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'England could do with Van Persie & Spain will make history' - Fans have their say ahead of Euro 2012

'England could do with Van Persie & Spain will make history' - Fans have their say ahead of Euro 2012

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Goal.com, in association with Hyundai, has called on supporters to offer their thoughts on the winners and losers ahead of the showpiece tournament in Poland and Ukraine

It is nearly here! Yes, we are just two weeks away from the action getting underway at Euro 2012 and excitement and anticipation levels are reaching fever pitch as Goal.com, in association with Hyundai, build up to the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

Will Spain make history by winning a third major international competition in a row? Could England banish over 40 years of hurt or will it be the Dutch having a party come July 1?

Are Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski ready to fire Germany to glory or could Karim Benzema replicate his club form on the international stage to inspire Laurent Blanc's side to the trophy?

All will be revealed soon enough but Goal.com's fan representatives for some of the pre-tournament favourites are on hand to give you the lowdown on their team's players to watch, weak links, the stars that were left at home and much, much more!

ENGLAND
FAN: Peter Checkley


Who is your country's key player at Euro 2012 and why?

PC: In the absence of Wayne Rooney for the first two games we will need Steven Gerrard to provide the drive and inspiration that he does in big games for Liverpool. As the captain as well his performances will be key to any chance we have of getting out of the group.

Who is your country's youngster to watch at Euro 2012?

PC: If Theo Walcott can still be considered a youngster at 23 then I'll say him. He has a good chance of making the starting line-up and has something to prove after past omissions from squads. The scene could be set for him to announce himself on the international tournament stage. On his day he has pace to worry any defender, I just hope that he has a few good days this summer and not one of his frustrating periods.

Who in the squad is your weak link and why?

PC: Our back-up keepers of Green and Butland wouldn’t ease many fans' minds should something happen to rule out Joe Hart. Both are good keepers but one has been playing Championship football all season and the other is a virtual unknown.

Tell us about your coach/manager...

PC: Roy Hodgson is a fantastic appointment and should have been given the job years ago. He has experience managing at international level and a track record of building teams that exceed expectations. Questions have been asked due to his perceived lack of success at Liverpool but it was a difficult period to take over there and he wasn’t given the time to make the squad his own. I just hope that the same doesn’t happen with England and he will be with us for many years to come.

Any players left at home that you feel should have been selected in the 23-man squad?

PC: I was surprised that there wasn't a place for Crouch. We have had a large number of successful English strikers at club level but very few who have also produced consistently at international level. Crouch is one of the few that has proved he can and were it not for the very late turn in form from Andy Carroll, would surely have made the squad.

How far can you go in the tournament & who do you think will win it?

PC: If England get out of the group I think that can be viewed as a success although I don't think we will. The loss of Rooney for two games is massive and every team in our group will think that they can get a result against us. Our hope has to be that the role of underdog tends to bring the best out of us.

The Germans were extremely impressive at the World Cup with a young squad and with two more years of experience, they have what it takes to win this tournament. You only have to look at how well their players have done in the Champions League this season to know they will fear no one this summer.

Who will win the Golden Boot?

PC: Memories of Milan Baros in 2004 make me think the winner could be a bit of an outsider. I’m going to go with Andrey Arshavin to remind everyone of his quality by scoring at least four goals and maybe getting them all in one game.

If you could have any other player at Euro 2012 playing for your country who would it be and why?

PC: With Rooney out for two games we could do with a striker of real quality and Robin van Persie has been a different class this season.

What do you pledge to do to see your country win Euro 2012?

PC: I sit next to a number of French colleagues at work so some St George's flags may be decorating the desks should England do the business.

FRANCE
FAN: Mamadou Dieng Gaye


Who is your country's key player at Euro 2012 and why?

MDG: The key player will incontestably be Karim Benzema. He is the player the team count on, the best French player around! This season was undoubtedly his most succeessful and Les Bleus will benefit from his club exploits. For France to achieve their goals in this competition, they will need some 'Benzemagic'! He will be the spearhead of the team but especially the technical leader. This competition is his for the taking and he is perfectly aware of that.

