FIFA Ranking: 16
Euro history: France is a two-time European Champion. They won in 1984 as the host and most recently in 2000. France had a disastrous tournament in 2008. They lost two matches, drew one and could only muster one goal through their three matches.
How they qualified: France barely edged Bosnia and Herzegovina to win Group D. France only conceded four goals in a group that also featured Romania, Belarus, Albania and Luxembourg.
Group information and schedule: France is in Group D with England, Ukraine and Sweden. All games will be played in Ukraine.
June 11 vs. England in Donetsk
June 15 vs. Ukraine in Donetsk
June 19 vs. Sweden in Kiev
Early roster thoughts: France has a very talented squad that boasts players who play on top teams in France and top leagues in Europe. Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been a strong replacement for the retired Fabian Barthez. Center back might be the weakness for Les Bleus. France has a surplus at left back with Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and Manchester City’s Gael Clichy. Defensive midfielder Yann M’villa is 21 years old and ready to become a household name in Europe if he can stay healthy. Manchester City Samir Nasri and Bayern Munich Franck Ribery will provide width and try to deliver service to Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.
How they will do: France was in Pot 4 in the draw and are fortunate they aren’t in Group B instead of Denmark or Group C instead of Ireland. Now France is the favorite to win this group as England has been weakened by injury. France gets to play England without Rooney. If France can make the quarterfinals they have the players to make a run at the final in Kiev.
FIFA Ranking: 17
Euro history: Sweden’s first time in the Euros was when they hosted the tournament in 1992. Sweden had their best run that year by going to the semifinals. Sweden’s qualification for Euro 2012 will be their fourth straight appearance.
How they qualified: Sweden finished in second place in Group E and avoided the playoffs by having the best record amongst second place teams. Sweden won eight of ten games in a group that featured Netherlands, Hungary, Finland, Moldova and San Marino.
Group information and schedule: Sweden is in Group D with Ukraine, England and France. All games will be played in Kiev, Ukraine
June 11 vs. Sweden
June 15 vs. England
June 19 vs. France
Early roster thoughts: Sweden will rely on AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The former Barcelona and Inter Milan man has a Bosnian father and Croatian mother, but was born in Malmo, Sweden. Current Galatasary and former Bolton striker Johan Elmander will likely pair with Ibrahimovic up top. Sunderland midfielder Sebastian Larsson and Lyon midfielder Kim Kallstrom will be key for Sweden in center of the park. Goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson, defender Olof Mellberg and midfielder Anders Svensson have combined for 331 international caps.
How they will do: Sweden’s group is turning into a wide open pool with the injury concerns for England. The Swedes have a great chance to make a statement in their first match against Ukraine in the Ukrainian capital. Sweden meet up with England in game two and Wayne Rooney will still be absent. Sweden will go as far as Ibrahimovic carries them and if he plays his best a top two finish in the group is possible.
A fews weeks ago I previewed England. Since then Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill are out of the tournament will injuries. Phil Jagielka, Jordan Henderson and Martin Kelly have been called to the England squad to replace the trio.
With England getting weaker, they could take inspiration at their official song of Euro 2012. Let me know what you think.
FIFA Ranking: 50
Euro history: Ukraine hasn’t qualified for an Euro before as an independent country. They were part of the Soviet Union before.
How they qualified: Ukraine automatically qualified as a host country.
Group information and schedule: Ukraine is in Group D with Sweden, France and England. All games will be played in Ukraine.
June 11 vs. Sweden in Kiev
June 15 vs. France in Donetsk
June 19 vs. England in Donetsk
Early roster thoughts: Ukraine’s roster is dominated by players who suit up for Ukrainian clubs Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donestsk. It is also an aging team that is led by forward and captain Andriy Shevchenko. The former AC Milan and Chelsea striker has netted 46 international goals in 107 appearances. The two players who play their club soccer outside Ukraine are defensive midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuck and forward Andriy Voronin. Tymoshchuck started at center back for Bayern Munich in the Champions League final last month. Voronin currently plays for Dynamo Moscow and used to play for Liverpool.
