31 days to go!
A month from now, the final tournament of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, will kick-off on Friday, June 8th, with group A clash between Poland and Greece at Warsaw National Stadium. 16 European national teams will compete on this edition, but as from 2016, there will be 24 national teams involved in the final tournament.
What is at stake?
The trophy of course, the pride of being Europe’s champion in the most popular sport on Earth, but also, the winner will gain its ticket to the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup™ hosted by Brazil. The European Championship is also a showcase for young talent, it is an opportunity for young stars to glow in front of the eyes of scouts around the world and maybe, get the opportunity to take part in try-outs for a major team.
Who to follow?
Wojciech Szczęsny (Poland) was Arsenal FC’s fourth-choice goalkeeper 20 months ago. He is now the master of the ‘Gunners’ goal line and will be in charge of keeping a clean sheet for his national team.
It is all about making sure the team is organized and speaking the same language. That way by June 8th and our first match, we will be united and ready to compete with the best teams in Europe: Wojciech Szczęsny.
He is the son of former Polish international goal keeper Maciej Szczęsny. Wojciech, who is 22 years-old has outstanding reflexes and confidence. He had 7 appearances during the qualifying stage.
Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini has just won the Scudetto with is club Juventus in the Serie A. He leads the defensive line for a national team which conceded only two goals in ten qualifiers before the final tournament. Chiellini was born in Pisa, Italia, he is 27 seven years-old, he is swift as he is experienced, making him a valuable asset to the squadra azzurra. However the group stage will not be a stroll in the park for him, with tough adversaries to face: Spain, Republic of Ireland and Croatia.
Skipper for the Russian national team, Andrey Arshavin brings both, experience and creativity to Dick Advocaat’s squad. He is now on loan with FC Zenit and has spent more time on his native soil in preparation for the Euro 2012. Arshavin will be responsible of coordinating the Russian attack, creating opportunities for Roman Pavlyuchenko and Roman Shirokov who will be doing most of the scoring if everything goes according to plan.
Although the German striker is focused on the UEFA Champions League™ final match at the moment with his club Bayern München, his national team (which has plenty of stars all over the pitch) relies on him to score and lead the attack by air during corner kicks if Miroslav Klose is not available. Mario Gómez has been prolific over the past two seasons and scored six goals on six appearances during the qualifying stage. He is 26 years-old and it sure will be pleasant to see him aside the German stars Özil, Schweinsteiger and Müller.
To be continued…
May 8th, 2012.
 Interview by John Atkin and Piotr Kozminski. UEFA Euro 2010 official preview guide.