Euro 2008 News and Notes

Euro 2008 News and Notes

Euro 2008: Group B preview and prediction
By OLOV NORBRINK

Austria

Austria’s place on the official FIFA ranking list is a modest 101st, making them the lowest ranking team in the tournament (the second lowest is Switzerland at 48th). If they weren’t automatically qualified as co-hosts, they would probably have had about as big a chance of qualifying as David Ortiz of stealing home at Yankee Stadium.

Their pre-tournament friendlies have been abysmal and not even their own fans seem to have faith in them. Harsh words, but in fact the low status of Austrian soccer may be their one and only advantage in Euro 2008. They’re flying under the radar.

Other teams might underestimate them. Some of their young, untested players could catch fire. Midfield star Andreas Ivanschitz could finally have his big breakthrough. And there’s this: Austria play Germany in the final group game. If the Germans are already through, they might let Austria off easy. If you think that will happen, there’s serious money to be made, as the odds for any kind of Austrian success are astronomical.


Germany

If, like me, you come from a small soccer nation, chances are you’ve seen your country get thrashed by Germany more than once.

Many of us have come to regard the Germans as the tyrannosauruses of European soccer. You can’t beat them, you can’t run away from them and the last thing you want to do is make them angry.

The best you can hope for if you meet them, is that they’re not particularly hungry that day. The good news is that sometimes they aren’t. There have been tournaments where the Germans have looked pretty sluggish. Problem is, even then they usually wind up in the quarterfinals.

This German team is relatively young, so sluggishness shouldn’t be an issue. It’s basically the same team that played in the World Cup two years ago, only more experienced.

They are the favorite to win it all, and it’s easy to see why. Defenders Metzelder and Mertesacker, along with midfielders Ballack and Frings, make up the best central block of any national team. Up front, there’s Klose, who always delivers for his country. The weak spot may be goalkeeper Lehman, who’s had a bad year in Arsenal. 


Croatia


Croatians take enormous pride in their sporting successes. The rather unusual looking red and white checkered jersey of the soccer team has become perhaps the most recognisable symbol of the young nation.

This sense of pride was showcased last fall, when they beat England at Wembley Stadium, eliminating the English from Euro 2008. That win came despite the fact the Croats were already through – they beat the English just for the hell of it.

That’s the kind of team they are. Take them lightly at your own peril. 

Most Croatian players play for teams in France, Germany and other big leagues. Some of them, like central defenders Simic and Kovac, are well known to soccer fans. Others, like Corluka and Modric, are stars or tomorrow.

The one cloud on the horizon is the injury to attacker Eduardo. With him out, scoring goals could be a big problem for the Croatians. On the whole though, they look like a very well balanced team that will be hard to beat. At 16 times the money, there may even be value in playing them as tournament winners.


Poland


This is the first time Poland has qualified for the Euros – rather surprising when you consider they were among the best in the world in the 70s and 80s.

Today’s team appears to have reached a plateau. They’re good enough to qualify for big competitions but not good enough to get very far in them. If they don’t go through they will have another shot in four years, as they are organizers of Euro 2012.

Bettors haven’t forgotten that Poland lost a game to USA 0-3 earlier this year. In a tough group like this, they must get their defense in order or be eliminated quicker than you can say “Blasczykowski”, which happens to be the name of the biggest emerging Polish star.

Other than him, there are few Polish players that have made an impact on the international scene, but look out for the gifted attacker Smolarek, who always scores goals for his country. There’s also goalkeeper Boruc who, apart from being quite brilliant, has an entertaining habit of provoking opposing fans. Should be fun to watch.

Prediction:

Anything other than Croatia and Germany advancing to the quarterfinals would be a huge upset. Still, it’s soccer, so anything can happen. If the Austrians don’t make it, they at least deserve credit for having the player with the coolest name: Goalkeeper Jürgen Macho. There’s a guy you’d want in your fantasy team! 

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Euro 2008: Group A preview and prediction
By OLOV NORBRINK

Turkey

Turkey finished second in their qualifying group after crucial away wins against Norway and Greece. They never really looked impressive, but showed character when they needed to.

Turkey is one of the least fancied teams among experts and gamblers. They will be underdogs in every game they play. In a relatively easy group like this one, you can’t count them out completely though. All they have to do is perform really well in one game, as they often have in the past, and hold their opponents to draws in two others.

The key will be disciplined defence, hard physical play in the midfield and making the most of what scoring opportunities they get. Turkish players have earned a reputation as being smart and professional, and you underestimate them at your own peril.


Switzerland

Hosts usually do well in major soccer tournaments, so the Swiss are understandably optimistic about Euro 2008. They have a young, determined team with a few players, like Fernandes and Barnetta, who seem destined to become big stars.

The question is, are they ready for prime time? There will be enormous pressure on them, as failure would be seen as something of a national embarrassment.

The inexperience of the Swiss, together with the fact that they haven’t played a competitive game in two years, makes it hard to say where they stand. Some books rate their chances of advancement at almost the same level as the Czechs, which seems a tad optimistic. The key is the first game. If they lose it, it will be an uphill battle.


Czech Republic

The Czech Republic has won many fans thanks to their open, attacking style of play.

Most Czech players have been in big tournaments before. In fact, you might say they’re getting on a bit and there doesn’t seem to be another great generation ready to take over quite yet.

Nedved and Poborsky have already quit, and Koller and Galasek could be next. Still, they looked great in qualifying and have excelled in pre-tournament friendlies.

For some reason the Czechs seem to do better in the Euros than in the World Cup. Some of their stars have had bad years on the club level, but that could actually work to their advantage as these players look to redeem themselves – and possibly advertise their services to new employers.


Portugal

Portugal may be the greatest soccer nation to never have actually won anything. As usual, they rank among the favourites but after all their blown opportunities, some question if they have the mental strength to win a major tournament.

Portugal has the best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo. Still you have to ask yourself whether Ronaldo can perform at the top of his ability after having already played almost 60 games this season for Manchester United.

The same is true of many other Portuguese players, who bear enormous burdens in their club teams. The biggest question mark is their offence. Typically they play with only one top forward, and they’ve been struggling for years trying to find the right man for that spot.

Outlook:

The Czechs and the Portuguese are favourites to advance from Group A, but Turkey and Switzerland are no pushovers. Judging from the lines I’ve looked at, the best value right now is probably on the Czech Republic to advance at around 1.86 European odds (-116 American).

