Greece= Pretender. Though the Greeks shocked the world in 2004 with their Euro title and their bunkering style may frustrate many opponents, I just don’t see lightning striking twice here.
Russia= Pretender. I soo badly want to say contender but when you are reliant on Andrei Arsharvin as your captain and offensive sparkplug I will choose to pass. They do have a tremendously stout defense working for them and defense can take you far, but need to see more quality attacking play out of this bunch first.
Czech Republic= Contender. Call me crazy but I’m always willing to ride the gloves of a hot goalkeeper in an international tournament. Petr Cech is coming off arguably his best run of form during Chelsea’s Champions League run but he will need help from his attack, mainly coming in the form of Tomas Rosicky.
Poland= Contender. I give this team a contender nod solely for being a home soil team because sometimes nothing can match the motivation of playing on home turf. They have a trio of talented Borussia Dortmund players and Arsenal keeper Szceszney.
Netherlands= Contender. The Dutchmen will be one of the tourney favorites though it will be interesting to see how they fare in pressure situations, looking at you Arjen Robben.
Germany= Contender. Arguably the favorite to win it all, this German team is loaded with attacking talent led by Mario Gomez, Thomas Mueller, and Mesut Ozil though the question for them will be whether the back line can solidify itself and exhibit fine form. I believe with captain Philip Lahm still patrolling back there the Germans will be just fine.
Denmark= Pretender. In any other group I might consider the Danes a contender to move on, but in this Group of Death they should be happy if they don’t finish last.
Portugal= Pretender. They have some nice pieces but same consideration of Denmark applies to them; if they were in any other group I can see them advancing. My main qualm is wondering where the attack will come from besides Cristiano Ronaldo.
Spain= Contender. It is Spain. Enough said.
Italy= Contender. Some will write off the Azzuri due to the tremendously controversial match-fixing scandal (again???? Come on guys) currently going on, but the national team responded well to domestic trouble the last time this occurred (i.e. 2006 World Cup champions). I don’t see them making a deep run in this tournament but nothing would surprise me at this point.
Ireland= Pretender. I badly want to cheer on my Irishmen past the group stage but realistically they will need a St. Patrick style miracle.
Croatia= Pretender. This is a strong attacking team behind Luka Modric and Nikica Jelavic but I question their backline and therefore also their ability to leapfrog either Spain or Italy.
England= Contender…..but only to get past the group stage. This team is no real threat at this year’s tournament and don’t let anyone fool you. They are missing a slew of key players due to injuries (Cahill, Barry, Lampard…..) and the already questionable call-ups of new manager Roy Hodgson do little to inspire hope. Let’s also not forget the fact that they will have to rely on Andy Carroll as their striker for atleast the length of Wayne Rooney’s suspension. Yikes….
France= Contender. I am quite high on the Les Bleus and consider them a dark horse to make a deep run. The memories of the 2010 World Cup fiasco are being put in the rearview mirror under manager Laurent Blanc and this is still one of the supremely talented squads in Europe.
Ukraine= Pretender. Congrats on co-hosting, be lucky to grab a point.
Sweden= Pretender. I can possibly see them moving past England, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic will need a strong tournament……..and some supporting help.
Favorite= Spain. They are defending Euro and World Cup champions. King of the Hill until knocked off.
Dark Horse= France. Team is slowly coming together under Manager Blanc and is terrifyingly talented at times.
Team to watch= England. I only say this because it will be entertaining when they bow out of the competition and the reaction from the fans.
Player to Watch= Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman enjoyed a season of terrific form for Arsenal but his play will be key if Holland has any chance to unseat Spain or Germany.
Sentimental Favorite= The Irish. A decade since their last major tournament and coming off the heels of the Henry handball debacle that ended their last run at a major tournament it would be awesome to see an Irish upset of Spain or Italy. One can dream right????
Joebags Signing Off.