Today sees the start of the UEFA Euro 2012 Football Championship. The tournament has been held every four years since 1960, during years with even numbers, to complement the World Cup. This year, for the last time the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) competition will feature 16 teams representing the various European nations. From the next competition, Euro 2016, there will be 24 teams competing in the final (which will liven up the office sweepstakes further!)
Its sixteen teams are divided into four groups;
A; Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, and Russia
B; Denmark, Germany, Holland and Portugal
C; Croatia, Ireland, Italy, and Spain
D; England, France, Sweden and Ukraine
The following sixteen nations are competing in Euro 2012 and this is the latest team news and current odds:
• Croatia— Nikolaj Kalinic has been called in as a striker to replace Ivica Olic, who has sustained an injury to his thigh. Croatia is currently 50/1 to win Euro 2012.
• Czech Republic— The Czech team has a good record owing to the efficiency of its goalkeeper, Petr Čech, one of the few players from that nation whose name is widely known. 50/1 odds.
• Denmark— Christian Eriksen, the youngest player to participate in the World Cup of 2010, is the star of this team. He has previously played with Ajax. Denmark are 100/1 rank outsiders to win.
• England— Association football originated in England in the 1860s. There is a possibility that they will recruit Danny Welbeck, striker for the eminent Manchester United. Jermain Defoe will be absent because his father died and several other top names are also missing due to injury and suspension. England is currently placed at 10/1 to win.
• France - Coach Laurent Blanc is expecting a “physical confrontation” with England this season. Already they have won over Estonia four nil. Odds of 10/1 see France level-pegged with England.
• Germany— Since 2010, the German team has become more “possession based,” seeking mainly to gain control of the ball in the midfield. They have a reputation as the most successful team on UEFA, having come in first place three times and in second place also three times. As such Germany is currently the second favourites at odds of 3/1.
• Greece - Thanks to the ongoing state of their nation’s economy, the people of Greece are no doubt eager for the tournament to commence to divert attention. There are precious few attacking midfielders on the Greek team, and so the knee injury sustained by their star player Sotiros Ninis in a qualifier match will be quite a blow to them. Greece is 66/1 to win.
• Republic of Ireland - Captain Robbie Keane will be playing “a deeper role” in the country’s opening match against Croatia. The Irish team is a difficult one to defeat; their players, in particular goalkeeper Shay Given and fullback Richard Dunne, are aggressive and well- disciplined. 80/1 to win.
• Italy - Mario Balotelli, a striker of African stock, has been asked to “show responsibility” by teammate Thiago Motta, who has been annoyed by the player’s jokes. Italy at 14/1 to win.
• Holland - Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt has been playing for Liverpool, but has recently been drafted into his country’s national team. Holland are third favourite at 13/2 odds.
• Poland - The game of football has been largely forgotten ever since Poland cast of the reins of Communism in 1989, when the state ceased to sponsor sports clubs. Sports journalist Pawel Wilkowitz, however, is optimistic that the situation is improving as the country gets richer and people have more leisure time. The host country is 50/1 to win.
• Portugal - He may not be a football player, but Jorge Franco showed his support for his national team by riding a bicycle from Palmela, near Lisbon, all the way to Opalenica, Poland, and may go even further, to Lviv, Ukraine. 20/1.
• Russia - The Russian national team has the same members it did when it reached the semi-finals in the 2008 series. They have problems, however, in getting players around their huge country, and journalist Evgeniya Chaykovskaya of the Moscow News does not think the chances of the team’s beating Germany or Holland is great. 20/1 odds to win.
Have you drawn your Euro 2012 office sweepstake yet? Who did you get? I’ve selected mine at random and have drawn Russia, so fingers crossed! Here’s to an exciting tournament with great goals and sensible decisions – good luck to whoever you are supporting!
• Spain - The national team of Spain has long dominated football, not least since 2008, when they won the Euro championship. Barcelona may have been defeated by Chelsea in the semi- finals, but still, many are optimistic that they can make this season’s win. Spain are currently 11/4 favourites to win the Euro 2012 tournament outright.
• Sweden - Though Johan Elmander is suffering from a broken metatarsal, he has been called to serve on the Swedish football squad; he is expected to be in condition to play. 66/1.
• Ukraine - Ukraine has recently lost to Turkey, but with their legendary striker Andriy Shevchenko they hope to win at least some victories. The joint host nation is 50/1 to win.
This year, the championships— for the third time in the four previous championships— is to be held in two countries, Poland and Ukraine. One of their destinations is the PGE Arena in Gdańsk. Fans of their country’s teams are all looking forward to seeing them perform— and, hopefully, to win the championship.