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there will be very hard game Germany vs. Poland.. because polish players always are playing very hard against germany

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Maybe we can get samors to post a winner or two  wink

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Euro Soccer Primer
by T.O. Whenham

Euro 2008 gets under way this weekend. Outside of the World Cup, this tournament, which takes place every four years, is the biggest and most important soccer tournament in the world. If you are a North American sports bettor then chances are pretty good that you don't spend much time, effort or money betting on soccer. That's understandable, but this is one of those times when you really should. The structure of the tournament and the amount of attention the world will be paying to it means that betting opportunities abound. Bodog and several other books have not only lines on all of the games available, but also dozens of props on the action. If you haven't been paying attention to the seemingly endless build up for this tournament, this will help you get up to speed with the basics of Euro soccer betting.

First, the basics of the tournament. There are 16 teams participating, and they have been broken down into four groups of four teams. Each team will play the other three teams in its group, and the two teams with the most points in each group will move onto the single-elimination round that will lead to the winner. The favorite to win it all is Germany, with Spain, Italy and Portugal behind them. Austria, the co-hosts with Switzerland, are the longest shots in the field, and oddsmakers don't give Poland and Turkey much of a chance, either.

If you want to get into betting this tournament here are seven things you'll want to keep in mind:

Don't fear the draw - North Americans are unaccustomed to thinking that a game could end in a tie. When it's an all-star game it's deeply offensive. The draw is a major component of soccer, though, and that makes it a betting opportunity. In the elimination round the teams will break ties with extra time and then penalty kicks, but not in the group round. In the last tournament in 2004 there were 24 games played, and eight of them were draws. If you take out the seven or so games that were total mismatches then almost half of the competitive games were a draw. Since the payoff on a draw is almost always better than even money, and often significantly so, they are obviously work a look.

Upsets happen - It can be easy to be seduced by the heavy favorites and tradition-rich teams. In a tournament like this, though, teams can and do come from nowhere to upset the major powers. As proof you need to look no further than 2004. Greece was an 80/1 longshot entering the tournament, but they knocked off France and other powers and were the only ones standing at the end. If there is a longshot that suits your fancy, follow them without fear.

Monitor key injuries - Major injuries can have a significant impact on the fate of a team. Italy is highly viewed coming into the tournament, but they had a major setback when captain Fabio Cannavaro had ankle surgery that will keep him out of the tournament. Don't bet on a team based on what you may have heard about it until you make sure that the lineup is intact. An injury doesn't mean you shouldn't bet on a team. You just need to be aware of the circumstances when you make a pick.

Don't get seduced by depth -
It can be easy to become impressed by a team with a 23-man roster full of stars. It doesn't really matter. Teams start 11 players and can only make three substitutions, so depth is overrated. If your time is limited don't waste your time looking beyond the starting lineups.

Consider rivalries - Rivalries are a big deal in sports, but they can be especially significant in soccer. Hundreds of years of history and tension can play itself out on the soccer field. Teams will get up for their big rivalry games, and the lesser team can often play beyond themselves. Poland and Germany is a classic example - Germany is the clearly superior team, but Poland was able to play them tough in the World Cup.

Look for clashing styles - Opportunities can abound in North American sports when an offensive team meets a defensive one. If you guess which style will be dominant and you are correct then you will usually be able to do well betting both the lines and the totals. The same thing is true in soccer. By looking at the way the teams played in Euro qualifying and in their exhibition matches since then you can see which teams are particularly explosive or stingy.

Read desperation levels - Because a team only needs to finish in the top two to make it through to the second round it is quite common that they can have clinched a spot after just two of their three games. In those cases they won't be inspired to play as hard as they otherwise might, and they may give bench players some playing time. On the other hand, a team that needs to win or be eliminated can play better than we are used to.

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2008 Euro Soccer Value Bets
by T.O. Whenham

With Euro 2008 finally just around the corner, and the favorites firmly established, now is as good a time as any to take a look to see which of the longshots could be worth a closer look. This is a great tournament to look for upsets. Last time around in 2004 no one was expecting Greece to make it to the final, or out of the first round for that matter. They ended up winning the whole thing, and they even knocked out the heavily-favored French to get there. On the other hand, everyone would have guessed that Germany, Italy and Spain would have been key players in the elimination round, but none of them made it that far.

In 2000, Portugal and Romania made it out of Group A, and Germany and England didn't. Italy made it to the final of the World Cup in 1994, but couldn't get out of the group stage two years later. Upsets are par for the course, and because bettors tend to lock in on the most popular and obvious teams they can also be very profitable if you correctly spot them. Here are three teams that could potentially be live longshots in this year's version of the tournament

Poland - Germany is heavily favored to win Group B, and are favored to win it all. Some team will have to fill the second qualifying spot, though, and it could be Poland. They are the third choice at 9/1 to win the group. Germany is at 4/7 and Croatia sits at 11/5. Poland is certainly a longshot, but they are a pesky team with nothing to lose, and that is just the kind of team that could be dangerous here. On the surface they are coming off a disappointing World Cup. The one bright light hidden in that tournament, though, was their performance against Germany. The Germans won that game 1-0, but they needed a goal in injury time to do it. Poland frustrated Germany, and played beyond themselves for a lot of the game because of the intensity of the rivalry they feel with the Germans.

Since that tournament the Poles have made significant changes, the key one being the installation of coach Leo Beenhakker. He has the team playing better, and most importantly he has the team believing that they are legitimate contenders. They come into the tournament relatively healthy and determined. If they could find a way to play Germany to a draw then they would stand a good chance of moving on. Croatia is clearly a better team, but not so much so as to be insurmountable. The game against Croatia will essentially be a one-game playoff, and you will likely be able to back Poland at a very pleasant price.

Greece - They captured magic in a bottle once, so why couldn't they do it again? They certainly don't have a harder draw than last time. They aren't as unknown as last time when they were 80/1, either, but at 25/1 to win it all they still aren't seen as a serious contender. Their group, Group D, is wide open. Spain is the clear favorite, but Russia and Sweden have as many problems and concerns as the Greeks. There are a few things I like about this team. First, they have experience. Ten of their 23 players return from 2004, so the team will know how to handle the pressure of the situation.

