Don’t Cry. It’s Euro Time!!

Its a great time every four years.  People from all over Europe, and all over the world beomce one with their European country of origin (that is if they have one) and cheer them to victory or cry with them in defeat (poor Ronaldo…and if you want more great pics like this one, just google Cristiano Ronaldo crying pic).  While this month long tournament has produced several upsets and suprises, i have decided to try and make some pics in this preview to the UEFA EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP 2008.

For each group i have placed the teams in the order i believe they will finish, giving a brief description and reasoning behind each.  The odds of each team are beside their names (odds based on those from  I will also provide some key players for each group and some others you might want to look out for.  In the end i will give my predictions for the final four, final two and champions, as well as best bets to lay the money on and my on potential sleeper, which i like to call “This years Greece”.  Enjoy.

Group A:

Portugal (7-1):  After a disappointing finish to the last Euro, Portugal will be out for revenge.  Their group doesn not pose any real threats to them and they should be able to come out on top led by the superior striking abilities of Ronaldo and midfield playmaking of Deco.  A tie versus the Czechs or Swiss is a possibility, but anything other than first in the division would be a disappointment.

Switzerland (28-1): Not the most talented side, but with the home crowd behind them, i think they will be able to do enough behind striker Alexander Frei and their rising star in teh midfield, Tranquillo Barnetta to squeek into the second spot in the division.

 Czech (18-1): The have one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Petr Cech, but they may not be able to overcome the loss of Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky.  Milan Baros and Jan Koller will need to be in top form if they are to make some noise in this tournament.

Turkey (40-1): Captain and Newcastle midfielder Emre Belozoglu will try and lead his team into the quarterfinal round, but that task may be to tough of a hill to climb for a team without much star power.

Key Players:

Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal: The Manchester United star has been on a tear leading his club side to victories in the Premier league and UEFA Champions league.  Can he do the same for his country?  Many believe now is his time.

Tranquillo Barnetta, Swiss:  The 23 year old Bayer Leverkusen midfielder was one of the top young prospects in the ’06 world cup and after scoring 2 goals in a 2-1 defeat of the Netherlands last August, many feel this is his time to rise up.

Petr Cech, Czech: Considered one of the top goalies in the world, the Chelsea goalkeeper will look to keep the ball out of his net and allow his team to win tight, low scoring games.

Nihat Kahveci, Turkey: The Villareal forward was big for his country in qualifying scoring the deciding goals in their last two games, and was the top scorer for his club side as they finished second to Real Madrid.

Young Guns to watch out for: Martin Fenin, 21, Czech. Joao Moutinho, 21, Portugal. 

Group B:

Germany (4-1): The early tournament favorites will be a tough team to beat.  With talent all the way accross the field, the Germans have the ability to score and prevent others from scoring.  With Klose, Podolski and Gomez pressing up front, Ballack and Schweinsteiger controlling the midfield, and Lahm on defense, it is no wonder they are the consensus choice to win.

Croatia (12-1): A first game against a weak Austria side should help them build confidence.  Enough to allow them to take the important second seed in the group.  Without their top striker Eduardo da Silva, they will need Ivica Olic to step up big if they expect to get any further.

Poland (50-1): A first match date with Germany should set them back early and they may not be able to recover due to a lack of star power up front.  Veterans Zewlakow and Krzynowek will have to hold the fort if they expect to advance.

Austria (100-1): The Co-Hosts are not expected to do much and should be nothing more than stat builders for more formidible teams like Germany and Croatia (This is why someone like Klose from Germany would be a good bet to win the Golden Boot).

Players to Watch For:

Lukas Podolski, Germany: The 23 year old Bayern Munich forward has been a rising star since joining the intenational squad and after an impressive world cup, great things should be expected of him.

Miroslav Klose, Germany: Another possible golden boot winner, the Bayern Munich star has averaged about a goal every other game in his international career.

Darijo Srna, Croatia: The Shakhtar product is lethal from set plays and will need to display that if his team is to succeed.

Young Guns to watch out for: Mario Gomez, 22, Germany. Erwin Hoffer, 21, Austria.

Group C:

Italy (13-2): Comming off of their World Cup Victory, the Azzuri will be out to prove that ’06 was not luck.  With the top goalkeeper in the world in Gigi Buffon and a stellar back line, Italy will be a tough side to score on.  The loss on star defender and captain Fabio Cannavaro will hurt, but expect replacement Giorgio Chiellini to fill in confidantly.  The Azzuri will also have a full arsenal of attackers led by Luca Toni and their midfield looks similar to that of their World Cup winning side.

