On Sunday the 8th of June 2008 one of the worlds most highly
anticipated footballing competitions gets underway and
tvnz.co.nz has employed the Merseyside
knowledge of Sarah Williams to preview the dynamics of each
This year's UEFA EURO 2008 is co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland and is sure to promise plenty of emotion, passion and intrigue as footballing friends and foes come together to do battle in the hopes of being crowned the ultimate kings of European football.
Kicking off the three week competition is group A which includes the Czech Republic, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey.
On the face of it, it would be naïve not to count the Czech Republic and Portugal as the most likely to advance to the next round. Karel Brückner's Czech Republic have come into the competition on form after finishing top of their qualification group above competition favourites Germany, while the prospect of a Deco, Ronaldo and Nani partnership in an impressive Portugal team is almost too much to bare.
But it can not be ruled out that co-hosts Switzerland have the home advantage and a recently reprieved Turkey will be fighting for their place on the international footballing stage once more.
Let the games begin!
UEFA EURO 2008
Group A fixtures
Sunday 8 June 2008
Switzerland v Czech Republic - St. Jakob Park, Basel
Portugal v Turkey - Stade de Genève, Geneva
Thursday 12 June 2008
Czech Republic v Portugal - Stade de Genève, Geneva
Switzerland v Turkey - St. Jakob Park, Basel
Monday 16 June 2008
Switzerland v Portugal - St. Jakob Park, Basel
Turkey v Czech Republic - Stade de Genève, Geneva
Group A team profiles
Karel Brückner's Czech Republic came into Euro 2008 on top form after advancing over Austria and Switzerland to qualify for the competition at the top of group D - two points ahead of Euro favourites Germany - who they defeated 3-0 in Munich to secure their qualification in style.
And it is under the guidance of 68-year-old coach Brückner that the Czech Republic seems to flourish. Having worked with many of the squad for over a decade now - Brückner seems to have a knack of knowing exactly what makes his players tick, a feat that was shown when he lead them to the semi-finals of Euro 2004 in Portugal only to be defeated by eventual winners Greece.
But there are worries in the Czech camp with captain Tomas Rosicky being ruled out of the finals with a knee injury, along with the exclusion of central defender Radoslav Kovac (shoulder) and left back Marek Jankulovski (knee).
And while this may be a blow to the start of their competition the side do boast, arguably, one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Chelsea's Petr Cech along with the combination of top goal scorer Jan Koller (Nuremberg) and Milan Baros (Portsmouth) a pair who have scored 83 goals between them for their country.
Players to look out for in this years competition are youngsters Michal Kadlec whose debut goal helped the Czech Republic to a 3-1 friendly win over Scotland in the lead up to the competition and Martin Fenin - a 2007 under-20 World Cup finalist - who will be fighting with Baros for his right to start alongside against Koller.
Czech Republic squad list:
Goalkeepers: 16-Jaromir Blazek (Nuremberg), 1-Petr Cech (Chelsea), 23-Daniel Zitka (Anderlecht).
Defenders: 2-Zdenek Grygera (Juventus), 6-Marek Jankulovski (AC Milan), 13-Michal Kadlec (Sparta Prague), 18-Tomas Sivok (Sparta Prague), 5-Radoslav Kovac (Spartak Moscow), 12-Zdenek Pospech (FC Copenhagen), 22-David Rozehnal (Lazio), 21-Tomas Ujfalusi (Fiorentina).
Midfielders: 4-Tomas Galasek (Nuremberg), 14-David Jarolim (Hamburg), 17-Marek Matejovsky (Reading), 20-Jaroslav Plasil (Osasuna), 3-Jan Polak (Anderlecht), 19-Rudolf Skacel (Hertha Berlin), 7-Libor Sionko (FC Copenhagen), 11-Stanislav Vlcek (Anderlecht).
Strikers: 15-Milan Baros (Portsmouth), 8-Martin Fenin (Eintracht Frankfurt), 9-Jan Koller (Nuremberg), 10-Vaclav Sverkos (Banik Ostrava).
It may not come as much of a surprise but there is one clear favourite to progress with flying colours from group A.
The colours as you probably know are maroon, green and gold. The colours which are quite possibly, right now, weighing down on the shoulders of one Cristiano Ronaldo - whose awe-inspiring season of goals, awards, league titles and European cups has given the team and the nation a real belief that they can become the champions of Euro 2008.
Ronaldo is now seen as Portugal's pivotal player for Euro 2008, in much the same way as Luis Figo at Euro 2004 and former great Eusebio was during the 1960s. With his fast footwork and good heading ability, Ronaldo has displayed his array of skills to the full with Manchester United this season.
Portugal certainly looks the team to beat with an array of impressive names on the squad list including; Dangerous Barcalona midfielder Anderson Luis de Souza otherwise known as Deco, Werder Bremen's Hugo Almedia, Chelsea's Ricardo Carvalho and Ronaldo's Manchester United team-mate Nani - who made his Portugal debut during the 2006 World Cup.
And with "Big Phil' Scolari at the helm - he has set the side the ambitious target of reaching a second consecutive European championship final at Euro 2008 - something he achieved in 2004 when he took the team to the finals only to suffer a 1-0 defeat by pre-tournament outsiders Greece in Lisbon.
Portugal squad list:
Goalkeepers: 1-Ricardo Pereira (Real Betis), 12-Quim Silva (Benfica), 21-Rui Patricio (Sporting).
Defenders: 13-Miguel Monteiro (Valencia), 4-Jose Bosingwa (Porto), 2-Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea), 16-Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea), 5-Fernando Meira (VfB Stuttgart), 3-Bruno Alves (Porto), 15-Pepe (Real Madrid), 14-Jorge Ribeiro (Boavista).
