Tag Euro 2012

Tag Euro 2012

United Rant Live! Czech Rep. v Poland and Greece v Russia

June 16, 2012 Tags: , International 7 comments

Continuing the serious of, frankly, incongruous United Rant Live blogs during 2012, we’ll be covering the conclusion to Group A on Saturday night! There’s everything to play for in the ‘group of bored to death’, which turned out anything but.

Russia need only draw with Greece to qualify for the quarter finals, although a win will secure top spot in the group. Should Russia draw then the Czech’s could still finish top by beating Poland, and if the unthinkable happens and Greece beat Russia then Dick Advocaat’s men will be out unless there is a draw in the other fixture.

The Czech’s, meanwhile, can secure qualification with victory over Poland. A draw may be enough though, should Russia beat Greece as expected. Meanwhile, Poland must win or the co-hosts are out whatever happens in the other game. Finally, Greece can only qualify with victory and hope that Poland and the Czech Republic draw.

Confused yet?!

Join us for both games live from around 7pm UK time, with team news updates and pre-amble through the afternoon. There’s no Manchester United interest in this one, but the drama should be great nonetheless.

 


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Euro Cast – bork! bork! bork!

June 15, 2012 Tags: , Rant Cast No comments

In the second Rant Cast Euro Special regular presenters Ed & Paul discuss the first week of the Championships, which have brought some great games, goals and moments already – reviewing groups and games up to, but not including Croatia-Italy and Ireland-Spain on Thursday night.

Euro Cast covers the big talking points of the week, including racism, violence, TV punditry, and empty seats – and asks ‘why are there more mullets on show?’

With our predictions and preview for the week ahead.

Hit us up with any feedback below or follow the pod on Twitter: Paul – @UtdRantCast, Ed – @UnitedRant.

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Stream this episode using the player below or listen on iTunes and leave us a review! The podcast RSS feed is available here.

United Rant Live! Germany v Holland

June 13, 2012 Tags: , International 7 comments

Germany versus Holland in one of the iconic fixtures in the international football calendar, invoking memories of the 1974 World Cup final, and the feisty clash between the sides at the 1990 version of the competition. Those are just two in 38 fixtures between the countries that remain the best of enemies. There is unlikely to be any love lost when the sides meet once again, in Khakiv, at Euro 2012.

Following Holland’s surprise loss to Denmark on match-day one, Bert van Marwjick’s men desperately need the points in the industrial Ukrainian town, while Germany is looking to build on a narrow win over Portugal. Indeed, a Germany win will send Joachim Löw’s men into the next round, and Holland out of the tournament.

There’s tangential Manchester United interest in this clash, with the perennial tabloid column-filler Wesley Sneijder starting for Holland, while young midfielder Keving Strootman should also be involved. On the German side former United trainee Ron-Robert Zieler will be on the bench.

Join United Rant for our latest live blog at Euro 2012, with Ed and Jony Ball from around 7pm, with preamble and Portugal – Denmark updates 5pm.

 

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United Rant Live! England v France

June 11, 2012 Tags: , International 2 comments

Eight years on from England’s 2-1 defeat to France at Euro 2004 and the sides meet again in Donetsk, Ukraine, late Monday afternoon. Once again France will start favourites to emerge victorious, with England hampered by injuries, a late change of manager, and a general lack of quality! But can Roy Hodgson’s men ‘park the bus’ against France and pull off an unlikely result?

There’s plenty of Manchester United interest in this one, with Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young set to start for the Three Lions, and Patrice Evra with France. Suspended Wayne Rooney will watch from the sidelines, while Phil Jones will be on England’s bench.

Join United Rant for our third live blog of the tournament, with Ed and Jony Ball from around 4.30pm, with news updates throughout the day.

 

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Welbz and Young: England’s lone rangers

June 10, 2012 Tags: , , , International 32 comments

With Euro 2012 well under way attention has turned, momentarily Rant suspects, from the tittle-tattle of transfer market gossip to the world’s second biggest football tournament™, which is taking place in Poland and Ukraine over the next three weeks. In between bouts of organised racism, fans from 16 countries hope to witness some high quality football. Before Spain or Germany inevitably walk off with the trophy, of course.

There’s plenty of Manchester United-related interest in this one, with seven current players and six ex-Reds taking part – Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck for England, Patrice Evra with France, Anders Lindegaard with Denmark, and Nani with Portugal.