France (8-1): Out for revenge, they have built up quite the rivalry with the Italians over the past decade.  The French are stacked at every position and have so much depth that they left several stars off their roster including Juve striker David Trezuget and Roma’s Ludovic Giuly.  But with players like Henry, Benzema, Viera and Malouda, those players should not be missed at all.

Netherlands (12-1): A team not short of star power, but unfortunatly they are placed in a division with two teams that have more than they do.  With players like Kuyt, Robben and Sneijder, they have the potential to finish in the top two and move on, but they will need to come together as a team early and often.

Romania (40-1): In any other division they could be seen as a strong second place contender, but in this group they will be hard-pressed not to finish last.  With Adrian Mutu leading their attack they will need to fire on all cylinders and play strong defensively if they are to have any chance of advancing.

Players to watch out for:

Luca Toni, Italy: Proving himself to be one of the top strikers in the world, Toni was a force with Bayern Munich in the German league as he scored 24 goals in 31 league games.

Franck Ribery, France: Expected to be the one who takes over the role formerly held by Zidane, the flow of the French game is expected to go through the feet of the Bayern Munich midfielder.  Possibily the ugliest player in the tournament, he is expected to carry a heavy load.

Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands: Previously pited in a defensicve role with his international squad, the Real Madrid midfielder is expected to be on the attack often in this tournament.

Adrian Mutu, Romania: Overcomming previous drug problems, Mutu is on the rise again dominating with club team Fiorentina and scoring 17 goals in his last 20 qualifying competitions with the international side.

Young guns to watch for: Alberto Aquilani, 23, Italy.  Karim Benzema, 20, France.

Group D:

Russia (28-1): Not given much of a chance in qualifying, Russia did the unthinkable in ousting powerhouse England and taking the second and final spot in their qualifying group.  With several players from club side Zenit, which won the UEFA Cup, this team has some firepower and may also possess that knack for winning.  They might just be the underdog betters are looking for.

Spain (6-1): Always recognized as a great team on paper, they have often failed to produce on the field.  Spain will be looking to change that with one of their most talented squads in recent memory.  Led by the attack of Fernando Torres and David Villa, and with Cesc Fabregas at midfield, this could be the year Spain gets the monkey of its back.

Sweden (40-1): Not short of strength up front, Sweden will be a tough team to keep off the scoreboard.  With star striking abilities from Ibrahimovic, Larsson and Allback, they can move on if they can keep piling on the goals.

Greece (28-1): the defending champions are back and with what some say is an even stronger team.  But the one thing they wont have is the element of suprise.  They do however have key players such as Dellas and Basinas returning to help them repeat as champions.

Players to watch out for:

Fernando Torres, Spain: The 24 year old Liverpool striker is in top form finishing in second behind Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo for England’s footballer of the year award.  Scored 23 goals in the Primeir league and 6 in the Champions League.

Cesc Fabregas, Spain: The 21 year old Arsenal midfielder has yet to score for his international side, but expect much of Spains ball movement and pace to go through him.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden: The talented 26 year old Inter forward had two goals in the last Euro, including a late one against the Azzuri that wold eventually be the one that moves them on and leaves Italy behind.

Young Guns to look out for: Igor Akinfeev, 22, Russia.  David Silva, 22, Spain.  Vassilis Torosidis, 22, Greece.

Final Four: Italy def. France   –   Germany def. Portugal

Finals: Italy defeats Germany and just like France did in ’98 and 2000, Italy wins the World Cup and two years later, the Euro.

The top Goal Scorer will be Miroslav Klose of Germany after he scores early and often against a weak Austria side.

Best Bets: With their odds at 13-2 and 8-1 respectively, Italyu and France are great bets.  Which ever team, if both, advances will be in top form after facing tough competition in the qualifying rounds.

This Years Greece: I would go with Russia.  High after ousting England in qualifying, they will be looking to continuing their high scoring and coach Hiddink has proven he can lead lesser know clubs to strong performances just as he did with South Korea and Australia.  At 28-1 they aren’t a bad dog.

Good Luck and enjoy the games.

Tags: 2008, Alexander Frei, Arsenal, Ballack, Bayer Leverkusen, Chelsea, Cristiano Ronaldo, Cup, Czech, Deco, Emre Belozoglu, Euro, Euro Cup 2008, EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP, Germany, Gomez, Jan Koller, Joao Moutinho, Klose, Lahm, Manchester United, Martin Fenin, Milan Baros, Nihat Kahveci, Petr Cech, Podolski, Portugal, Real Madrid, Schweinsteiger, Switzerland, Tomas Rosicky, Tranquillo Barnetta, Turkey, UEFA, UEFA EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP 2008, Villareal,