Ironically, I also like the Greeks because they have struggled in recent games. They got beat by Armenia in a friendly tune-up for this tournament, and many will point to that as proof that this team is in trouble. I hope they do, because that will just add more value to the prices the team faces. More significant that those unimportant tune-ups in my mind is what they did in qualifying for this tournament. They won 10 of their 12 games, and the 31 points they earned was more than any other team in the tournament. They are ready. They also still play the relentless defense that got them to the championship last time. They allowed just 10 goals in their 12 qualifying games, and four of those were in one disastrous game, so they can shut down teams as well as anyone. That frustrates their opponents and causes mistakes that they have shown they can exploit. Finally, I like this team because they have something to play for. Everyone thinks that their win last time was a fluke, but they clearly don't. The best way to prove their point is to go out and put up another solid showing. I don't expect them to defend their title, but I won't be surprised at all to see them make it beyond round one.

Romania - I am least confident about this team, but they are still worthy of a quick look. They are stuck in an absolute group of death, Group C, with France, Italy and the Netherlands. With three teams in a group, though, you can be certain that they are going to damage each other. That could leave room for a team to sneak right up the middle and grab one of the two qualifying spots. Romania has an uphill battle, but they are a tough, feisty team. They showed that off in October when they shocked the Dutch in qualifying.

The team hasn't played in an international tournament since 2000, but they got to the second round there in a similar situation - a group with three strong teams and them. Victor Piturca coached that team, and he is back at the helm after a four-year absence. He gets the best out of his team, as shown both by the win over the Dutch and a stunning 3-0 defeat of the Russians in a friendly. They have some decent talent and an excellent work ethic, and bettors will almost certainly underestimate them.

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Italian referee to work Euro 2008 opener
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

VIENNA, Austria (AP) -Roberto Rosetti of Italy will referee the opening game of the European Championship between co-host Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

UEFA announced on Thursday that the 40-year-old hospital director from Turin, who also refereed at the 2006 World Cup, would take charge of Saturday's Group A game at the St. Jakob Park Stadium in Basel.

German referee Herbert Fandel will handle the second game of the 31-match championship between Group A rivals Portugal and Turkey in Geneva, which kicks off later Saturday.

Pieter Vink of the Netherlands will referee Sunday's first Group B game between co-host Austria and Croatia at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, which also hosts the June 29 final. Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo will handle the other Group B match between three-time champion Germany and Poland in Klagenfurt.

The organizers have 12 trios of officials - all three from the same country - to handle the games.

The referees have been encouraged to stop matches if a player is injured on the field and needs medical attention.

Traditionally, if a player is hurt, the team with possession kicks the ball out of play. When play resumes, the other team returns the ball to the side that originally had possession.

''If it's a serious injury, the referee has a responsibility, according to the laws of the game, to stop the game, and the restart is a drop ball,'' Yvan Cornu, UEFA's head of refereeing, said Thursday. ''But, of course, if a player decides to kick the ball out of the field of play, the referee can do nothing.''

During the Champions League final last month, Manchester United striker Carlos Tevez kicked the ball out when a player was down and did so in a manner that put Chelsea in a defensive position. When play resumed, there was pushing and shoving that led to Chelsea striker Didier Drogba's red card.

''It started with (what was) considered as a fair-play gesture,'' Cornu said. ''And it finished with a mass confrontation with pushing and maybe punching.''

Cornu said UEFA wants the ''referee to take charge, and we may avoid this situation where it finishes in a mass confrontation, disciplinary sanction.''

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DEAR HOOLIGANS: Swiss police have been writing to suspected football hooligans asking them to kindly refrain from violence at this month's Euro 2008.

''We know you to be a person who hasn't always stuck to the rules at sporting events,'' the letter sent to some 60 known troublemakers says.

It ends: ''We hope that any encounter between you and us at this event will be nothing but pleasant. If you have any questions about this matter, please contact us. The Police.''

The letters were sent out two weeks ago to persons known to have repeatedly caused problems at past matches, Meinrad Stoecklin, a spokesman for Basel-Country police, said Thursday.

Some 320 people are registered on Switzerland's federal hooligan database.

Another 6,000 foreigners are recorded as ''risky fans,'' but federal police declined to say how many of those would be automatically deported if they come to Switzerland.

Although the Alpine country is not usually known as a hotbed of soccer violence, recent incidents during Swiss league games have prompted concern.

Policing will be increased fivefold for Euro 2008 games, with extra security on hand around the host cities and at potential flashpoints.

Organizers are also hoping that the cost of match tickets, travel and hotels will keep many potential hooligans away from the stadiums.

Also a Romanian police chief sent a list of 90 fans who have been banned from Romanian football matches for provoking violence to Swiss officials.

Gen. Olimpiodor Antonescu who heads Romania's anti-riot police, said Swiss officials would decide whether to let the fans into stadiums. Romania plays its opening match against France on June 9.

''It's up to Swiss authorities if they allow or ban these supporters who are banned from Romanian stadiums,'' Antonescu said in a statement from Bucharest.

Violence at Romanian football games has increased in recent years, and authorities have begun to bar troublesome fans from games. In the past year, 700 people have been fined for bad behavior, and there have been 70 more serious cases of misdemeanors, according to police.

Romania's interior ministry said Wednesday it was sending one dozen anti-riot police and regular police officers to Zurich and Bern to help Swiss police at Romanian games.

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HELP FOR BLIND FANS: Some blind and visually impaired fans will get to follow Euro 2008 matches at Austrian stadiums through headphones, thanks to a program aimed at making the tournament accessible to all.

Project coordinator Britta Wagner of the platform ''football 4 all'' says the concept was a great success in Germany and promises to be an equal hit in Austria.

The idea is simple: People will get live descriptions of game action - in German - through the headphones so they can follow along in their seats in the stadium without actually seeing the ball.

''This is really a super service,'' Wagner said.

But the perk is limited to those lucky enough to hold special tickets. Wagner said a total of 160 passes were made available by UEFA at reduced costs. All were snapped up quickly.

''They're really great seats ... the final sold out in a minute,'' Wagner said.

Each visually impaired fan who secured a ticket can bring along an escort for free.

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BIG SPENDERS: German soccer federation president Theo Zwanziger defended his big-spending team for staying at one of the top hotels in Switzerland although it is playing all its group games in Austria.

German media estimate the cost of the hotel for the 23 players and staff at about $2.47 million. If the team wins the title, the federation will give a bonus of $386,650 to every player. The Germans are flying to all their games, two of which are in Klagenfurt and one in Vienna.

''You have to feed the cow well to be able to get the milk,'' Zwanziger said after visiting the team at its luxurious base outside Locarno. ''It's not like school kids staying at a hostel.''