Many United supporters will also point to Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick’s bizarre exclusion from the England set-up. The former of whom had Roy Hodgson fluffing his lines in a BBC interview on Saturday, with the England coach now claiming that Ferdinand is “too good” to sit on the bench. There’s Rant thinking Rio might have been “too black” to be in the same squad as John Terry. But then, Rant is the cynical type.

England, meanwhile, enter an international tournament with the lowest expectations since Bobby Robson’s side lost all three group matches at Euro 1988 in Germany – to Holland, the Soviet Union and Ray Houghton’s Ireland. There’s unlikely to be much shock should England return home early once more after three difficult fixtures in the next 10 days.

And the start couldn’t be much tougher for Hodgson’s men, with a vibrant France the first opponents on Monday afternoon. The sight of the aforementioned Terry, reportedly carrying groin and hamstring injuries, trying to keep Karim Benzema, Franck Ribéry, Olivier Giroud, Hatem Ben Arfa and Samir Nasri at bay will surely bring a rueful smile to Ferdinand’s face. After all, while Terry is built like a tank, he also turns like one, to bastardise an infamous piece of mid-1990s commentary.

But there is hope for Hodgson’s men, with England set to follow Chelsea’s lead by ‘parking the bus’ against the French in Donetsk. It isn’t going to be pretty, but anti-football can be effective on occasion. The question is how does England strike the balance between allowing the few creative players to flourish, and carrying out Hodgson’s plan A – to make the Three Lions difficult to beat.

Indeed, United’s Welbeck and Young will likely be the focus of England’s attack for Hodgson’s side on Monday, with Liverpool’s Andy Carroll on the bench. Hodgson may be all for anti-football this summer, just not that anti-football it seems. The United duo should offer plenty of food for thought to France’s somewhat pedestrian central defensive partnership of Phillip Mexes and Adil Rami.

But all that pace and dynamism is wasted if England can’t get the ball into Young and Welbeck’s feet. Early reports suggest the technically limited Stewart Downing and James Milner are to be prefered to the more attacking, but defensively suspect, Arsenal duo of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott in wide areas. While Steven Gerard will play the central midfield position, at which he has never shown any tactical discipline, along side Scott Parker – a wholehearted but limited midfielder.

France’s inevitable midfield superiority will be hard on both Young and Welbeck, with the later in particular likely to spend long periods without the ball. It’s a challenge Young appears to have taken on with gusto. After all, the United winger has scored six in his last 10 internationals to become the national team’s leading man in Wayne Rooney’s absence. Young is once again set to take on Rooney’s ‘number 10’ role for the national team, with Welbeck leading the line.

“When you play for Manchester United, the pressure’s on every week,” Young told reporters on Sunday.

“Everyone wants to beat Manchester United, so when it comes to playing with pressure, it’s no problem. I enjoy having a challenge. I remember the manager, Sir Alex, saying to me when I first joined United that it would be a big challenge for me. I’ve played a whole season now and I’m full of confidence. I’m looking forward to Monday.

“I’m a versatile player. I have been throughout my career: up front, either wing or off a main striker. I want to be creative, to get on the ball, to play. That’s exactly what I’m looking to do on Monday. I played this role for a whole season at Aston Villa and I’ve played it [for England] in the last few games. I’ve been getting on the scoresheet, getting assists. It’s up to me to use my brain, be clever, find the pockets of space and get on the ball. I think I can do that.”

True, Young has excelled in the position for England in recent games, offering a direct, intelligent, and pacey style that will compliment Welbeck’s movement into the channels. Welbeck’s inclusion will also encourage England to play the ball on the ground at least. Carroll’s would surely do the exact opposite.

But this is England; this is international competitive, and waste possession is what every England side has done at recent tournaments. At least the ones England actually qualified for. It points to a lonely late-afternoon for United’s dynamic forward duo.

Meanwhile, former United defender and France coach Laurent Blanc is wary of Welbeck’s threat, while mindful of England’s likely negative mindset.

“They’ll drop back, have a bank of four with some quick players in there, and try and hit us on the break,” said Blanc.

“We need to be careful with that and make sure we’re not caught off guard. If there’s space in behind our back four, they’ll counter-attack. If they play Welbeck, we’ll have to leave him as little space as possible to exploit.