Midfielders: 6-Raul Meireles (Porto), 10-Joao Moutinho (Sporting), 20-Deco (Barcelona), 8-Armando Petit (Benfica), 18-Miguel Veloso (Sporting).
Forwards: 7-Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), 11-Simao Sabrosa (Atletico Madrid), 17-Ricardo Quaresma (Porto), 21-Nuno Gomes (Benfica), 9-Hugo Almeida (Werder Bremen), 19-Nani (Manchester United), 23-Helder Postiga (Panathinaikos).
As Euro 2008 co-hosts with Austria - Switzerland kick off this year's tournament in their first game against Turkey hoping that a home advantage will give them the boost they need to make it through the group stages - at least.
With automatic qualification due to co-hosting the event, no big names to brand about and no major trophy's to their name the Swiss maybe a team that everyone discounts before they have even begun and perhaps they have good reason.
After a decent performance in the 2006 World Cup the Swiss seemed to be on a roll, but have since lost momentum after being defeated in nine of the 17 games since 2006 including their last four in a row against USA, Nigeria, England and Germany.
Add to this a concern over uninspiring performances, injuries to instrumental playermakers like Xavier Margairaz and lack of regular games of first-team players in top-flight football - coming into this competition against the likes of Portugal and Czech Republic, Switzerland look like a walk over.
But there has been some good news for coach Koebi Kuhn as top scoring captain Alex Frei is back after missing a year of international duty due to injury and with the home advantage weighing on their mind this is sure to be a striving factor for the Swiss as they hope to show the rest of the world just what they are made of, and after all, as so often is the case in football, if there is nothing to lose then there is everything to play for.
Switzerland squad list
Goalkeepers: 1-Diego Benaglio (Wolfsburg), 18-Pascal Zuberbuehler (Neuchatel Xamax), 21-Eldin Jakupovic (Grasshoppers Zurich).
Defenders: 3-Ludovic Magnin (Stuttgart), 17-Christoph Spycher (Eintracht Frankfurt), 4-Philippe Senderos (Arsenal), 20-Patrick Mueller (Olympique Lyon), 2-Johan Djourou (Arsenal), 13-Stephane Grichting (Auxerre), 23-Philipp Degen (Borussia Dortmund), 5-Stephan Lichtsteiner (Lille).
Midfielders: 19-Valon Behrami (Lazio), 8-Gokhan Inler (Udinese), 15-Gelson Fernandes (Manchester City), 6-Benjamin Huggel (Basel), 16-Tranquillo Barnetta (Bayer Leverkusen), 10-Hakan Yakin (Young Boys Berne), 7-Ricardo Cabanas (Grasshoppers Zurich), 22-Johan Vonlanthen (Salzburg), 14-Daniel Gygax (Metz).
Forwards: 9-Alex Frei (Borussia Dortmund), 11-Marco Streller (Basel), 12-Eren Derdiyok (Basel).
After finishing second in their Euro 2008 qualifying group behind Greece -Turkey are now intent on restoring their name and national pride in this years competition after years of desent following overzealous fans and a major post-match brawl that occurred before a play-off with Switzerland which lost them World Cup 2006 qualification and saw them incur sever FIFA sanctions.
On the upside for Turkey is Nihat Kahveci who has proved to be one of Turkey's most prolific footballing exports. The on-form 28-year-old striker is spearheading Turkeys 2008 campaign after successful seasons with Real Socidad and Villarreal, alongside Halil Altintop, the experienced Hakan Sukur and Semih Senturk Fenerbahce's top league goalscorer this season all adding to the attacking threat.
While the rest of the team reads like a who's who of Galatasaray with no less than 8 players for the side named in the squad - a bonus in team building and contunity on and off the pitch.
But it will be no easy feat for coach Fatih Terim, who led Galatasaray to UEFA Cup triumph as well as managing top Italian sides who now faces the challenge of carrying the renewed momentum into this years competition.
With the frustrations of failing to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, this Turkish side will now be determined to go one better this time round and a mouth-watering fight for the top of the table against sides the Czech Republic, Portugal and Switzerland await.
Turkey squad list:
Goalkeepers: 23-Volkan Demirel (Fenerbahce), 1-Rustu Recber (Besiktas), 12-Tolga Zengin (Trabzonspor).
Defenders: 20-Sabri Sarioglu (Galatasaray), 4-Gokhan Zan (Besiktas), 15-Emre Asik (Galatasaray), 2-Servet Cetin (Galatasaray), 3-Hakan Kadir Balta (Galatasaray), 16-Ugur Boral (Fenerbahce), 13-Emre Gungor (Galatasaray).
Midfielders: 7-Mehmet Aurelio (Fenerbahce), 6-Mehmet Topal (Galatasaray), 5-Emre Belozoglu (Newcastle United), 11-Tumer Metin (Larissa), 22-Hamit Altintop (Bayern Munich), 19-Ayhan Akman (Galatasaray), 14-Arda Turan (Galatasaray), 17-Tuncay Sanli (Middlesbrough), 18-Kazim Kazim (Fenerbahce), 10-Gokdeniz Karadeniz (FC Rubin Kazan).
Forwards: 8-Nihat Kahveci (Villarreal), 9-Semih Senturk (Fenerbahce), 21-Mevlut Erding (FC Sochaux).
tvnz.co.nz is amping up for Euro 2008 and each day this week we will feature an extensive preview of each group - stayed tuned!
On Wednesday Group B.