A successful team means more lucrative sponsorship and television rights, Zwanziger said. Because of such contracts, the federation, which has more than 6 million members, was able to distribute $162.4 million over the last three years among its grass-roots organizations.

''The amateurs have no need to worry,'' Zwanziger said.

The Germans have brought in pool and table tennis sets to help the players relax at the hotel.

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RANKING WORRIES: Portugal's players want a good showing at the European Championship to put the national team back in the top 10 of FIFA's monthly rankings.

Portugal dropped two spots in the list released Wednesday, from ninth to 11th.

''Hopefully we can go as far as possible in the Euro and return to the (top) spots,'' winger Armando Petit said. ''It's where Portugal deserves to be.''

Paulo Ferreira said players shouldn't be focused on the rankings, but acknowledged a successful performance in Switzerland and Austria can only help.

''We will naturally move up if we do well here,'' he said.

England and the Netherlands moved ahead of Portugal in Wednesday's rankings. The Euro 2004 finalists open their tournament schedule against Turkey on Saturday in Geneva.

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DON'T RAIN ON MY PARADE: Euro 2008 party organizers aren't worried about rain spoiling the fun on opening night.

Despite forecasts of rain for Saturday, when Switzerland meets the Czech Republic in Basel and Portugal plays Turkey in Geneva, officials insist the open-air parties in the two Swiss host cities will be a success.

''If there's a very strong storm we'll open a nearby ice skating rink,'' Frederic Hohl, organizer of the Geneva event, said Thursday. ''It's just five minutes from the fan zone and we have space for more than 4,000 there,'' he said.

Other fans could seek refuge in the many bars and cafes around Geneva's Planpalais square, close to the old town and university area.

In case of light rain, fans will be handed waterproof capes; umbrellas aren't allowed in the fan zone, Hohl said.

In Basel, too, organizers were confident that a bit of spring rain won't put off people.

''The seating area in our fan zone is covered, but places there are almost sold out,'' said Christoph Bosshardt, the city's project manager for Euros. ''If the weather looks like it'll be bad for longer we'll think of something.''

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Switzerland vs Czech Republic

First match of Euro 2008. The home team Swiss will play the first match against the Rep Czech and the pressure will be high here, in fact both team have hopes to grab the next round. In this group there are also Portugal, that should be one of the two teams promoted, and Turkey, that in my eyes canat have the enough strength to complete for the promotion, so these two teams, Switzerland and Rep. Czech will fight for the second place.

The home team in the last two years has improved their strength and now they can be considered a good team, their strength is the defensive line that in the last World Championship didnat concede a single goal. For the coach Kunnh the major problem in this Championship will be tha attack line where the only Frei can assure something good while the other players seem to be still little bit weak for this international competition. The other N’Kufo is still a little bit immature to be decisive in this kind of competition but he can give his contribution to Swiss cause.

In the middle of the field Barnetta (he should be available even if in the recent past he suffered an injury), Inler, Behrami and Streller form a quality and quantitative section.

Their opponent, Rep. Czech is the second favourite in the group to join the second leg of this competition but in my idea they are not so strong as the bookies are showing.

In the recent past they lost some good and important players like Nedved, Poborsky and Rosicki and in spite of their tactic is not depending by the people the absence of players like these will put on the fire the coach.

This team have more experience than the other concurrent in the group and also they have a very organised and efficient football: good defensive line where Ujifalusi and Rozenhal are the pillars while Cech in the goal is a security; the midfield is weak due the absence of Nedved, Poborsky and Rosicki while the attack line with Koller and, I hope Fenin, seem to be well organised.

At the end for the inaugural match I see a tight match with both teams well covered and considering the difficult for both teams to score and the good defensive lines I want to suggest an Under 2.5 here.

First match of Euro 2008. The home team Swiss will play the first match against the Rep Czech and the pressure will be high here, in fact both team have hopes to grab the next round. In this group there are also Portugal, that should be one of the two teams promoted, and Turkey, that in my eyes canat have the enough strength to complete for the promotion, so these two teams, Switzerland and Rep. Czech will fight for the second place.

The home team in the last two years has improved their strength and now they can be considered a good team, their strength is the defensive line that in the last World Championship didnat concede a single goal. For the coach Kunnh the major problem in this Championship will be tha attack line where the only Frei can assure something good while the other players seem to be still little bit weak for this international competition. The other Kufo is still a little bit immature to be decisive in this kind of competition but he can give his contribution to Swiss cause.

In the middle of the field Barnetta (he should be available even if in the recent past he suffered an injury), Inler, Behrami and Streller form a quality and quantitative section.

Their opponent, Rep. Czech is the second favourite in the group to join the second leg of this competition but in my idea they are not so strong as the bookies are showing.

In the recent past they lost some good and important players like Nedved, Poborsky and Rosicki and in spite of their tactic is not depending by the people the absence of players like these will put on the fire the coach.

This team have more experience than the other concurrent in the group and also they have a very organised and efficient football: good defensive line where Ujifalusi and Rozenhal are the pillars while Cech in the goal is a security; the midfield is weak due the absence of Nedved, Poborsky and Rosicki while the attack line with Koller and, I hope Fenin, seem to be well organised.

At the end for the inaugural match I see a tight match with both teams well covered and considering the difficult for both teams to score and the good defensive lines I want to suggest an  Goal Line Under -- 2  --(bet365)

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Skudrulacis wrote:


there will be very hard game Germany vs. Poland.. because polish players always are playing very hard against germany

No bet for me! very difficult game, Germany they are favourite - Poland this now different team i see game Poland - Portugal (http://youtube.com/watch?v=cPxgqInIqtM) all is possible  wink

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EURO 2008 Preview: Italy faces lofty expectations

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There are plenty of reasons for Italy to be optimistic ahead of Euro 2008.

The Azzurri enters the competition as defending World Cup champions, they are ranked third in the latest FIFA rankings, which is the highest of any European team, and they won their qualifying group by losing just once in 12 games.

These statistics all serve to make Italy one of the favorites to lift the trophy at the end of June, adding to their four World Cups and one European title.

But while expectations will no doubt be enormous, there are certainly more questions than normal facing such a highly-touted squad.

The first centers around manager Roberto Donadoni, who has surprisingly little managerial experience for someone taking on such a big job.

