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Euro 2012: what to expect

What’s it all about?

16 teams compete for the biggest prize in European football – the Henri Delaunay Trophy.

Henri who?

Mr Delaunay was UEFA’s first General Secretary, but died in 1955, so was unable to see the very first tournament which took place in France, in 1960. He was essentially the brains behind it.

When does it all start?

Friday, 8th June is when the first game takes place, between Poland and Greece.

And finish?

The final will be on Sunday, 1st July.

Where’s it being held?

Poland and Ukraine.

The Polish host cities are Warsaw, Gdansk, Wroclaw and Poznan.

The Ukrainian host cities are Kiev, Kharkiv, Lviv and Donetsk.

Who’s been the most successful team in the tournament’s history?

I’ll give you one guess. Correct – Germany. They’ve won it a total of three times, in 1972, 1980 and in 1996.

What happened last time?

2008 was when Spain started their era of world dominance. They won the championships in Vienna, beating Germany 1-0 in the final, thanks to Fernando Torres’ strike. (He knew where the back of the net was back then.)

Who’s favourite this year?

It’s very hard to look past Spain, the current holders and World Cup winners. However, write off the Germans at your peril, while there are several sides looking very strong on paper, including France and Holland. (But don’t forget games aren’t played on paper.)

And England?

Ah, yes. Well, expectations are certainly lower this time around, and there appears to be more optimism now Mr Capello has departed. Nevertheless, it’s hard to think the likes of Stewart Downing, Danny Welbeck and Phil Jagielka are going to strike fear into the minds of the major sides.

No chance at all?

Obviously you can never completely write England off, just because they are England, and there’s always a glimmer of hope things may come good one day. In reality though, no. (sorry)

Any players to look out for?

Yes, here’s a few:

Robert Lewandowski – Polish striker who scored 30 goals for German champions Borussia Dortmund last season. A good, outside bet for the Golden Boot award.

Mezut Ozil – on his day, can be the best player in the world. Arrives on the back of a championship-winning season with Real Madrid, Ozil can now combine his outstanding talent with top-level experience.

Mario Balotelli – sure to do something that will attract the headlines. Will it be a stroke of genius or a moment of madness?

Anatoliy Tymoshchuk – seen it (but not quite done it) all. Still, controls the Ukrainian midfield and brings with him a vast amount of experience having won 115 caps.

5 weird and wonderful European Championship facts:

The semi-final in 1968 between the USSR and Italy was decided on a toss of a coin. Imagine if that happened nowadays?! (Italy won, by the way)

Horst Hrubesch – who scored both of Germany’s goals in the 1980 final victory win, was known as the ‘header monster’.

Denmark won in 1992, but did not actually qualify for the tournament. They took Yugoslavia’s place, as they were expelled due to the war in the Balkans.

This summer’s championship has the longest distances ever between stadiums. Nearly 2000km separates Gdansk in Poland with Donetsk in Ukraine to the east.

Germany were the first side ever to lose a penalty shoot-out (in 1976 to Czechoslovakia).

And for the stattos:

Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas will be playing this summer in a record fifth Championships.

Who do you think will be the star performers?

And most importantly, do England have a chance?

Leave your thoughts below.

 

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