Who is your country's youngster to watch at Euro 2012?

MDG: The young talent will be Jeremy Menez if he manages to have the confidence of the coach for a place on the right-side of attack. This year he seemed one of the strongest of the PSG attack. He finished with the most assists at his club and third best in Ligue 1 with 12 assists behind Eden Hazard and Mathieu Valbuena.

A classification we had been waiting for too, because he was always criticised for his individualism. With Les Bleus, he was a success in some matches like against Brazil, where he literally provided the winning goal for Benzema after having beaten three players. He is a player who exploits space and excels in one against one situations. He will want to prove himself with Les Bleus.

Who in the squad is your weak link and why?

MDG: The weakest link is in defensive midfield. Generally consisting of Yann M'Vila and Yohan Cabaye, it's a duet which certainly has potential but which lacks tournament experience. Let us remember that it will be their first international competition with Les Bleus. This area of the pitch misses a leader, a player of experience and of international class as was the case with Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele during World Cup 2006.

Tell us about your coach/manager...

MDG: Laurent Blanc is a young, very ambitious coach who can help the French team to achieve their goals. He is a follower of the 4-2-3-1, a tactic which he has already used with Bordeaux, his first tenure as a coach. Teams like Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho, Bayern and Jupp Heynckes, and Germany and Joachim Low also go with this system and even the current champions of Europe, Chelsea and Roberto Di Matteo, adopted a similar approach.

Blanc is a coach who is surrounded by young players but also players who reflect his philosophy. He is a leader, a true professional and a technician. Unlike the last World Cup I am sure he will experience difficult instances amongst the group during this competition.

Any players left at home that you feel should have been selected in the 23-man squad?

MDG: The list of 26 is almost perfect. Indeed, the players present deserve to be there in so far as they have all had very good seasons with their clubs challenging for titles or European places. However, there are three players that I would have retained. One of them is Christophe Jallet. He is a player who has power and even finished up as captain of his club, PSG. Jallet is a modern player able to defend and create danger at the other end. And it's more his versatility, he can be used in all stations on the right flank.

Second is Rio Mavuba. This season he is still Lille's captain, he shone from his demolition role in the midfield. He was even elected in the best XI team for Ligue 1.

The third one is Lassana Diarra. His last appearance for Les Bleus goes back to the Domenech era. Since then, he has never been called by Laurent Blanc. However, he is one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe and he is full of effort. Even if at Real Madrid he alternates the good and the bad in terms of performances, he is a player who could have made a great contribution with Les Bleus.

How far can you go in the tournament & who do you think will win it?

MDG: France can go to the final of this competition. They have all they need to do it! Good players, a good group, a great coach but especially a large desire to do well.

If, by bad luck, they don't arrive at the final, because it is well known that in football there is often no logic, the recent outcome of the African Cup of Nations is a very good example, I say Germany to win it. They have a composed and gifted generation of very talented players.

Who will win the Golden Boot?

MDG: Like all the French fans, I hope that the golden shoe will return to Karim Benzema. He has the potential to claim it. However, in all objectivity, I think that a player like Klaas-Jan Huntelaar can come out on top, if he manages to play enough to show his talent. He had a very good season with Schalke in the Bundesliga and on the European stage. He will doubtless want to show his nack of scoring goals.

If you could have any other player at Euro 2012 playing for your country who would it be and why?

MDG: The European player whom I would take. even if I think that the France team has nothing to be scared of, is Cristiano Ronaldo. He is currently the best European player and he has incredible statistics. However my choice is justified much more by the fact that he is a player who combines very well with Benzema on the pitch with their partnership at Real Madrid.

What do you pledge to do to see your country win Euro 2012?

MDG:
The challenge that I am ready to complete to see France winning the Euros is to dye my hair like that of Louis Nicollin [Montpellier owner], but with the colours of France.