The 44-year-old Donadoni represents a bit of a gamble, but he has already passed one test in helping Italy qualify for the competition. His performance will no doubt be scrutinized because Italy is sure to come up against some tough times playing in the "Group of Death", which includes France, the Netherlands and Romania.

Such a tough draw is no way to treat the defending World Cup champs, but they will be severely tested in their efforts to navigate their way into the knockout round.

Defense is clearly the strength of this team. It carried them to the World Cup title and will be the deciding factor in how far the team goes in this competition.

The unit is anchored by one of the world's top goalkeepers in Gianluigi Buffon, but captain and reigning footballer of the year Fabio Cannavaro is out after tearing ligaments in his ankle in training, leaving a huge hole in the middle of the back line.

Marco Materazzi is best known for being on the receiving end of a head butt from Frenchman Zinedine Zidane in the World Cup final, but he is also a very talented defender who must now step up and assume an even larger role in Cannavaro's absence.

How well the Italian defense adjusts without its leader will be a huge point of interest as the tournament goes on.

Bayern Munich's Luca Toni will man the lone spot up top after he scored 24 goals in the Bundesliga this past season, while veteran Alessandro Del Piero, the leading scorer in Serie A this campaign, should be the first man off the bench.

Toni is somewhat of a late bloomer as he is really hitting his prime at age 31. He began his career in the low levels of Italian soccer before bursting onto the scene with Fiorentina in 2005-06 by scoring 31 goals.

He has averaged about a goal every two games since joining the national team, and his success will be vital if Italy is to carry hopes of a deep run in the tournament.

The Bayern striker is good in the air and deadly when he gets the ball near the goal. He is a pure scorer, but also needs good service from the midfield to set up his goals, which could be an issue.

The midfield is a big question mark because of a lack of playmakers, not a lack of talent. Veterans like Gennaro Gattuso and Simone Perrotta are solid players who are good defensively but lack any real creative flare in attack.

Mauro Camoranesi has shown an ability to create from the wing, but the unit's overall lack of an offensive threat has been missing since the retirement of Francesco Totti.

OUTLOOK:

Italy is one of the best defensive teams in the world, but Cannavaro's absence could have a devastating effect. A good result against the Netherlands in the opener is crucial because Italy has not had great success against France, who they have not beaten in regulation since the 1978 World Cup. A second European title is well within reach, but the team is likely to play many close games, which means they will need a little luck.

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EURO 2008 Preview: Swiss hope to surprise

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Switzerland didn't allow a single goal two years ago in the World Cup but was eliminated in its first knockout round game in penalty kicks.

Veteran coach Jakob Kuhn warns that the Switzerland club entering the Euro 2008 finals is good, but only time will tell if it's better than two years ago.

"I don't know if we are stronger than we were back then at the same stage - that's two years ago and now is now," said Kuhn, who has coached Switzerland since 2001.

Essentially an afterthought in the star-studded event, the Swiss possess enough talent to make a serious run at the knockout stage. Belgium, which co-hosted in 2000 with the Netherlands, is the only host country that has failed to advance past the group stage.

Switzerland co-hosts this year's tournament with Austria and its neighbor does host the final. But if Switzerland makes it that far - which is a long shot - it would be uncharted territory.

The Swiss have reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup three times - 1934, 1938 and 1954 - but have never reached the knockout round of the Euro finals in two previous appearances (1996 and 2004).

With the motivation of the loss to the Ukraine (3-0 in penalties) in the 2006 World Cup and being a host, Switzerland may have found the correct mix for some success.

Add in a little emotion - Kuhn's wife Alice was recently hospitalized - and the Swiss could be dangerous if everything falls into place.

"I am here with all of my head, stomach and heart," Kuhn said. "I will be able to do my work and will not need any cover. It is in no way the case that I will not be 100 percent available for my work with the team."

Patrick Mueller and Philippe Senderos were two of the key defenders in the 2006 World Cup and the duo will once again help decide Switzerland's fate.

On the opposite end, Alexander Frei has a knack for scoring big goals for the international team. With 35 goals in 59 career international appearances, Frei could provide the lone goal Switzerland needs to win a few games.

Hakan Yakin was the top scorer in Swiss Super League with 24 goals in 32 games for BSC Young Boys, but he will likely come off the bench in the Euro finals.

Switzerland's biggest concern on the field is Tranquillo Barnetta's ankle. The playmaking midfielder was injured in training and could miss the team's opener against the Czech Republic on June 7.

"I have to be prepared to play without him, and we can play without him," said Kuhn.

Although Switzerland lacks the overall talent of some of the teams in its group and the tournament, playing as a team could help the Swiss. Switzerland opens the finals against the Czech Republic on June 7. Portugal and Turkey are also in Group A.

"Everyone is looking forward to the opening game and everywhere in Switzerland you can feel that things start now. It will be important for us to play as a team because this has been the base of our success in the past," Yakin said.

OUTLOOK

Switzerland proved in the 2006 World Cup it's capable of surprises and, as the strongest of the co-hosts for the Euro finals, has to be considered a strong threat to make a run at the knockout stage.

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EURO 2008 Preview: Cech key to the Czech's hopes

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Czech Republic goalie Petr Cech didn't have time to dwell on Chelsea's loss to Manchester United in the Champions League.

Cech couldn't do quite enough to help Chelsea - which was one penalty kick away from winning - capture the Champions League final. He denied Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo for his only save, but that wasn't enough.

But Cech, widely considered the best goalie in the world, decided to turn his attention to the Euro 2008 finals. For the Czech Republic, that's a good thing.

"In football, everything goes so quickly and you have to move on," Cech told UEFA.com. "It was disappointing in Moscow because we were so close to winning the Champions League.

"For me it's a big advantage that there is another tournament waiting because I can now concentrate on EURO. It helps me to cope with the disappointment."

Cech, a 6-foot-5, 191-pound machine, is capable of carrying a team - almost any team - through a tournament. The fact that Cech's in goal for the sixth-ranked team in world just makes the Czech's that much more dangerous.

"I have more experience now so I know what's coming but still you can feel the tension and you know how big an event this is," Cech said. "I love to play in these tournaments because the whole world is watching and there's pressure, adrenaline and an amazing number of supporters.

"This is the top level and I always really look forward to these events."

Give some of the credit to the Czech's defense, which allowed just fives goals in qualifying. David Rozehnal anchors the unit in front of Cech.

Cech's importance grew when midfielder Tomas Rosicky was ruled out of the final tournament with a hamstring injury. Rosicky is a veteran midfielder who is key to the Czech's offense.

