England have always been famous let downs at the big stage. They were never the world-beaters they were expected to be. And with most of the players from their so called ‘Golden generation’ out of the squad it seems that expectations have hit a low and the new boys will have a lot less pressure to deal with.
England will be missing a lot of key players like Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, and Gary Cahill due to injuries. However, the exclusion of veteran defender Rio Ferdinand has sparked confusion in and around the country. With John Terry being injury prone and Gary Cahill out with an injury, England have made a huge gamble going with an inexperienced Martin Kelly rather than the experienced Ferdinand.
England midfield will be short of considerable talent and firepower with the likes of Lampard, Barry and the overlooked Michael Carrick out of the squad. However, there will be freshness and the morale is likely to be high especially given the wealth of young talents like Jones, Chamberlain, Welbeck, and Carroll in the squad.
With striker Wayne Rooney suspended for the first two group games, scoring goals could be a tough job for Roy Hodgson’s side. Hodgson will look to his two most reliable players in Steven Gerrard and Joe Hart to inspire the team with their brilliant performances and leadership qualities. Inspirational leader, Steven Gerrard will have to be close to his best if England are to progress beyond the Quarterfinals of the tournament. And in Joe Hart, England has one of the best goalkeepers of the world. The Manchester City keeper helped his club win the league title after 44 years and will be looking to take his good form into the European Championships with England.
After enduring a horrendous World Cup in South Africa, the French will be fired up for the European championships. Although in 2010 internal problems within the squad were to blame for their failure to qualify from the group stages, the French squad looks a fresh and tight unit under manager Laurent Blanc now. Unbeaten in 21 games, France go into the European Championships with more unity and confidence than ever before.
Blanc has brought with him some class and composure to the young French squad. With proper moulding of the players and diligent man management abilities Blanc has brought the squad together and has rejuvenated the nation’s hopes by bringing in talented youngsters and introducing an exciting brand of free-flowing football.
France looks a pretty balanced side on paper with considerable quality in all the departments. However, the Real Madrid forward, Karim Benzema, who seems to have come of age this season, will be the key player for the French in this year’s European Championship. The Real Madrid front-man has been in scintillating form for the Galacticos this season and will be expected to drive his nation to European glory.
Under the able guidance of Laurent Blanc the young, hungry and adventurous young squad filled with exceptional young players have every chance of achieving glory this summer.
Since his appointment, manager Erik Hamren has changed the fortunes of the Sweden side by leading them from the failure if qualifying for the World Cup to qualifying for Euros as the best runners-up. The introduction of an attacking style of football has been a breath of fresh air for the Swedish side and has lifted spirits and has given hope to the players and the fans.
Hamren has turned Sweden into a hard-working and competent side, solid across the field. However, the lack of pace and flair remains a concern for Hamren and his men. The absence of a reliable central defender alongside the veteran Olof Mellberg is also likely to cause Sweden a lot of problems coming up against top quality forwards.
It’s fair to say that the nation’s hopes will be resting on their mercurial forward, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is easily the best player of the world on his day. The AC Milan striker is an icon in his homeland, and will the man to watch in an otherwise ordinary squad.
The Swedish striker has been in devastating form for his club this season and should Sweden hope to progress beyond the group stages, Hamren will be hoping that Zlatan replicates his club form for his country.
Managed by Ukrainian legend Oleg Blokhin, Ukraine are highly unlikely to pose any sort of challenges to their group. Vastly inferior squad along with ageing stars will mean that the co-hosts don’t stand a chance against their superior oppositions. However, the opportunity to make a mark on home soil is one that cannot be spurned.
Ukraine’s strength lies in their attack. Their key player, Andrei Shevchenko, the former AC Milan striker is in the climax of his glamorous career and at 35 years of age, it is certainly the last time he will be seen on the international stage. However, cheered on by the partisan crowd at their own backyard, Ukraine won’t have much problems scoring. However the injury to their first-choice ‘keeper, Andrei Dikan may prove troublesome when the co-hosts are on the receiving end.
Other players who will look to support Shevchenko in his cause of leading the nation out of the groups will be Sweden’s most capped midfielder, Tymoshchuk, who will provided a much needed solidarity to the Ukraine midfield with his wealth of experience and knowledge of European football playing for the German giants Bayern Munich. Another key player will be the exciting young talent, Andriy Yarmolenko. Touted as the new Shevchenko, Yarmolenko is famous for his blistering pace and placement.
Despite the positives, Ukraine will have to spring up major surprises and cause huge upsets in order to progress into the next round. However, if international football has taught us something, it’s that, it would be completely foolish to write the home team off.