GERMANY
FAN: Marc Gayk


Who is your country's key player at Euro 2012 and why?

MG: Mesut Özil - He played a great World Cup 2010 and since then he has become even better and gained a lot of experience at Real Madrid.

Who is your country's youngster to watch at Euro 2012?

MG: Mario Götze.

Who in the squad is your weak link and why?

MG: Bastian Schweinsteiger - No question he's a starter but yet he hasn't found the form he had before his injury or even what he was showing at the 2010 World Cup. Moreover, he could be sunk mentally since the Champions League final.

Tell us about your coach/manager...

MG: Joachim Löw has been chief coach since the 2006 World Cup. A man with big tactical skills and, in my view, also a man who gets the players fired up. His weakness could be that sometimes he is too set on picking players he already knows from the past.

Any players left at home that you feel should have been selected in the 23-man squad?

MG: No - I think Löw has chosen the right players.

How far can you go in the tournament & who do you think will win it?

MG: I think we'll win Euro 2012. If you get through this very difficult group there's no opponent to stop us. In contrast to the last two finals we got stronger and I think Spain got weaker. Moreover, the Spanish squad may not be that motivated to win it again.

Who will win the Golden Boot?

MG: Miroslav Klose.

If you could have any other player at Euro 2012 playing for your country who would it be and why?

MG: Lukasz Piszcek - He's a great right-back who had an amazing season at Dortmund. We lack a good left-back but if we had Piszcek, Lahm could switch to the left side.

What do you pledge to do to see your country win Euro 2012?

MG: Travel to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil!

ITALY
FAN: Matteo Grigo


Who is your country's key player at Euro 2012 and why?

MG: I think it will be Andrea Pirlo. With his class and ability he can really help the Italian strikers. If he is in shape and performing, then all the Italian team can perform well. If he is not in the top form then we are in trouble for the tournament.

Who is your country's youngster to watch at Euro 2012?

MG: Mario Balotelli is the most interesting young talent we have in Italy. He can do very well if he engages his brain when he is on the pitch and doesn't do some silly things, like he often does both on and off the pitch. But Prandelli is like a father figure for him I think he will help him to do the right things this summer.

Who in the squad is your weak link and why?

MG: I think this team has problems at the back. We don't have any more good right-backs like we used to and this can be a big problem, particularly when facing the stronger teams. Even in the centre of the defence there are issues too - we don't have Cannavaro anymore and the substitution and back-up options don't seem very good in my eyes.

Tell us about your coach/manager...

MG: I think Cesare Prandelli is a good coach and it is not his fault if the Italian team isn't so strong. He is having to deal with too many injuries at the moment and there are no big talents emerging from Italy as things stand.

Any players left at home that you feel should have been selected in the 23-man squad?

MG: I would have brought Federico Marchetti to the tournament as a goalkeeper. He had an amazing season with Lazio and I think he would be more deserving of a place in the Italy squad than Morgan De Sanctis.

Who will win the Golden Boot?

MG: I think Cristiano Ronaldo could win it if all the team are performing well to support - he is his side's main man.

If you could have any other player at Euro 2012 playing for your country who would it be and why?

MG: In Europe I would have to say Cristiano Ronaldo. He is simply an amazing talent and here in Italy we don't have someone like him. But if I could choose anyone in the world I would take Lionel Messi over Ronaldo.

What do you pledge to do to see your country win Euro 2012?

MG: I don't think Italy will be winning it, but if they do, I will shave my head.

NETHERLANDS
FAN: Yorick Hokke


Who is your country's key player at Euro 2012 and why?

YH: It's got to be Wesley Sneijder but there are doubts about his current form. Sneijder hasn't had a great season at Inter because of minor injuries and a difficult relationship with his former coach Claudio Ranieri. However, when he regains his normal form, he can give Holland the European title. I'm absolutely sure of that.