Cech could take over the captain's arm band from Rosicky.

Forward Jan Koller is the Czech's other well-known offensive threat but the 34- year-old, who has 51 goals in 86 international games, is past his prime. That puts more pressure on Martin Fenin and Milan Baros if Koller can't produce.

Cech knows Group A, which includes Portugal, Turkey and co-hosts Switzerland, will not be an easy first step.

"It's a tough group," he said. "It will be important how Switzerland cope with the pressure of being the hosts. I remember playing in the 1999 UEFA European Under-16 Championship, which is not really comparable, but we were the hosts and there was extra pressure because people expect you to play well in your own country.

"It gave us an extra motivation and we played better because of that, so we'll see how they can cope."

The veteran goalie is confident his country, which finished second in the 1996 Euro finals, will advance past the group stage.

"We have a good squad and we can reach the quarterfinals, which is our target," Cech said. "We'll see what happens after that."

OUTLOOK

The Czech's should advance through group play but it can't slip up against co- hosts Switzerland, which is due to pull off an upset. As long as Cech's team avoids an upset, the country is good enough to win the whole tournament.

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EURO 2008 Preview: Another chance to fulfill potential for Spain

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It has been 34 years since Spain captured its last major title, and although many talented teams have been assembled since that time, they have each failed to live up to expectations.

Spain once again enters a major tournament as one of the favorites, with a roster that includes superstar players like Fernando Torres, Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Cesc Fabregas.

The challenge for manager Luis Aragones and the rest of the team at Austria and Switzerland will be to finally deliver on all the promise that this team possesses.

Too often the team has come up short when it matters most, and they will once again be looking to erase a bad memory from a recent competition. Spain failed to advance past the group stage in Euro 2004, and after easily winning a weak group at the 2006 World Cup, they were once again bounced early by eventual finalists France.

Spain was drawn into a balanced Group D for this competition, which includes defending champions Greece, as well as Sweden and Russia.

While they will once again be clear favorites to win their group, there is no easy game for Spain, and they must be sure to get started from the first game, something they did not do in qualifying.

After losing two of its first three games, Spain was sitting near the bottom of the group, and calls for the head of Aragones were beginning to get louder.

However, the team would rebound to finish unbeaten in its last nine games, including eight wins, and now hopes to keep some of that momentum heading into the finals.

Aragones will have no shortage of talent at his disposal, with quality options at every position on the field.

Casillas will once again get the nod in goal and try to show why he is one of the top goalkeepers in the world. Having such an experienced keeper is always a comfort to any back line, and Casillas will provide them a safety net in case there happens to be any breakdowns in the back.

Veteran Carles Puyol anchors a talented defense that conceded only eight goals in 12 qualifying matches, but the team's top overall defender has to be Real Madrid's Ramos, who is quickly becoming one of the best in the world.

Ramos has shown his ability not only as a top-notch defender, but also as a threat to get forward and score goals. He tallied five times for the La Liga champions this past season, and he will have to be accounted for by any team in this tournament.

The midfield is loaded with capable creators, but none is poised for a big breakthrough like Fabregas. The Arsenal midfielder enjoyed another fine campaign as he notched seven goals and served as the linchpin for one of the most dangerous attacks in Europe.

He will have plenty of help around him as well, with Barcelona duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Villarreal's Marcos Senna also emerged as a major midfield presence in La Liga this past season, while David Silva and Xabi Alonso offer Aragones quality options as well.

Such a talented midfield will be complemented by one of the world's top strikers in Torres, who made quite an impression in his first season at Liverpool, bagging 24 goals.

"El Nino" has the potential to lead the entire tournament in goals, while Valencia's David Villa and the leading scorer in La Liga this past season, Daniel Guiza of Mallorca, provide good options off the bench.

Aragones received some criticism when he left longtime captain Raul off his roster, especially after the striker netted 18 goals for Real Madrid this season, but there are not many teams in the tournament with a roster that is as deep or as talented as the one Aragones has put together for Spain.

OUTLOOK

The team has more than enough talent to win the competition, but that is nothing new. The real question is whether or not they are able to rise to the occasion and finally fulfill their potential. The group is not easy, but Spain should finish on top. However, a potential quarterfinal matchup with either France or Italy could spell another early exit.

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EURO 2008 Preview: France holds recipe for success

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After reaching the World Cup final in 2006, France will be hoping to build on that success and capture a third European championship in Austria and Switzerland.

The French enter the competition as one of the favorites not only in Group C, but a team that poses a major threat to win the whole thing. With a good mix of youth and experience, anything less than a trip back to the final would be disappointing.

Les Bleus will have plenty of work to do after being drawn into the "Group of Death" with Italy, the Netherlands and Romania, but their overall quality should carry them deep into the knockout round.

While Zinedine Zidane stole most of the headlines during the 2006 World Cup run, it was the play of fellow midfielder Franck Ribery that fueled the French attack. The 25-year-old Ribery is coming off of a fantastic debut season at Bayern Munich that saw him score 11 goals and help Bayern win the Bundesliga title.

Ribery will once again be counted on to create in the midfield, and he will be joined by veteran Patrick Vieira as well as 20-year-old Marseille star Samir Nasri. Claude Makelele has been one of the best defensive midfielders in the world over the past 10 years, while Chelsea teammate Florent Malouda will be playing out wide and hoping to rebound from a frustrating season with the London club.

Lilian Thuram is the most capped international in French soccer history, and he will bring his vast experience to a back line that also includes William Gallas and Patrice Evra. Thuram is clearly in the twilight of his career, but he wouldn't mind adding another title to his already gaudy resume.

Both Gallas and Evra enjoyed strong seasons with their respective clubs as Gallas scored a number of big goals in his role as captain of Arsenal, with the 27-year-old Evra capturing both the Premiership and Champions League titles with Manchester United.

Barcelona's Eric Abidal is likely to grab a spot in the starting lineup, while Francois Clerc of Lyon will push for time as well.

Goalkeeper Gregory Coupet will be entering his first major international tournament as the starter, but although he lacks big-game experience on the international stage, he has been a big part of the Lyon side that has won the last seven Ligue 1 titles.

Thierry Henry is France's all-time leader in goals, but he enters the competition on the heels of an injury filled and disappointing year with Barcelona. Despite the subpar season, it is hard to bet against Henry not rebounding and having a strong tournament.