“But we’ll play our own style. If we sat back and waited for the English to come at us, it’d be 0-0 and we might end up only threatening to score a goal from a set-piece. No, there’ll be two very different philosophies on show and I hope the side that plays more football will win the game.”

Few, least of all England’s players, will bet on Hodgson’s side playing more football on Monday. But if the Three Lions are to get anything from the match, then United’s lonely forward duo surely hold the key.

United Rant Live! Ireland v Croatia

June 10, 2012 Tags: , International No comments

Join United Rant for the second live blog of Euro 2012 – Republic of Ireland v Croatia in Poznań, Poland.

There’s loads of United interest in this one, with John O’Shea, Darron Gibson, and Paul McShane likely to turn out for Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic side. Meanwhile, Croatia’s midfield is built around Tottenham Hotspur’s Luka Modric, the man Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly wants to bring to Old Trafford this summer.

Republic of Ireland versus Croatia, 10 June 2012, 19.45 (BST), Poznań, Poland.

 


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United Rant Live! Portugal v Germany

June 9, 2012 Tags: , International 5 comments

Join United Rant for our first live blog international match – Portugal v Germany at Euro 2012! There’s plenty of United interest in this one, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani in the Portugal team, and former trainee Ron-Robert Zieler on the Germany bench. Rant will be live blogging several games throughout the tournament, predominantly those with a strong United connection. We hope to have you with us here!

Today: Portugal versus Germany, 9 June 2012, 19.45 (BST), Lviv, Ukraine.

 


[liveblog]

Euro 2012: five youngsters to watch

June 8, 2012 Tags: International 3 comments

Tournament football, they say, is never a good time to scout new players, but Euro 2012 will be home to some of the continent’s most exciting young talents. Will they flourish on the big stage? Here’s Rant’s guide to five…

Ivan Perisic – 23 – Croatia/Borussia Dortmund – midfielder
The chances of Perisic featuring in more than three games this summer are slim, but don’t miss an opportunity to watch this young midfielder take on Europe’s best. Top scorer in Belgium’s Pro League for Club Brugge, and then later signed in 2011 by German champions Borussia Dortmund, Perisic has enjoyed a flying start to life in the Bundesliga notching up nine goals in 40 appearances this season. One only needs to recall the wonderful volley Perisic scored against Arsenal in last season’s Champions League to see what all the fuss is about. Often used from the bench by Croatian coach Slaven Bilic in qualifying, but delivering the goods when called upon. A jewel in an ageing Croatian side – expect big things in ‘Polkraine’ from this talented left-footer.

2011/12
44 appearances in all competitions
Nine goals, seven assists
Value > £5 million

 

Yann M’Vila – 21 – France/FC Stade Rennes – midfielder
Despite being just 21-years-old M’vila has notched up 18 caps for his national team, with performances that have brought inevitable comparisons with the great Patrick Viera. Strong, level-headed and an unforgiving tackler, M’Vila has progressed to become one of Europe’s hottest young prospects. With a phenomenal ability to read and direct play, and to create chances for Franc Ribery, Karim Benzema and company, England’s players will have to be on their toes when the two sides meet in Group D. Arsène Wenger is a keen admirer – expect a good performance at Euro 2012 to seal his move from French side Rennes to one of Europe’s elite.

 

Alan Dzagoev – 21 – Russia/CSKA Moscow – midfielder
Since winning the Russian Young Player of the Year award in 2008/9, Dzagoev has developed into one of the best, and most sought after, playmakers in European football. Despite only scoring six goals in 48 appearances over the course of the 2011/12 season for CSKA, Dzagoev was top scorer in Russia’s successful Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. A deadly link between midfield and attack, expect Dzagoev to dazzle should Russia advance from Group A as widely expected.

2011/12
13 appearances
One goal, four assists
Value > £14 million

 

Cristian Eriksen – 21 – Denmark/Ajax – midfielder
No top young player list would be complete without Ajax’s phenomenally talented starlet Cristian Eriksen. Blessed with an extraordinary ability to read the game and a radar-like passing ability, the hopes of Denmark’s campaign rest solely on the 21-year-olds shoulders. A sure starter for Denmark, Eriksen is likely to be played just behind Sunderland striker Nikolas Bendtner with two wingers supporting him in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Probably the pick of the bunch in this selection. One not to be missed this summer!

