It’s that time again. After a somewhat inconsistent Premier League table prediction (some were dead right, some…not so much), I’m trying my hand at international level.

Now, I’ll reiterate as usual that I don’t claim to be an ‘expert’, or a ‘professional predictor’ by any means. However, with football I doubt any sort of so-called expertise is enough to provide insight as to who’s going to win a standalone match any way, let alone a tournament like the European Championships. In the past few years we’ve seen teams such as Greece and Turkey come from nowhere to surprise everyone by getting to the later stages. I think this year will be no different. To make successful predictions, you must be bold, and you can see my opinions on each team below.

Croatia – Not to be underestimated, Croatia may nonetheless find themselves swamped by sheer Irish passion in their first match. Their opponents from then on? Spain and Italy. They certainly have the potential to cause an upset; this time, though, they’ve been landed with the wrong group (what I think could actually be the toughest). Giving everyone a good match won’t be enough to carry them through to the quarter-finals.

Prediction: Bottom of Group C.

Czech Republic – The Czech Republic don’t stand out at all to me, but they’re in a group that they’ll see themselves getting out of. Unfortunately, I don’t agree with them. Up against co-hosts Poland and the powerful Russians, the Czech’s may provide tough matches for their opponents, but I don’t see that continuing beyond the group stage.

Prediction: Not getting out of the group.

Denmark – Finding themselves in what is arguably the toughest group, Denmark know they’re going to have to rely on more than skill to get out of it. Tactically, I think they’ll play for three draws, and they’ll get them. Anything better would be a bonus, but with Germany as the outstanding team in Group B, three points should be enough to take Denmark through in second and on to the quarter-finals. From there they’ll have a perfectly winnable tie, and anything can happen in tournament football, but I’ve just got a feeling they’ll come unstuck.

Prediction: Quarter-finals.

England – For a few England players, this could be their last major tournament, including captain Steven Gerrard, former captain John Terry and even (dare I say it) the perceived unstoppable ‘talisman’ Wayne Rooney. I’m sorry, but aside from Euro 2004 (which, hello, was eight years ago now), I fail to see how Rooney deserves that label. Being without him in the opening two games will benefit England greatly, in my opinion. The rest of the team will feel they have something to prove. I can see England restoring some national pride this year, and a potential semi-final reunion with Germany will have English mouths watering…I’m not sure if revenge is on the cards quite yet, though.

Prediction: Semi-finals.

France – Team spirit seems to be back in the French camp and, importantly, the pressure is off. We know France have had a habit in recent years of winning a tournament/ getting to the final, then messing it up in the next one. Will the trend continue at Euro 2012? I think so. They could slip up against England in their first match, but from then on I see them taking advantage of the fact that they won’t be labelled one of the outright tournament favourites this time around.

Prediction: Runners-up.

Germany – Their record in major tournaments speaks for itself. At the World Cup in South Africa we saw a new generation of German players gain valuable experience in reaching the latter stages of one such tournament. The team can use that experience, along with the extra training time they’ve had to hone the ability they only began to realise two years ago, to be the outstanding team at Euro 2012. For me, they’re the clear team to beat, and I’m not sure if anyone will manage it.

Prediction: Winners.

Greece – I doubt there’s any less convincing former winners at any tournament than Greece at the Euro’s. It would be twice the upset that it was before if lightning were to strike again in 2012 as it did in 2004, when Greece last won it. While the Greeks find themselves in arguably the easiest group to get out of, I don’t see them doing it. If anything, tougher opposition would have been more beneficial for them. Will they know how to set themselves up against the hosts, and the likes of Russia and Czech Republic, who, as all-round teams, aren’t that much better? I don’t think so…

Now, of course, they’ll go ahead and prove me wrong.

Prediction: Bottom of Group A.

Ireland – Outside of the British Isles, Ireland are probably seen as the biggest underdogs of the whole tournament. But even with my most unbiased opinion, I don’t see the Irish being pushovers in any sense of the word this summer. On a 14 match unbeaten run, if Ireland were in any other group, I’d back them to go much further. Unfortunately, aside from Germany, Spain and Italy are the toughest opposition they could have faced. Having an Italian manager in charge may give them a slight edge against the latter team, though. Can the Republic get out of their group? It will be close, but I think they’ll just miss out.

Prediction: Not getting out of the group.

Italy – The Italians have had a sense of style about them in recent friendlies. After their World Cup failure, this kind of change could be just what the current Italian generation needs. Only time will tell if their new attacking philosophy can be adhered to throughout a serious international tournament, and I have my doubts about this, although their first match against the Spanish should be an enjoyable spectacle. I’m backing Italy to win that first match and finish as Group C winners. Can’t see them going much further from there.

Prediction: Quarter-finals.

Netherlands – There’s a fair amount of pressure on the Dutch to perform at this tournament, being World Cup finalists and having form players like Robin Van Persie in the squad. But players who have performed well for their clubs during a season rarely carry it on in a big international tournament. Van Persie had a long season and may suffer from fatigue. I haven’t been convinced that this generation of Dutch football is particularly good either, despite their World Cup run and a recent 6-0 friendly win against…actually, let’s not mention that.

Prediction: Not getting out of the group.

Poland – The joint hosts have been handed a manageable group. Can they get out of it against the odds, being the lowest ranked team at the tournament? With home advantage, I think they can. A potential quarter-final against the Germans will be further motivation, and although they won’t be winning it, they can ensure a more than memorable tournament for the fans.

Prediction: Quarter-finals.

Portugal – One of the toughest teams to predict, having been placed in a tough group, with temperamental players in the squad. I think the sheer order of their fixtures may work against them: I can’t see anything other than defeat in their first match with the Germans. Going by what I know of Portugal’s top players (Ronaldo has often been accused of not performing as well for his country as he does for club) and the fact that Denmark finished above them in qualifying, I don’t see Portugal being one of the shining teams this summer.

Prediction: Bottom of Group B.

Russia – Rightly labelled a dark horse for the tournament, Russia are the strongest-looking team in Group A. Under performed two years ago in failing to qualify for the World Cup, but on their day they can beat anyone, as they showed in reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2008. With most of those experienced players still in the squad, I think they can comfortably match that achievement again.

Prediction: Semi-finals.

Spain – Once again, Spain have to cope with the label of favourites, which hasn’t prevented them from performing well in their last two tournaments. However, Spain’s luck has also been with them for those last two tournaments, and I think it would take something extraordinary for their run to continue to three major wins in a row. Not that I have anything against the quality in the team, but I wonder whether this current generation may have just passed their peak, and I think this time around, their luck may run out early.

Prediction: Quarter-finals.

Sweden – I advise Sweden to enjoy themselves while they can, because they’ll need some luck to stand any chance of getting out of a group containing two tournament favourites and one of the co-hosts. I can’t see them doing anything I’m afraid. If they can keep their unbeaten record against England intact, they should see it as a successful tournament. If not…well, that sucks.

Prediction: Bottom of Group D.

Ukraine – Like Poland, Ukraine will have home advantage. Unlike Poland, I hold Ukraine’s group opponents in high esteem. While they’ll give England and France competitive games, and could pick up a win against Sweden, I don’t see them going very far at all.

Prediction: Not getting out of the group.

So there you have it in a nutshell. I’m going for Germany and France to reach the final. England to finally show the fruit of all those years of fan support in the face of humiliation. Russia as the tournament’s surprise semi-finalists. At best, I’ll earn your respect. At worst, I’ll earn your feedback. My next scheduled prediction is for the new Premier League season, which you can find here in the first or second week of August.

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