Good evening folks. With the European Championships just five days away, it is time to start looking at the tournament’s teams, players and match-ups. SBI will offer you a group-by-group overview to help you get ready for the tournament, with tournament predictions to come on Friday, the day before the tournament begins.
If you’re a die-hard who has already digested multiple magazine previews and have a wall poster with the tournament schedule already mounted in your home, then you’re probably not going to find anything new here (other than my opinions) but if you haven’t had a chance to really take a look at the groups, the schedule and the rosters, then this is your place.
Let’s start with Group A, where the world’s best player, Cristiano Ronaldo, is the star. He will look to lead Portugal to the title to add a Euro winner’s medal to his EPL and Champions League medals.
The Czechs will look to stop Portugal from winning the group but that will be tough without retired star Pavel Nedved and injured playmaker Tomas Rosicky.
Switzerland is hosting the tournament (with Austria) and boasts an underrated squad that will be ready to pounce if the aging Czechs struggle like they did in the 2006 World Cup.
Turkey has talent, but perhaps not enough to have a real chance at reaching the quarterfinal stage.
Here is a closer look at all four teams in Group A:
Schedule (Times Eastern)
Saturday- Switzerland vs. Czech Republic (ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes), 11:50 a.m.
Saturday– Portugal vs. Turkey (ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes), 2:30 p.m.
June 11– Czech Republic vs. Portugal (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), 11:50 a.m.
June 11– Switzerland vs. Turkey (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), 2:30 p.m.
June 15- Switzerland vs. Portugal (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), 2:30 p.m.
June 15- Turkey vs. Czech Republic (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), 2:30 p.m.
PLAYERS TO WATCH– Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco, Ricardo Quaresma, Hugo Almeida, Ricardo Carvalho
NAME TO LEARN– Miguel Veloso. The defensive midfielder is a hot transfer target and this could be a coming out party for him.
Goalkeepers: Quim (Benfica), Ricardo (Betis), Rui Patrício (Sporting).
Defenders: Bruno Alves (FC Porto), Fernando Meira (Stuttgart), Jorge Ribeiro (Boavista), Bosingwa (FC Porto), Pepe (Real Madrid), Miguel (Valencia), Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea).
Midfielders: Deco (Barcelona), Petit (Benfica), João Moutinho (Sporting), Miguel Veloso (Sporting), Raúl Meireles (FC Porto), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Nani (Manchester United), Ricardo Quaresma (FC Porto), Simão Sabrosa (Atletico Madrid).
Strikers: Hélder Postiga (Panathinaikos), Hugo Almeida (Werder Bremen), Nuno Gomes (Benfica).
OUTLOOK– The Portuguese have the strength in the back and magic in the front to challenge for the title. Look for a run at least to the semifinal stage, with a place in the finals a real possibility.
PLAYERS TO WATCH-Petr Cech, Jan Koller, Milan Baros, Marek Jankulovski
NAME TO LEARN– Martin Fenin. The young striker scored a hat-trick in his Bundesliga debut and adds some vibrance to an older Czech squad.
Goalkeepers: Petr Cech (Chelsea), Jaromir Blazek (Nuremberg), Daniel Zitka (Anderlecht).
Defenders: Zdenek Grygera (Juventus), Marek Jankulovski (AC Milan), Michal Kadlec (Sparta Prague), Radoslav Kovac (Spartak Moscow), Zdenek Pospech (Copenhagen), David Rozehnal (Lazio), Tomas Sivok (Sparta Prague), Tomas Ujfalusi (Fiorentina).
Midfielders: Tomas Galasek (Nuremberg), David Jarolim (Hamburg), Marek Matejovsky (Reading), Jaroslav Plasil (Osasuna), Rudolf Skacel (Hertha Berlin), Jan Polak (Anderlecht), Libor Sionko (Copenhagen), Stanisla Vlcek (Anderlecht).
Strikers: Milan Baros (Portsmouth), Martin Fenin (Frankfurt), Jan Koller (Nuremberg), Vaclav Sverkos (Banik Ostrava).
Outlook– How far the Czechs go will be determined by the play of young midfielder Marek Matejovsky, who will be called on to replace Rosicky. Can he feed the Czech strikers with enough service? If not, the Czechs could be vulnerable to first-round elimination.
PLAYERS TO WATCH– Tranquillo Barnetta, Valon Behrami, Johan Vonlanthen, Alexander Frei
NAME TO LEARN– Eren Derdiyok. Just 19 but already has a goal against England to his name. Will he see playing time?
Goalkeepers: Diego Benaglio (Wolfsburg/GER); Eldin Jakupovic (Grasshopper Zurich/SUI); Pascal Zuberbuehler (Neuchatel Xamax/SUI)
Defenders: Philipp Degen (Borussia Dortmund/GER); Johan Djourou (Arsenal/ENG); Stephane Grichting (Auxerre/FRA); Stephan Lichtsteiner (Lille/FRA); Ludovic Magnin (Stuttgart/GER); Patrick Muller (Lyon/FRA); Philippe Senderos (Arsenal/ENG); Christoph Spycher (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER)
Midfielders: Tranquillo Barnetta (Bayer Leverkusen/GER); Valon Behrami (Lazio/ITA); Ricardo Cabanas (Grasshopper Zurich/SUI); Gelson Fernandes (Man City/ENG); Daniel Gygax (Metz/FRA); Benjamin Huggel (Basel/SUI); Goekhan Inler (Udinese/ITA); Hakan Yakin (Young Boys Bern/SUI).
Forward: Eren Derdiyok (Basel/SUI); Marco Streller (Basel/SUI); Johan Vonlanthen (Red Bull Salzburg/AUS); Alexander Frei (Borussia Dortmund/GER).
OUTLOOK– If the co-hosts can defend like they did in the 2006 World Cup then anything is possible. It will up to Barnetta to shake off a severe ankle sprain because the attack will struggle without him. Will the Swiss find enough goals to advance?.
PLAYERS TO WATCH– Nihat Kahveci, Hamit Altintop, Tuncay Sanli, Mehmet Aurelio
NAME TO LEARN– Arda Turan. The Galatasaray left winger has been linked to a $20 million move to Newcastle and should be one of the more entertaining young talents in the tournament.
Goalkeepers: Volkan Demirel (Fenerbahce), Rustu Recber (Besiktas), Tolga Zengin (Trabzonspor).
Defenders: Gokhan Zan (Besiktas), Sabri Sarioglu (Galatasaray), Emre Asik (Ankaraspor), Servet Cetin (Galatasaray), Emre Gungor (Galatasaray), Hakan Balta (Galatasaray), Ugur Boral, Gokhan Gonul (Fenerbahce).
Midfielders: Mehmet Aurelio (Fenerbahce), Kazim Kazim (Fenerbahce), Mehmet Topal (Galatasaray), Arda Turan (Galatasaray), Ayhan Akman (Galatasaray), Emre Belozoglu (Newcastle), Tumer Metin (Larissa), Hamit Altintop (Bayern Munich), Tuncay Sanli (Middlesbrough), Gokdeniz Karadeniz (Rubin Kazan).
Forwards: Nihat Kahveci (Villarreal), Semih Senturk (Fenerbahce), Mevlut Erdinc (Sochaux).
OUTLOOK– The Turks are the underdogs of the group, but don’t expect them to get blown away. There is too much veteran talent for them to get rolled over, but not enough star power to advance.