2011/12
50 appearances
Nine goals, 22 assists
Value > £18 million

 

Mario Götze – 19 – Germany/Borussia Dortmund – midfielder
Any such list would also be irrelevant without Dortmund’s young German player. Götze beat a group of six top-class German youngsters to make the final cut, and it’s not surprising to see why. The 19-year-old star of Borussia Dortmund’s league and cup double winning side has taken the world by storm over the past 18 months, securing the award for European U-21 player of the year in the process. Not only a goal scorer, with seven in an injury-hit season for Dortmund, Götze possesses a Messi-esque dribbling talent that strikes fear into even the most experienced European defenders. Götze may struggle to gain a starting berth in a very strong German national team, but he is likely to play a regular substitute role throughout the campaign. He’s unlikely to let the chance slip by. Remember the name.

2011/12
32 appearances
Eight goals, eight assists
Value > £27 million

 
Honourable mentions:
Andre Schuurle, Germany
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, England
James McClean, Republic of Ireland
Kevin Strootman, Netherlands
Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Greece

Rant will be providing regular ‘scouting reports’ during the tournament, with our assessment of the best players on show. Like a player? Add your favourites below!

Guy Bottomley can be found at his blog, Sporting Ketchup, and on Twitter.

Euro Cast – Championship preview

June 8, 2012 Tags: , Rant Cast 6 comments

In a special double-length Rant Cast European edition regulars Ed and Paul look ahead to the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, which starts on Friday.

Assessing each of the teams, record, manager, best players, chances and haircuts, Euro Cast is the most comprehensive preview of the tournament ever featured, well, on this website at least!

With our predictions for best player, top goalscorer, youngsters to look out for, unknowns, dark horses, and of course, the tournament winner!

Hit us up with any feedback below or follow the pod on Twitter: Paul – @UtdRantCast, Ed – @UnitedRant.

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Stream this episode using the player below or listen on iTunes and leave us a review! The podcast RSS feed is available here.

Team-by-team Euro guide: Group D

June 7, 2012 Tags: , International 3 comments

Euro 2012 is around the corner, with 16 national teams heading to bases in Poland and Ukraine ready for the big kick on Friday. And while we’re firmly Manchester United focused here at Rant, we’ll be covering the tournament in full: current and former Reds on show, with luck some outstanding football, and a big old trophy to be won! Spain defend the tournament won in Austria and Switzerland – Fernando Torres scoring the only goal of the game as La Roja beat Germany in the Vienna final. Indeed, Spain remain the bookies favourites four years on, although Germany, Holland, Italy and France will each harbour some hope. England – not so much.

In Rant’s team-by-team preview we assess each side’s chances, pick out the key players and recall some favourite moments.

 
Group D – England, France, Sweden, Ukraine
 

England

Words by Guy Bottomley, whom can be found at Sporting Ketchup and on Twitter!

After a commendable qualifying campaign in which England finished first in Group G, six points ahead of closest rivals Montenegro, scoring 17 goals in the process, write England off at your peril! With less pressure on the team than in recent international competitions, and on the back of recent victories against Spain, Sweden, Norway and Belgium, could Roy Hodgson’s England launch an attack on the coveted Henri Delaunay trophy?

Last five Matches: (W) Belgium 1-0, (W) Norway 1-0, (L) Netherlands 3-2, (W) Sweden 1-0, (W) Spain 1-0

Fifa World Ranking: 6

Nickname: Three Lions

Manager: Roy Hodgson – with 18 previous coaching jobs on his CV, the 64-year-old brings a wealth of experience to an England team that lacked togetherness much under Italian coach Fabio Capello. Never before has Hodgson managed a country as much in the spotlight as England, but to his credit, taking Switzerland to the knockout stages in 1994 was no mean feat. However, Hodgson was not all fans first-choice for the role, and needs a solid performance in Poland and Ukraine to silence the many doubters who wanted Tottenham Hotspur coach Harry Redknapp to take the reins. This is Roy’s biggest task yet, and he will need to call upon that vast wealth of experience if England is to progress.