Who is your country's youngster to watch at Euro 2012?

YH: Actually, there are two promising youngsters in the Dutch team. First, there is Luciano Narsingh. Narsingh is a 21-year-old right-winger from Heerenveen, who is very quick and is also known for his crossing ability. Then you have Adam Maher, an 18-year-old midfielder from AZ. Maher, who has fabulous technique, just played his first season as a professional footballer.

Who in the squad is your weak link and why?

YH: Our first-choice left-back was Erik Pieters, who replaced Giovani van Bronckhorst after the World Cup in 2010. But Pieters is injured at the moment and we don't have a lot of choices left. There is a serious chance that the 18-year-old Jetro Willems will play in that position during Euro 2012. Other options were Urby Emanuelson or Alexander Buttner, but both have been sent home.

Tell us about your coach/manager...

YH:
Bert van Marwijk is a very sober and intelligent man. He doesn't do any strange things and he is always very straight and honest to his players. The Dutch media are very enthusiastic about Van Marwijk, and so am I. I really hope Van Marwijk will stay a few years longer, but it is known that he also wants to manage a big European club.

Any players left at home that you feel should have been selected in the 23-man squad?

YH: Even though I am a fan of Van Marwijk, I don’t understand why he has sent Emanuelson away. He is an all-round player. You can put him at left-back (where he played a lot in his time at Ajax), but you can also let him play midfield or even in attack! I also think he would have deserved a chance in the Dutch team, because he played quite well in his first season at AC Milan.

How far can you go in the tournament & who do you think will win it?

YH: You should always be very careful with your prediction, but I think that when the Netherlands will survive the group stage (which is very difficult), they'll have a serious chance of winning the European Championships. They certainly have enough quality to do it.

Who will win the Golden Boot?

YH: I will pay special attention to Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo. I prefer the first one, because Ronaldo has already won enough this year! Other contenders? The Danish talent, Christian Eriksen. I saw him a lot in the Dutch Eredivisie this year. I am also very interested in Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski. Both players have really impressed me this season.

If you could have any other player at Euro 2012 playing for your country who would it be and why?

YH: It's obvious that Holland need an extra defender. I'm very jealous of the German defence. Bring us Mats Hummels from Borussia Dortmund and all our problems are solved. Hummels is a great talent, who is very strong for his age.

What do you pledge to do to see your country win Euro 2012?

YH:
When Holland won the European Championships in 1988, a lot of citizens in Amsterdam jumped into the canals. Sounds great to me!

SPAIN
FAN: Iñaki Angulo


Who is your country's key player at Euro 2012 and why?

IA: I think that Fernando Torres is going to have a breakout tournament. After a disgusting season playing for Chelsea, the Spanish striker has a perfect chance to bounce back and redeem himself. Through the year, Torres has been strongly criticised by the Spanish fans. A bunch of people also claimed to the manager to drop him from the final list. I would like to remind those people, that Torres has accomplished every single challenge he has ever faced, and he was the striker that hit the goal which led Spain to clinch their first major tournament in 40 years.

His lack of minutes during the season turns out to be an advantage now. Torres has fresh legs, is full of energy and he is determined to make a bright performance in Euro 2012. 'El Niño' is my pick.

Who is your country's youngster to watch at Euro 2012?

IA: If you are living in England, maybe you will be surprised when you notice that the two names I'm mentioning are two of the stars of the Premier League. Yes, I am speaking about Juan Mata and David Silva, undoubtedly, two of the best players in the Premier League.

Although they are stars in their teams, Spain needs them both to step up. I expect they are going to make it, because their time to make an impact in the Spanish national team has finally arrived. They have been perennials in the squad since 2008, but they have never had a real primary role. For instance, Silva only played in the first game of the World Cup, and afterwards, he disappeared from the line-ups. Mata has been a good back-up, but nothing else. Time is now for them. Euro 2012 belongs to Mata and Silva.

Who in the squad is your weak link and why?

