The European Championships are the third largest sporting event in the world after the World Cup and Olympic Games.
The tournament comprises of 16 teams in all, separated into 4 groups of 4 which will compete in a mini league system. The winners and runners up of each group will then compete in the knock-out rounds until the final which will decide the winner.
Czech Republic, Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey
Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland
France, Italy. Netherlands, Romania
Greece, Russia, Spain, Sweden
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Rules of the competition.
Guide to the competition.
It all kicks off tomorrow and there are two games tomorrow from Group A
Switzerland play the Czech Republic in Basel, on Saturday June 7th at 1700 BST (1400 EDT)
For Switzerland, Liverpool fans will be especially looking out for their new right back signing Phillip Degen. Switzerland announced the news that Tranquillo Barnetta has returned to fitness ahead of the game, and that will give them a major boost.
I do not expect Switzerland to get to the knockout phase, but being hosts will surely give them an advantage, but how far that will take them is anyone's guess. Arsenal fans will hope that Phillip Senderos does well, but perhaps because it is an ideal shop window. He has been a little unpredictable this season, to be kind.
World ranking: 48th.
My Verdict: A Valient effort will please the home crowd but I doubt they will get out of the Group Stage.
Team Captain Tomas Rosicky will be a huge miss for the Czech side who are always a potential giant, but never quite fulfil it. The Arsenal playmaker is usually one their most creative forces but will miss the tournament through injury.
The 1976 European Champions will be hoping to improve on recent years and Manager Karel Bruckner will prove his tactical brilliance if he can get this set of brillant individuals to function as well as a team as they should. Pavel Nedved refused to come out of retirement for this tournament, so it is in midfield that the newer players need to shine and provide good service that Jan Koller and Milan Baros can convert into goals. At the other end Cech is probably the best goalkeeper in the world, and the defence is reasonably solid, so you never know with the Czech's.
World ranking: 6th.
My verdict: will probably get out of the Group, and you really never know when the Czech's are going to cash in. They really are a great side.
Meanwhile, Portugal play Turkey in Geneva, on Saturday June 7th 1945 BST
Portugal feels it wants to win it this time. They have been beaten finalists last time, semi-finalists in the latest World Cup, where they lost to France, they will not be satisfied with medals this season.
Cristiano Ronaldo is without a doubt, their star player, and probably, the best player in the World on last seasons performances but this is a great team too, with such stars as Queresma and with the tactical tournament experience of Luiz Felipe Scolari they seem to have all the ingredients to make a fantastic recipe.
This team could definitely go all the way, and they are thrilling to watch. Portugal, know the art in football, but as Greece proved, they were up to yet lacking the science. They go into the tournament in a renewed spirit, this is a regenerated team they are building around Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Nani (Manchester United), Ricardo Quaresma (FC Porto) and letting go of the legends of the past, noteably Figo, who retired after the last World Cup along with their striker Pauleta.
They had not been playing great up to qualification however, and struggled through into second place in their Group A Qualying Group behind Poland. Chelsea fans will be keeping a keen eye to see how their new signing José Bosingwa gets on. The former Porto defender signed for Chelsea last Monday.
Perhaps the experienced Coach Phillipe Scolari and the magic of Cristiano Ronaldo can deliver it for them this time.
World ranking: 9th.
My verdict: Definitely contenders.
Turkey: Newcastle fans will be watching out for potential signing Arda Turan, while they will also be surprised to see that the unpredictable Emre that they hope to replace with the youngster, has been named Captain. He will not be remembered for his leadership skills on Tyneside, after a very hit and miss two and half years there.
World ranking: 25th.
My Verdict. Turkey could upset the Czech's by taking their place out of the group but they will first have to prove themselves against the dynamic Portuguese attack.
Enjoy the tournament!
You may have your predictions, but the beauty of football is you never know what is going to happen, but you know it will be exciting, which is why it is called the beautiful game.
to be continued ...
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