How they will do: On paper Ukraine isn’t a strong squad. Most of their players are past their prime and the young guys are unproven. However, Ukraine has two things going in their favor. One of their group opponents, England, has had three key players ruled out of the tournament due to injury in Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill. Also, the home field advantage could help Ukraine go to the quarterfinals. The Ukrainian fans have been waiting years for this tournament to begin.
FIFA Ranking: 12
Euro history: Italy has had far more success at the World Cup than Euro. Although, they won the tournament in 1968 as the host country. Italy lost to Spain in the 2008 quarterfinals.
How they qualified: Italy won their qualifying group that featured Estonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Northern Ireland and Faroe Islands.
Group information and schedule: Italy is in Group C with Spain, Croatia and Ireland. All games will be played in Poland.
June 10 vs. Spain in Gdnask
June 14 vs. Croatia in Poznan
June 18 vs. Ireland in Poznan
Early roster thoughts: Goalkeeper and captin Gianluigi Buffon is still one of the best in the world. Giorgio Chiellini is Italy’s top defender, but continues to battle an injury. Daniele De Rossi, Riccardo Montolivo and Andrea Pirlo must play well against the talented Spain and Croatia midfields. It will be interesting to see if Italy will risk playing Mario Balotelli. His is very skilled, but is a very strange player with a hot temper. Antonio Di Natale would be a safer option to start at forward after he had a great club season at Udinese.
How they will do: Italy must focus with a match fixing investigation going on in their country. The Azzurri won the World Cup in 2006 when their domestic league was in turmoil. If they can squeak out a positive result against Spain in the first match, then a lot of pressure will be taken off the players and coaches.
FIFA Ranking: 8
Euro history: Croatia will be playing in their fourth Euro in their country’s short history. Croatia was part of Yugoslavia until the early 1990s. Croatia topped their group in Euro 2008 over Germany, Poland and Austria. They lost a heartbreaking quarterfinal match to Turkey in penalty kicks.
How they qualified: Croatia finished two points behind Greece in Group F. They defeated Turkey on aggregate 3-0 in the second place playoffs
Group information and schedule: Croatia is in Group C with Ireland, Italy and Spain. All games will be played in Poland.
June 10 vs. Ireland in Poznan
June 14 vs. Italy in Poznan
June 18 vs. Spain in Gdansk
Early roster thoughts: Goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, and defenders Josip Simunic and Vedran Corluka have international experience. Croatia’s best player is midfielder Luka Modric, who is a great playmaker that plays for Tottenham. Croatia has four solid forwards to choose from. Ivica Olic and Mario Mandzukic will likely start, but look for Everton striker Nikica Jelavic to make an impact.
How they will do: Croatia is part a strong group with European giants Spain and Italy. Second place is reasonable expectations for Croatia, especially with Italy struggling going into the tournament.
FIFA Ranking: 18
Euro history: Euro 2012 will be Ireland’s second appearance in the tournament. They were eliminated from the 1988 Euro in the group stage.
How they qualified: Ireland finished two points behind Russia in Group B. Ireland placed ahead on Armenia, Slovakia, Macedonia and Andorra. Ireland was fortunate to draw Estonia in the second place playoffs. They defeated the Estonians 5-1 on aggregate.
Group information and schedule: Ireland is in Group C with Croatia, Spain and Italy. All matches will be played in Poland.
June 10 vs. Croatia in Poznan
June 14 vs. Spain in Gdansk
June 18 vs. Italy in Poznan
Early roster thoughts: Three of the five most capped players for Ireland are on this squad. Shay Given (121 caps) is an experienced shot stopper. He had a nice rebound club season with Aston Villa and helped keep the club in the Premier League. Damien Duff (98) is an important part of an Ireland midfield. Forward Robbie Keane (116) has 53 goals in his international career.
How they will do: Ireland drew a tough group and might need some luck if they want to advance. The first match against Croatia is a tilt the Irish can’t lose.