Goal.com Investigates ...The campaign to qualify for EURO 2012 has already begun, with teams selecting their best and brightest in order to reach the final tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
Some squads have put their faith in experience, while others in those who show promise. It's a long road and personnel choices could play significant a role. Goal.com looks at the average age of each of the 51 teams competing in qualification and analyses the findings.
NOTE: Ages are calculated based on the squad information available and listed from youngest to oldest.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||25.4|
|Republic of Ireland||26.2|
THE CONTENDERS: If a player's prime is typically considered between 26 and 28, then as expected that is more or less where most of the top teams currently fall, though France and Germany have taken a more youthful approach.
France (23.9): It appears that new coach Laurent Blanc has opted for a youthful overhaul following their World Cup 2010 debacle. Les Bleus are one of the youngest sides in Europe at the moment.
Germany (24.7): The Germans showed plenty of youthful exuberance in South Africa and appear to be sticking with their plans. Philip Lahm, Sami Khedira, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Mueller, and Bastian Schweinsteiger represent a generation that will be very confident come the finals.
Italy (25.9): Many criticised Marcello Lippi's Italians for being an ageing squad, but the Azzurri are in the middle of the pack here. Young or old is allegedly secondary to coach Cesare Prandelli, who says he will call those who merit selection - whether they be youngsters like Mario Balotelli or veterans like Andrea Pirlo.
England (26.0): The Three Lions would appear to have a good mixture of experience and youth should they keep their majority of their current players, but would likely be just starting on the downslide. Wayne Rooney himself would be at the height of his career as a 26-year-old, assuming he hasn't peaked early.
Portugal (26.0): In a similar situation to England, the Seleccion have a mixed bag - but there are signs that the next generation has already started to poke through.
Netherlands (26.2): Perhaps a surprise here, that the Oranje are slightly on the older side of the scale. Are they at the peak of their powers now? Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt, Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben - with their most high-profile names that would certainly seem to be the case.
Spain (26.2): Lastly, the overall favourites and defending champions would appear to be the most experienced of those expected to challenge for the trophy. La Furia Roja boast a top generation in Andres Iniesta, David Villa, and Xavi - but can they keep it up into 2012? Few would bet against them.
THE HOPEFULS: There is a wide range of sides who are hoping to qualify and make a definite impact. Russia (27.3) are seemingly an ageing side - but will hope to still play exciting football as they did four years ago. Bosnia & Herzegovina (25.4) boast a supremely talented team that is maturing into it's best years. Turkey (26.0), with Guus Hiddink at the helm, are also a team to watch out for.
THE YOUNGEST: Luxembourg (22.7) register as the youngest team, perhaps trying to breed potential stars with early international experience. Belgium (23.7) are clearly a side boasting potential - with highly-touted stars like Eden Hazard, Steven Defour, and Romelu Lukaku. We already touched on the previously mentioned France and Germany.
THE OLDEST: Interestingly, the five oldest teams in qualifying can all be considered minnows in European football - Latvia (27.7), San Marino (27.8), Lithuania (27.8), Finland (28.2), and Cyprus (28.6). These teams are hoping their more experienced and veteran players can help them cause an upset along the way.