Joining Henry in attack will be one of the top young strikers in the world, Lyon's Karim Benzema. The 20-year-old phenom led Ligue 1 with 21 goals and he has attracted interest from almost every major club in Europe. Much like England's Wayne Rooney at EURO 2004, this could be Benzema's chance to explode into the spotlight.

Manager Raymond Domenech may regret not including Juventus striker David Trezeguet in his team, instead opting for inexperienced St. Etienne man Bafetimbi Gomis, but even without Trezeguet this is a strike force with more than enough firepower.

OUTLOOK

France is one of the deepest and most balanced teams in the entire competition. A good mix of youth and experience will serve to see them through a tough group and deep into the knockout stages of the tournament. It wouldn't be at all surprising to see them lift a third European title.

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EURO 2008 Preview: Portugal wants first title

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Portugal wasted the chance to lift the Euro trophy at home in 2004, losing in the final to surprising champion Greece, 1-0.

It was the closest the club has ever come to winning a major trophy and despite the disappointment, Portugal rebounded to reach the semifinals of the '06 World Cup.

Now coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led Brazil to the 2002 World Cup, is trying to help Portugal take the final step at Euro 2008.

With the best player in the world - Cristiano Ronaldo - on the roster, this may finally be Portugal's time.

Ronaldo emerged during the 2004 Euro finals as a 19-year-old, scoring two goals to earn a spot on the all-tournament team.

He's only gotten better since.

Now the captain of Portugal - he is a veteran at age 23 - Ronaldo is coming off a magical season with Manchester United. He scored 42 goals this season to lead United to the Champions League and Premier League titles.

With 54 appearances for Portugal - and 20 goals - Ronaldo is capable of turning the tears of disappointment from '04 to tears of joy this year.

"There have been a few players described as the new George Best over the years, but this is the first time it's been a compliment to me," United legend George Best once said about Ronaldo.

Ronaldo has the rare blend of, well, everything a player needs. The 6-foot-1 winger is also blessed with a great group of teammates.

Deco, Joao Moutinho, Petit and Simao are also expected to start in midfield and Nuno Gomes, who has 20 goals in 68 international games, is the lone striker.

Moutinho is the only question, with Scolari also considering Miguel Veloso and Raul Meireles. One of the three will join Barcelona's Deco and Benfica's Petit in the middle with Ronaldo and Atletico Madrid's Simao on the wings.

Defensively, Jose Bosingwa, Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe and Paulo Ferreira should be the starters. All four started in Portugal's last Euro tune-up. Ricardo has 75 appearances for Portugal and started in Euro 2004 and the World Cup in 2006 and will be the goalie again for this tournament.

Scolari's only concern in the final stages of preparation was fitness, but the coach should have that sorted out before the June 7 opener against Turkey.

"Our team is not in perfect condition," Scolari admitted in late May.

One thing Scolari wasn't concerned about was his team's chances of winning.

"We leave Portugal," he said, "bearing in mind we could reach the final and win it."

In addition to Turkey, the Czech Republic and co-hosts Switzerland are also in Group A.

OUTLOOK

Portugal will be motivated by its near miss in 2004 and its World Cup exit in 2006 - a 3-1 loss to Germany in the third-place game. Even without Ronaldo, the team is pretty good. With him around, the club is capable of anything - which obviously includes a championship.

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EURO 2008 Preview: Germany has high expectations

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Germany coach Joachim Loew wasn't thrilled after a 2-2 tie with Belarus on May 27, but he wasn't too concerned either.

Germany, one of the favorites to win Euro 2008, blew a two-goal lead in the tie against Belarus - which is ranked 60th in the world by FIFA.

Loew was upset, but the game capped a hard week of training and he was sure the team would be ready for its Euro finals opener against Poland on June 8.

"In twelve days, all the players will be in much better form," he said. "I can promise you that."

Germany followed the tie with a 2-1 win over 31st-ranked Serbia on May 31. What was impressive, though, was that Germany overcame an early deficit with a pair of goals in the final 20 minutes.

Sure, the opposition gets a lot tougher than Serbia over the next month but the rally proved just how dangerous Germany could be in the finals.

Germany, ranked fifth in the world, closely resembles its 2006 World Cup third- place team. Fifteen players - including captain Michael Ballack - are back from that group.

Although Germany was strong in the last World Cup and was second in 2002, it's currently in a long drought - for Germany at least - without a major title. The last time Germany won a major crown was the Euro finals in 1996.

And in the last two Euro finals, Germany hasn't been a factor. The Germans are winless in their last six games in the finals dating back to their 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in the '96 championship - its record third Euro title.

Ballack, who scored the game winner against Serbia, could be the difference for Germany. He returned from potential career-ending ankle surgery to lead Chelsea to the Champions League final and is in top form.

With 36 goals in 81 games for Germany, the versatile midfielder has established himself as one of the country's all-time greats.

"I am really impatient for the tournament to begin," Ballack said.

Ballack will anchor the team from a free-roaming center midfield position that will allow him to defend and attack. Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is just 23 but has a surprising 51 national team appearances, has been on the left side for a few years and injury-plagued Torsten Frings seems to have regained fitness and will feature in a defensive midfield role.

The only question in midfield is who will replace veteran Bernd Schneider, who also has 81 appearances but is out with an injury, on the right. Clemens Fritz, a defender who has played right midfield on occasion, will likely be the choice but has a tough job replacing Schneider.

Germany also has questions on offense, but only because it features so many top strikers. Veteran Miroslav Klose, who still had 10 goals and eight assists with Bayern Munich during a down year, is not a sure thing to start. Lukas Podolski, who has started alongside Klose, Mario Gomez, Kevin Kuranyi and Oliver Neuville are the other options.

Gomez was in top form for Stuttgart this season, scoring 28 goals in 32 matches and he has two goals in his last three appearances for Germany. Whether he gets a starting role could play a major factor in the team's success.

Germany has the talent to be the best defensive clubs in the tournament with Per Mertesacker and Christoph Metzelder in the middle, and Philipp Lahm and either Marcell Jansen, who is likely to start, or Heiko Westermann on the outside.

Jens Lehmann will be in goal and the team is confident with the 38-year-old who lost his starting role with Arsenal during the club season.

"Jens is so experienced. He knows exactly what is expected of him," Frings said. "He is the perfect goalkeeper for this tournament."

In addition to Poland, co-hosts Austria and Croatia are also in Group B with the Germans. The top two teams from the group reach the quarterfinals.

