugal a bit more than Spain. I’ll be interested to see whether Ronaldo lines out as a centre-forward or a winger. As always, Portugal have a talented squad, although they’ve lacked a proven striker since Pauleta, and even he failed to deliver in the goalscoring stakes. But Portugal are capable of going far in the tournament and will no doubt be keen to make up for 2004, when they lost the final to Greece on their home turf.

Speaking of the Greek side, this time around the holders are in the same group as Spain, Russia and Sweden, but they’re unlikely to repeat the success of four years ago. In tournament football, upsets are always possible, but I fancy one of the traditional powers in international football to be crowned European champions this time around.

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