Euro 2012 - Euro 2012 team-by-team guide

Fri, 02 Dec 18:45:00 2011

After the Euro 2012 draw in Kiev, we take a team-by-team look at the 16 contenders who will be in Poland and Ukraine next summer.

Ukraine's manager Oleg Blokhin, Sweden's manager Erik Hamren, France's manager Laurent Blanc and England's manager Fabio Capello pose after the draw ceremony of the Euro 2012 - 0

Group A

Poland

Appearances: 1 (2008, knocked out at group stage)

FIFA world ranking: 66th

Coach: Franciszek Smuda - Captain: Jakub Blaszczykowski

Prospects: Rated among the 50-1 and up outsiders, Poland, like co-hosts Ukraine, are likely to be lifted by a wave of public support, but whether they can make it past the opening stage is open to some doubt. However, they do have some fine players who could help them achieve just that. Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is one of the most promising young keepers in Europe and striker Robert Lewandowski, who played against him when Arsenal faced Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League this month, has been scoring regularly for Poland in their friendlies while skipper Jakub Blaszczykowski, also of Dortmund, is another key player.

Russia

Appearances: 9 (1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2004, 2008) - Best performance: Winners 1960 (1960-88 as the Soviet Union, 1992 as CIS, 1996-2008 as Russia)

FIFA world ranking: 12th

Coach: Dick Advocaat - Captain: Andrei Arshavin

Prospects: Dutchman Dick Advocaat hopes to at least follow in the footsteps of his compatriot Guus Hiddink, who led Russia to the semi-finals at Euro 2008 -- the country's best showing in a major tournament since 1988 when they finished as runners-up to the Netherlands in the European Championship in West Germany. However, many pundits at home doubt that Russia's ageing squad will be able to emulate their success of four years ago because Advocaat has made little changes in the team, inherited from his predecessor.

Greece

Appearances: 3 (1980, 2004, 2008) - Best performance: Champions 2004

FIFA world ranking: 14th

Coach: Fernando Santos - Captain: Giorgos Karagounis

Prospects: Greece, surprise winners in 2004, are a completely different team from the defensive-minded one that failed to get past the group stage four years ago. Far more aggressive and versatile, Greece could spring a group stage upset if underestimated. Portuguese coach Fernando Santos, who has had previous experience working in the domestic league, repeatedly surprised many with his selection of players, ushering in numerous talented youngsters from smaller clubs who helped the team to an undefeated qualifying campaign. Despite a near water-tight defence that let in only five goals, most players also get forward, with Greek defenders having scored more goals than strikers in the qualifiers.

Czech Republic

Appearances: (7) 1960, 1976, 1980, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 - Best performance: Winners 1976, Runners-up 1996 (as Czechoslovakia from 1960-80)

FIFA world ranking: 33rd

Coach: Michal Bilek - Captain: Tomas Rosicky

Prospects: The Czechs have an excellent European Championship record, either as Czechoslovakia or as an independent nation, but they scraped into the Euro 2012 playoffs from their qualifying group. Their experience was a telling factor in a 3-0 aggregate defeat of Montenegro which earned them a berth in the finals. Although they have overachieved as the tournament's dark horses several times, reaching the knockout stages in next year's tournament may be a tall order for a team lacking world class talent in most positions. Czech hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals rest on goalkeeper Peter Cech and captain Tomas Rosicky

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Group B

Netherlands

Appearances: 8 (1976, 1980, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) - Best performance: Winners: 1988

FIFA world ranking: 2nd

Coach: Bert van Marwijk - Captain: Mark van Bommel

Prospects: Runners-up in last year's World Cup, the Netherlands are ranked among the favourites to win the Euros along with world champions Spain and Germany. Under Van Marwijk the Dutch have lost only two of their last 25 competitive matches -- the World Cup final against Spain in Johannesburg and their last Euro qualifier against Sweden. The Dutch boast the likes of Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben. Strong in attack but sometimes lacking in defence, Netherlands are leading contenders for the crown.

Germany

Appearances: 10 (1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) - Best performance: Champions 1972, 1980, 1996 (1972, 1980 as West Germany, 1996 as Germany)

FIFA world ranking: 3rd

Coach: Joachim Loew - Captain: Philipp Lahm

Prospects: Germany have firmly set their sights on their first major title since winning the European Championship in 1996 after a flawless qualification campaign in which they won all 10 matches as well as friendly victories over big teams including Brazil and Netherlands in recent months. Coach Joachim Loew has formed what is arguably the most exciting and talented German team for many years with a core of young players who got their first tournament experience at last year's World Cup in South Africa where they finished third. Youngsters like Thomas Mueller, Mario Goetze and Mesut Ozil have blended perfectly with more experienced players such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lahm and Mario Gomez to form a lethal combination, capable of ripping apart opponents' defences.

Portugal

Appearances: 5 (1984, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) - Best performance: Runners-up: 2004 (as hosts)

FIFA world ranking: 7th

Coach: Paulo Bento - Captain: Cristiano Ronaldo

Prospects: The presence of the world's most expensive player, Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United winger Nani are a guarantee of flair and firepower up front and the Euro 2004 runners-up will expect to reach the final stages of the tournament. Coach Paulo Bento led Portugal to the finals after staging a remarkable revival. He took over from Carlos Queiroz in September 2010 when they were second from last in Group H, led them to second place in the group and on to a 6-2 aggregate playoff win over Bosnia.