Key Players:

  • Joe Hart, Manchester City, goalkeeper – so many times has England been let down by goalkeeping errors that Hart’s rise through the ranks is a breath of fresh air. Exceptional performances in Manchester City’s title-winning team have ensured Hart is first name on the team-sheet. A ‘keeper with fantastic shot stopping ability, and an exceptionally cool head for his age
  • Steven Gerrard (c), Liverpool, midfielder – experienced and level-headed, Gerrard is a player most supporters would include in the England team. Radar-like passing precision and an eye for goal, Gerrard remains the key man in England’s midfield although there are question marks over the player’s fitness
  • Wayne Rooney, Manchester United, forward – no mention of ‘key men’ can be made without including ‘Wazza’ despite the striker being ruled out for England’s first two games due to suspension. The United striker is vital if England is the progress in the tournament, with Rooney’s  genius on and off the ball set for the big stage after a few week’s  rest.

United Interest: United youngster Danny Welbeck is set to lead the line for England. After a promising full season at Old Trafford, in which Welbeck bagged nine goals, the striker scored a ‘Messi-like’ chip against Belgium in a recent friendly to leave the forward full of confidence and ready to test himself against Europe’s best.

Random Fact: Stewart Downing’s father, also called Stewart, predicted his son would create 20 Andy Carroll goals in the past season. In reality, Downing to Carroll assists totalled zero. Downing to anybody assists also totalled zero for that matter!

Defining Euro moment: the penalty misses against arch rivals Germany in the semi-final at Euro 96 cost England a place in the Wembley final.

Betting: 14/1

 

Sweden

Words by Rob Burnett, whom can be found at his blog and on Twitter!

The Swedes have made four appearances at the Euros –  in 1992 as hosts, followed by 2000, 2004 and 2008, with a best placed finish being the semi-finals, knocking out Graham Taylor’s England on the way, 20 years ago. Sweden had a successful qualifying campaign, winning eight out of 10 games, and beating Netherlands to end the Dutch 17 game unbeaten streak. It proved to be a vital win, ensuring Sweden gained automatic qualification as the ‘best loser’, dodging the play-offs. Rank outsiders perhaps, but Sweden has the ability to pull off surprise this summer with a team that is very hard to break down. Only four of the 23 players in the squad have less than 10 caps.

Last five matches: (W) Bahrain 2-0 | (W) Qatar U23 5-0 | (W) Croatia 3-1 |(W) Iceland 3-2 | (W) Serbia 2-1

FIFA Ranking: 17

Nickname: Blågult (The Blue-Yellow)

Manager: Erik Hamren – took over after nine-year veteran Lars Lagerback resigned following Sweden’s disastrous 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign. Hugely experienced Scandinavian manager has won three Swedish cups, a Danish cup and back-to-back Norwegian Premier League titles. Sweden has been handed a tricky group, but Hamren’s style of play will prove hard for England, Ukraine and France to break down.

Key Players:

  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic (c), Milan, forward – serial “honestly he’s really good” player will once again be out to prove his own hype! Ibra is now Sweden’s captain, and bagged a respectable five goals in qualifying. Frequently rumours of him move to United have never materialised
  • Sebastian Larsson, Sunderland, midfielder – former Arsenal and Birmingham City winger, who has now seemingly found his groove at Sunderland. Can be driving force on the wing, with a killer dead-ball delivery. Once described by Arsene Wenger as “probably the best free kick taker in the league”
  • Rasmus Elm, AZ Alkmaar, midfielder – labelled the biggest talent Sweden has produced since Ibrahimovic, Elm is a massive threat from midfield, with accuracy in the pass and quality from free-kicks. One of Europe’s hottest commodities this summer, with United, Liverpool and Spurs all reportedly sniffing around the AK player.

United interest: United has a brief history with Swedish players, including treble-winner Jesper Blomqvist and temporary striker Henrik Larsson.

Random Fact: Sweden’s assistant manager is former Aston Villa striker Marcus Allback.

Defining Euro moment: Tomas Brolin’s 82nd minute goal against England at Euro 92 sent the hosts sailing into the semi-final and ditched England out the group, dead last.

Betting: 66/1

 

Ukraine

Words by Ben Coates, whom can be found at his blog and on Twitter!

Ukraine has only been a national side in its own right for 20 years, having played its first international match on 29 April 29 1992 against Hungary. Euro 2012 will be the second time Ukraine has competed in a major tournament – Zhovto-Blakytni’s debut was in the World Cup 2006, where Ukraine reached the quarter-final.

