Manager: Roy Hodgson. Hodgson’s international experience seemed to give him the edge over Harry Redknapp and it will be interesting to see how the man of many clubs deals with the media pressure associated with this job. Hodgson has been here and seen it all though and if he can pick his time right he could go down in history.
Key players: Joe Hart, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney
Star Player: Wayne Rooney. Rooney is a player at the top of his game at the moment and despite being suspended for the first two games, you can put your money on him being at the heart of any success for this England team. Rooney, driven by this hurt is going to be a real handful for all defenders at the Euros with his power, determination and game changing capabilities.
Young Player: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Arsenal team mate Jack Wilshere should have had this section dedicated to him but injury means Arsenal’s other young starlet is thrust into the media limelight. The Ox has impressed since his summer switch from Southampton and is extremely dangerous running at defences which makes him a fantastic impact substitute. He goes into this tournament as an unknown quantity and this will surely work in his favour.
Did you know? – England refused to partake in the first European Championships in 1960 along with West Germany and Italy.
Can they win it? – In theory yes, but in reality it will be very difficult. England are undoubtedly outsiders behind the likes of Germany, Spain and the Dutch. There are some very talented players in the England squad and on their day with the right organisation and tactics they will back themselves against anyone.
Probable starting XI: GK Joe Hart; DEF Glenn Johnson, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Ashley Cole; MID James Milner, Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; FWD Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck (Wayne Rooney after suspension).
Manager: The team is led by French defensive legend Laurent Blanc, an individual with international pedigree. Having won international honours during his playing days (World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000) he will be looking to convey the winning mentality to his young side this summer.
Key players: Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema
Star player: Franck Ribery. The talented twenty-nine year old winger is coming into this summer’s tournament on the back of a ‘nearly’ season, falling short in all three major competitions that his club, FC Bayern, were involved in this season. This however should spur on the Frenchman to steer his country to success this summer. His pace, trickery and crossing ability will be vital if France are to go far in Poland and Ukraine.
Young player: Hatem Ben-Arfa. Now injury free, it seems palpable that the talented playmaker is finally reaching his full potential, playing an integral role in Newcastle’s season which saw them just miss out on a Champions League place. His vision, pace and exceptional close control will be one of the many French keys used to unlock their oppositions defences this summer.
Did you know? – This season, Franck Ribery was fined Fifty-Thousand Euros for punching team-mate Arjen Robben during half-time of FC Bayern’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.
Can they win it? – After their disastrous 2010 World Cup in which the squad imploded, Laurent Blanc will be hoping his mix of youth and experience to can bring back the glory days to France. With a plethora of talented midfielders and one of the world’s in form strikers, Karim Benzema; France are not to be underestimated.
Probable starting XI: GK Hugo Lloris; DEF Laurent Koscielny, Philippe Mexes, Adil Rami, Patrice Evra; MID Alou Diarra, Yann M’Villa, Franck Ribery, Hatem Ben Arfa, Samir Nasri; FWD Karim Benzema.
Manager: Erik Hamren. Former boss Lars Largerback failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup but new man Hamren has impressed as Sweden confirmed European qualification. He is one of the most respected coaches in Scandinavia and most importantly of all he seems to be bringing the best out of captain and talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Key players: Rasmus Elm, Kim Kallstrom, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Star Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic . One of the most famous names in Sweden (except possibly Ikea), Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a supremely talented footballer with power and technical ability that nearly every player in the world would envy. He has the ability to create something out of nothing but there are still big question marks over his temperament. If Sweden can get him firing on all cylinders they can pose a serious threat to England and France.
Young player: Martin Olsson. At the age of 24 Olsson is the same age as Rasmus Elm but he has really developed over the last season and will almost certainly leave current club Blackburn following their relegation. Capable of playing at left back or on the wing Olsson’s pace and crossing make him a dangerous player when going forward.
Did you know? – The Swedes needed to beat the Dutch in their last game of qualification to finish as best runners up and avoid the play-offs. Not an easy task as the Dutch (who had won every game in qualifying thus far) took 2-1 lead. Sweden came back strong and Seb Larsson and Ola Toivonen made sure the Swedes would be going to Poland and Ukraine.
Can they win it? – Despite one outstanding player and a number of solid others, this Sweden team does not have the quality to mount a serious challenge to the two big guns in their group, England and France. Anything higher than third will be an unexpected bonus.
Probable starting XI: GK Andreas Isaksson; DEF Mikael Lustig, Jonas Olsson, Olof Mellberg, Martin Olsson; MID Seb Larsson, Rasmus Elm, Anders Svensson, Kim Kallstrom; FWD Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Johan Elmander
Manager: Former Ballon d’Or winner Oleg Blokhin re-took the helm in 2011 after a fairly unsuccessful spell for the host nation since he left his first term in charge in 2007. He’ll be hoping to reignite a fairly lacklustre Ukraine team and will be hoping to repeat their success in the 2006 World Cup.
Key players: Andriy Shevchenko, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Andriy Yarmolenko
Star player: Andriy Shevchenko. Since returning to Dynamo Kiev, the 2004 Ballon d’Or winner has shown glimpses of his former spectacular self. At 35, Shevchenko will be hoping to bow out of international football on a high, however recent injury problems have put doubts over his participation and with it, Ukraine’s success.
Young player: Andriy Yarmolenko. Since making his debut in 2009, the 22-year-old winger has impressed for Ukraine and his Dynamo Kiev. He’s a creative spark in a rather flat Ukrainian midfield; Voronin and Shevchenko will be relying on him to provide goal-scoring opportunities.
Did you know? – Tymoshchuk ans Shevchenko are the Ukraine’s two most capped players with over 100 caps each, though the team have were only officially recognised since the early 90s.
Can they win it? – The Ukraine have only ever played in one major tournament in 2006 and so are just pleased to be at this one having qualified automatically as a host nation. Any success in the group stages will be pleasing, but don’t expect an easy game against them with the home crowd behind them.
Probable starting XI: GK Andriy Pyatov; DEF Oleg Gusev, Olexandr Kucher, Taras Mikhalik, Yaroslav Rakitskiy; MID Andriy Yarmolenko, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Ruslan Rotan, Yevhen Konoplyanka; FWD Andriy Voronin; Andriy Shevchenko