So after months of waiting, weeks of untold preparation and days of scouring FREEbets.org.uk for value, the summer’s showpiece football event is set to kick-off and of course we at In The Stands will be bringing forth the very best previews, round-ups, reactions and videos of all the events in Poland/Ukraine as they occur.
Predicting a winner is difficult but not as hard as pinpointing just who will navigate their way through the group stages and into the knockout rounds.
The opening match sees joint-hosts Poland take on 2004 winners Greece in Warsaw as the summer’s footballing feast is launched before a flurry of matches televised on both the BBC and ITV segue along.
Drawn in Group D, England will start their European campaign against old foes France on 11 June in Donetsk before taking on Sweden in Kiev and finishing their group match against hosts Ukraine on 17 June again in Donetsk.
Elsewhere, World Cup runners-up Holland will face-off against joint favourites Germany, Denmark and Portugal in the dreaded ‘Group of Death’, whilst current holders Spain take on the Republic of Ireland, Croatia and Italy.
Group A: Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic
With a tough opener against Greece being their premier match, Franciszek Smuda’s men need to maintain their good form from the off especially considering that Eastern European rivals Russia will be the Biało-czerwoni’s second game.
Czech Republic look distinctly average and so will struggle making it a three-way-scrap between 2008 semi-finalists Russia, Poland and Greece.
Prediction: 1st: Poland. 2nd: Russia
Group B:: The Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Denmark
The ‘Group of Death’ is not as ‘death’ as its name suggests. Portugal are in woeful form having failed to win in three and clearly lack a striker of noteworthy calibre.
Denmark are a talented squad, full of energy, efficient and shone during the qualification but the question is are they as good as both the Netherlands and Germany? Lining up in a conservative 4-2-3-1 formation, the Danes set themselves up to stifle opposition rather than playing on their own qualities.
It is thus the Dutch, as well as the Germans who are clear favourites to progress in the next round although the fact that the pair play each other in the second game could prove very interesting.
Germany hammered Holland 3-0 in a friendly mere months ago but friendlies count for nothing come June and there is a feeling that its ‘now or never’ for the Dutch won this tournament back in 1988.
Prediction: 1st: The Netherlands. 2nd: Germany
Group C: Spain, Italy, Croatia, The Republic of Ireland
The most interesting thing about Group C is the opening two matches which sees Spain play Italy and Ireland play Croatia; before Spain play Ireland and Italy take on Croatia.
Bad news for Italy then who may have to beat Ireland and pray Croatia crumble to Spain. In their favour however, is the fact that this Croatia side under Bilic is not as good as that of 2008 which, taking away events against Turkey, were good enough to reach the final.
Prediction: 1st: Spain 2nd: Italy
Group D: France, England, Sweden, Ukraine
Ahhh Group D and ‘Engerland’s’ very own date with destiny. After being humiliated in World Cup 2010 and failing to inspire during qualification, the mood across the country is one of muted pessimism.
Perhaps that is a good thing because this is the worse England team to go to major tournament since Euro 2000 and we all know what happened there.
By the time the group’s deciding matches come around on 19 June, it could see Roy Hodgson’s men involved in a messy scrap with co-hosts Ukraine just to stay in the tournament, whilst Sweden surprise a lackadaisical France team.
Prediction: 1st: France 2nd: Sweden – yep that means England will go out in the group stages as the press call for ‘Whoy’s’ head! You heard it here first.
Winners: Germany or The Netherlands.
Top Goalscorer: Robin Van Persie.
Team Most Likely To Flop: Italy & England.
Surprise Package: France to have a very good tournament, Niklas Bendter to score three goals, Matt Hummels (nobody will be able to get past him).
See also: The Best & Worst Kits For Euro 2012