Denmark

Appearances: 8 (1964, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) - Best performance: Winners 1992

FIFA world ranking: 11th

Coach: Morten Olsen - Captain: Thomas Sorensen

Prospects: Coach Olsen is one of the longest-serving in international football and has managed a generational transition very well following a poor World Cup. With skillful players like Christian Eriksen and a rejuvenated Dennis Rommedahl, they could go far and the backbone of the team looks strong. In attack, Nicklas Bentdner, who struggles for goals in the Premier League, has hit 23 in his 45 appearances for his country.

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Group C

Spain

Appearances: 8 (1964, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) - Best performance: Winners: 1964, 2008

FIFA world ranking: 1st

Coach: Vicente del Bosque - Captain: Iker Casillas

Prospects: Spain head to the 2012 finals as reigning world and European champions and start as favourites to win a third successive title. Their team, based mainly on players from Champions League holders Barcelona and Real Madrid, boasts a huge array of talent including XaviAndres Iniesta, Xavi Alonso, Sergio RamosDavid Silva and David Villa and they stand an excellent chance of retaining the title.

Italy

Appearances: (7) 1968, 1980, 1988, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 - Best performance: Winners 1968 (as hosts)

FIFA world ranking: 9th

Coach: Cesare Prandelli - Captain: Gianluigi Buffon

Prospects: Humiliated at last year's World Cup when they lost to Slovakia and drew with Paraguay and New Zealand, Italy have recovered impressively under former Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli. They won eight and drew two of their 10 matches in qualifying with two games to spare and conceded only two goals on the way. Italy could be forced to do without striker Antonio Cassano, their top-scorer in the qualifiers with six goals, after he underwent minor heart surgery in November and was ruled out for an unspecified period of time. However, they have plenty of options and the emergence of Mario Balotelli is their biggest reason for optimism. Prandelli has quickly rebuilt the team and a repeat of the South African shambles is highly unlikely.

Croatia

Appearances (3): 1996, 2004, 2008 - Best performance: Quarter-finalists: 1996, 2008.

FIFA world ranking: 8th

Coach: Slaven Bilic - Captain: Darijo Srna

Prospects: Croatia failed to reach last year's World Cup finals and endured a patchy Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, a 2-0 defeat by Greece in the penultimate group match effectively condemning them to the playoffs. There Croatia showed glimpses of their past form, beating Turkey 3-0 on aggregate to gain sweet revenge for a dramatic defeat on penalties by the same opponents in the Euro 2008 quarter-finals. The squad includes the bulk of players from that team, with fresh blood personified by robust striker Mario Mandzukic, livewire forward Ivan Perisic and versatile defender Domagoj Vida.

Republic of Ireland

Appearances: 1 (1988, knocked out at group stage)

FIFA world ranking: 21st

Coach: Giovanni Trapattoni - Captain: Robbie Keane

Prospects: Italian Trapattoni has led Ireland back to the Euros for the first time since their only appearance in 1988 and their first major tournament since the 2002 World Cup. They are a hard to beat, well organised team with skipper Robbie Keane, who has scored 53 goals in 114 appearances for his country, still capable of outstanding invention in attack.

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Group D

Ukraine

Appearances: None

FIFA world ranking: 55th

Coach: Oleg Blokhin - Captain: Andriy Shevchenko

Prospects: As co-hosts and debutants, Ukraine will take part in the finals on a wave of popular support which could well inspire them to do better than their world ranking would suggest. Ukraine will rely on Andrei Shevchenko, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Andrei Yarmolenko while the experience gained by Shakhtar Donetsk's Ukrainian players in the Champions League means they will not be over-awed on the big stage.

England

Appearances: (8), 1968, 1980, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 - Best performance: Semi-finalists: 1968, 1996 (hosts)

FIFA world ranking: 5th

Coach: Fabio Capello - Captain: John Terry

Prospects: After their humbling experience in last year's World Cup finals which ended in a record 4-1 second round defeat by Germany, England recovered their pride in the qualifiers, reaching the finals unbeaten with five wins and three draws.

Italian coach Fabio Capello, who will leave after the finals, has begun to experiment by introducing young players such as Jack Rodwell, Danny WelbeckKyle Walker and Phil Jones.

Sweden

Appearances: 4 (1992, 2000, 2004, 2008) - Best performance: Semi-finalists (as hosts) 1992

FIFA world ranking: 18th

Coach: Erik Hamren - Captain: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Prospects: Sweden are over-reliant on their skipper and best player Ibrahimovic, who can be either brilliant or anonymous on any given day. However, they have plenty of other good quality players like midfielder Sebastian Larsson, but getting further than the quarter-finals would be a major surprise.

France

Appearances: 7 (1960, 1984, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) - Best performance: Winners: 1984, 2000

FIFA world ranking: 15th

Coach: Laurent Blanc - Captain: Hugo Lloris captained France in their last two internationals, but Blanc will select his skipper for Euro 2012 next year.

Prospects: France head to the finals on a 17-match unbeaten run but failed to impress during the qualifying campaign. They have not made it past the first round in an international competition since reaching the 2006 World Cup final. In Karim Benzema they have one of the top strikers in Europe but they lack creativity in midfield and it will be a major surprise if they repeat their previous successes in the tournament.

Reuters

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