IA:
Spain has a big doubt coming into the tournament. The major issue for Del Bosque is fixing the problems at right-back. After Carles Puyol's injury, Sergio Ramos will be replaced at the centre of the defence too. He has played in this position through the year with his club, and he has emerged as one of the top European defenders. His absence on the right, as with at Real Madrid, will be fit by Alvaro Arbeloa.

Arbeloa is mostly a defensive minded player, without the power of a box-to-box right-back. Spain badly needs depth from their defenders. Opponents always use at least nine players settled to guard Spain, and the national team demands players are able to surprise from the second, or in this case, third line.

Arbeloa has struggled defensively in many parts of the season. He used to be a solvent back-up, but under the lights he has not responded as well as a right-back playing for Real Madrid and Spain as expected.

Tell us about your coach/manager...

IA:
Vicente del Bosque gained the top place in the Spanish Football Hall of Fame after the World title back in 2010. The Spanish manager is a brilliant coach and an honest person too. He took the job after Euro 2008, and he has accomplished a light rebuild in the national team. He took a championship team with many changes to be made. He has introduced a great deal of new young players in the squad such as Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Pedro, all of them playing a key role in the path to glory in South Africa.

Del Bosque is a very balanced person who is able to handle the pressure better than anyone else in football. He is one of the most admired people in Spain due to his humbleness and his commitment with the community.

Any players left at home that you feel should have been selected in the 23-man squad?

IA: In my opinion, Iker Muniain, striker for Athletic Bilbao, could have made the final list. The youngster has completed a brilliant season, as he has played a key role in Marcelo Bielsa's team's outstanding year. Muniain is the full package. He is good in one-on-one, he is able to assist, and he can build his own plays. He will be playing in London for the Spanish Olympic team. Last year, he was one of the best players in the Under-21 European Championships, clinched by Spain.

How far can you go in the tournament & who do you think will win it?

IA: Spain couldn't have brigther expectations: Championship or nothing. Since 2008, Spain has emerged as the most powerful squad in the World. First in the Euros under Luis Aragones, and later in the World Cup under Del Bosque, Spain has dictated the path to victory.

In Poland and Ukraine, Spain will face their opponents and history. No team has ever clinched three major tournaments in a row. Spain is trying to become the first national team ever to win back-to-back Euros and a World Cup in the mix.

As with any successful team, winning becomes more dificult each time. Every opponent has Spain's number, and two or three of them also have the tools to beat Spain. Their script is easy: tighten up the lines, put a lot of pressure on Spanish midfielders and try to capitalise in a break-out. I think (maybe my feelings mask my logical opinion) that Spain is going to win it at all and put themselves in the history books as the best national team that has ever played the beautiful game.

Who will win the Golden Boot?

IA: Cristiano Ronaldo is my pick. The Portuguese is at the top of his career, and he is focused to lead his national team to the promised land. After the upset against Greece in the Euro 2004 Final, hosted in Portugal, the Real Madrid striker feels in debt to his country. Arguably, Ronaldo is the best finisher in the tournament. He is a triple-threat. A monster that is able to score a header, a free-kick and a tap-in in the area in the same game. A good individual performance and a deep run for Portugal in the Euros will put Ronaldo in the pole position to win the Golden Ball next January.

If you could have any other player at Euro 2012 playing for your country who would it be and why?

IA: Mesut Ozil. Because of two reasons. On the one hand, stealing this bright player from Germany would dramatically decrease the level of their team which is maybe the most gifted team to finally beat Spain. On the other hand, Özil would be a perfect fit for Spain. His game fixes perfectly with the Spanish. Özil is on the same page of Spanish midfielders: players able to assist and score. There are a bunch of outstanding players out there, but Özil would be the best choice for Spain.

What do you pledge to do to see your country win Euro 2012?

IA:
If I would have faced this question four years ago, the answer would be something similar to this: If Spain win? I run a marathon. Naked. With a tattoo of the Cup on my backside.

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