Last five matches: (D) Germany 3-3 | (W) Austria 2-0 | (W) Israel 3-2 | (W) Estonia 4-0 | (L) Austria 3-2 | (W) Turkey 2-0

FIFA Ranking: 52

Nickname: Zbirna or Sbirna, (National Team)

Manager: Oleh Volodymyrovych “Oleg” Blokhin – formerly a standout striker for Dynamo Kyiv and the Soviet national team, being named European Footballer of the Year in 1975 he was named European Footballer of the Year to win the Ballon d’Or. He was the second Soviet, and the first Ukrainian player to achieve the feat.

Key Players:

  • Andriy Shevchenko, Dynamo Kyiv, forward – ex Chelsea striker was one of Roman Abramovich’s original investments, although Shevchenko’s career never really took off in England. Despite this Shevchenko can boast a very successful time in Italy with AC Milan, including winning the Champions League
  • Andriy Voronin, Dynamo Moscow, forward – a true superstar with Liverpool, where he sported a fantastic pony tail, and wore number 10! Well, he might have scored in a pre-season friendly of two! Far greater success has come in the Bundesliga for Mainz, Koln and Leverkusen
  • Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Bayern Munich, midfielder – a major part of Bayern’s run to the Champions League final this year, and a hard-working player in the engine-room. If Ukraine is to progress this summer, Tymoshchuk is key.

United interest: Andrei Kanchelskis was a vital part of United’s success in the 1990s, when Sir Alex Ferguson often deployed two flying wingers. Kanchelskis never represented the country of his birth though, instead playing for Russia when the USSR split. Scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 demolition of United’s arch neighbours, Manchester City.

Random fact: 21 of 23 playing squad members play in the Ukrainian league.

Defining Euro moment: Securing the rights to Euro 2012 – it will be the nation’s debut in the tournament!

Betting: 60/1

 

France

Words by Thomas Willoughby, whom can be found on Twitter!

Two-time European Championship winners in 1984 and 2000, France had a decent qualifying campaign, winning six of 10 matches, and only losing once to Belarus. France finished top of the qualification group by a solitary point, and join England, Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine in the tournament proper. France has seen a major footballing revolution under Laurent Blanc, casting out Raymond Domanech’s odd ‘methods’ to focus on player form rather than star signs! France is on a 23-game unbeaten run, beating Germany on the way.

Last five matches: (W) Estonia 4-0 | (W) Serbia 2-0 | (W) Iceland 3-2 | (W) Germany 2-1 | (D) Belgium 0-0

FIFA Ranking: 16

Nickname: Les Bleus (The Blues)

Manager: Laurent Blanc – took over after the travesty of 2010. And Blanc deserves huge praise for the drastic improvement seen in the French national side in the past two years. A former United centre-back, French captain, and Ligue 1 winner with Bordeaux as manager, Blanc can draw upon vast experience to motivate his squad. Blanc’s side plays attractive attacking football, while remaining difficult to break down at the back. Potential successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford?

Key Players:

  • Hugo Lloris (c), Olympique Lyonnais, goalkeeper – French captain at just 25, with more than a decade ahead of him in the game. Proven in the Champions League with Lyon, and often considered one of the world’s  best ‘keepers in the world. Worth a punt for the Golden Glove
  • Samir Nasri, Manchester City, midfielder – a key component in City’s Premier League title last season. Nasri is on the verge of becoming the complete attacking midfielder – can score, create, with decent pace. Nasri is a fantastic tournament away from being one of the best. If only he’d chosen United…
  • Karim Benzema, Real Madrid, forward – another ‘one that got away’, Benzema had a slow start to his Madrid career, yet has turned it around in the last season, netting 67 goals in 133 appearances overall for Los Merengues. Powerful and deadly in the 18-yard-box – could score a a hatful of goals.

United interest: Patrice Evra captained United for much of last season. The speedy left-back has suffered a very patchy time with France though after being fingered for a key role in the ‘revolts’ of 2010. Suffered a five-match international ban, but back in the squad and set to start the tournament. Could play a key role if France goes far in the competition.

Random Fact: France haven’t progressed from the group stage of a major tournament since making the World Cup final in 2006.

Defining Euro Moment: Sylvain Wiltord’s last-gasp equalizer against Italy in Euro 2000. Trezeguet would score a golden goal in extra time, but, in truth, France had it won with the equalizer.

Betting: 10/1