OUTLOOK

Germany is experienced at every position on the field and has a number of young players who performed well during the 2006 World Cup. Germany is in the easiest group - which almost guarantees a berth in the quarterfinals for the first time since '96 - and has enough talent to win its fourth Euro title

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These guys know the score for Euro 2008

Here are 10 players likely to get the winning goal in European Championship.

Someone will score the goal.

It could be any one of the 368 players taking part in the 13th European Championship, but it is obviously more likely to be a striker than a defender.

But which one?

In Switzerland on Saturday and in Austria on Sunday, the Euro 2008 tournament will set off on its gallop to the finish line at Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna on June 29.

There, an as-yet-unknown player will fire, slide, deflect, nudge, head, or in some other fashion propel the ball across the line that will earn his country the championship.

There are dozens of top-rate forwards in the 31-game event, but odds are that the tournament-winning goal will be scored by one of the 10 listed below.

These are the premier strikers of Euro 2008, the goal scorers who will be most closely watched in the coming weeks. Some will succeed, some will fail, some might not even play, but one will emerge supreme.

But which one?

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) -- Europe's No. 1 goal scorer, winner of the Golden Shoe in 2008, and soon to become the world's most expensive player if a move from Manchester United to Real Madrid transpires, Ronaldo could have a superb Euro 2008 or might be so distracted by transfer talk that he fails to deliver. Real Madrid reportedly is dangling an astonishing salary of $586,000 a week, after tax, in front of the 23-year-old. Meanwhile, Portugal Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari on Friday forbade his team from even mentioning the subject.

2. Luca Toni (Italy) -- After being snapped up for what now seems a bargain $17 million from Fiorentina one year ago, the lanky Toni enjoyed a phenomenal first season with Bayern Munich. He was the top scorer in the Bundesliga and helped propel Bayern to a trio of titles: the German league, the German Cup and the German League Cup. His season haul of 39 goals was only two fewer than Ronaldo's 41. On average, he has scored once in every two games for Italy.

3. Miroslav Klose (Germany) -- The leading goal scorer from the 2006 World Cup is a tournament player. He netted five in the 2002 World Cup and five more in 2006 and, even though he turns 30 on Monday, he remains one of the sport's most deadly finishers. Toni has stolen the luster from him at Bayern Munich, but he is still Germany's top choice up front. Coach Joachim Low said this week that the Polish-born Klose is "back to his old dynamic self" and that he had "never seen him looking so fit, so agile and so strong."

4. Thierry Henry (France) -- This is probably the last hurrah for Henry on the global stage. He has a national-record 44 goals in 100 games for France and has won a World Cup (1998) and a European Championship (2000) but has said he might retire from international competition after Euro 2008. If so, chances are he'd like to extend his goal record to 50, if possible. If he does, France will go far, but Henry's past season at Barcelona was a dud. He was played out of position and lost confidence. Now, he needs to recapture his form in a hurry.

5. Jan Koller (Czech Republic) -- The bald giant of a man will be remembered none too fondly by U.S. fans. It was Koller who scored against the Americans a mere five minutes into the 2006 World Cup. He has found the back of the net 54 times in 86 games for the national team, an all-time Czech record, but at 35 there are questions about just how much he will have left at this level.

6. Ruud Van Nistlerooy (Netherlands) -- The Real Madrid and former Manchester United striker has been one of Europe's most feared strikers for several years. He has been the league-leading scorer in Holland, England and Spain and twice in the European Champions League. His experience with the Dutch national team has been less effective, however. Now, Coach Marco Van Basten is using him as a lone striker, supported by three attacking players, and the four-pronged offense could be the key for the Netherlands.

7. Alessandro Del Piero (Italy) -- No one made more noise in Serie A during the 2007-2008 Italian season than veteran Del Piero, who, at 33, scored more than 20 goals for Juventus, his best output in a decade. There was Italy-wide clamor for him to be on the Euro 2008 roster and Coach Roberto Donadoni eventually agreed. Whether Donadoni, with Toni at his disposal, will allow Del Piero to add to the 27 goals he has scored for the Azzurri remains to be seen, but given the 2006 World Cup winner's superb form, it is likely.

8. Karim Benzema (France) -- If Henry struggles and if French Coach Raymond Domenech has the nerve, then 20-year-old Benzema stands a good chance of being the revelation of Euro 2008. Benzema has been likened to former French great Zinedine Zidane, but in at least one aspect he is superior. He scores more goals than Zidane. In the season just ended, he helped Olympique Lyon win its seventh consecutive French league championship, and was chosen French player of the year.

9. Fernando Torres (Spain) -- Coach Luis Aragones' decision to exclude Spain's all-time leading goal scorer, Raul, from his roster, raised many eyebrows. The only way the move will not come back to haunt him is if Torres or teammate David Villa come through. Torres went neck-and-neck with Ronaldo during the English Premier League season and finished with 33 goals. An atypical striker in the sense that he does not look in the least bit imposing, Torres, 24, nonetheless has the goal scorer's instinct and his finishing is impeccable. Aragones hopes that will prove true in Euro 2008.

10. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden) -- Strange as it may seem to include a player who has not scored a goal for his country since 2005, Ibrahimovic's play for Italian champion Inter Milan demands his inclusion here. To spur the 26-year-old to greater heights, Swedish Coach Lars Lagerback recalled veteran Henrik Larsson, 36, to his squad. Ibrahimovic was delighted. "Henrik and I have a special relationship and we have played a lot together," he said. "He helps me a lot and he can help me during this championship. I respect all the strikers in our team, but Henrik is who I play best with."

Euro Quote of the Day -- "You have to feed the cow well to be able to get the milk," said Theo Zwanziger, president of the German soccer federation, responding to media reports that the team's swank hotel in Switzerland would cost the federation $2.47 million.

Euro Statistic of the Day -- The tournament will generate a record $2-billion in income, according to David Taylor, general secretary of UEFA, soccer's European governing body.

Euro Quick Update -- Poland has lost backup goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak and winger Jakub Blaszczykowski to spine and hamstring injuries, respectively. Both will be replaced on the Polish roster. Italy defender Christian Panucci left training early Friday after straining a tendon in his right knee.

Euro Upcoming Games -- Saturday sees Switzerland play the Czech Republic in Basel and Portugal play Turkey in Geneva. On Sunday, Austria opens against Croatia in Vienna and Germany plays Poland in Klagenfurt.

latimes.com

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