The start of the tournament is here and an FL HQ Pro update
As I write this, the opening fixture of Euro 2012 is a little over eight hours away. Co-hosts Poland get us underway when they take on Euro 2004 winners Greece. While this fixture may not have the attraction of say Netherlands v Germany or Spain v Italy, because it's the opening game of the tournament it will still be an intriguing watch.
Traditionally hosts, or co-hosts, have fared well in their own tournament down the years, and Poland could continue that trend. Since Euro '92 only four of the hosts, or co-hosts have failed to make it out of the group in European Championships and World Cups, namely Belgium (Euro '00), Austria (Euro '08), Switzerland (Euro '08) and South Africa (2010 World Cup). In contrast to that, seven sides have reached the semi-final or better, Sweden (Euro '92), England (Euro '96), Netherlands (Euro '00), Portugal (Euro '04), France (1998 World Cup), South Korea (2002 World Cup) and Germany (2006 World Cup).
Poland are second favourites to qualify from Group A and will be looking to get off to a decent start as they have the talented Russians in their second match. Later on in the evening Russia take on the Czech Republic, and I fancy Russia to be one of the surprise packages of the tournament.
If today's games don't whet your appetite then the games over the weekend certainly give you a wonderful excuse to avoid the wet weather and crash in front of the TV. The Netherlands take on Denmark, followed by the brilliant Germany v Portugal clash, on Saturday and then Sunday sees the matches between Spain and Italy, and Ireland and Croatia.
Those games will be the first chance we get to see some of the bigger names of European football and, after they largely disappointed in South Africa two years ago, it will be interesting to see if they step up to the plate this time around. Robin van Persie has been grabbing all the headlines in the UK, but Klass-Jan Huntelaar could be the man to watch for the Dutch. Either way, they have a fierce looking front six and will be a match for anyone. Which is nice, because I drew them in the office Sweepstake last week.
It's still uncertain who Germany, Spain and Italy will field as their central striker with the classy Mario Gomez battling with the king of tournament football Miroslav Klose for Germany, while Fernando Llorente and Fernando Torres are vying for one spot in the Spain team. Italy have chopped and changed between one, Mario Balotelli, up front and a paring of Balotelli and Antonio Cassano in their recent friendlies, so it will be interesting to see what they go for.
They are luxuries that England don't have, with Danny Welbeck looking to have got the nod over Andy Carroll, while Wayne Rooney is of course suspended. Jermain Defoe expects to be available for that match, after he returned home following the unfortunate passing of his father.
England open against France on Monday night, and that game will be key, particularly for Roy Hodgson's men, in deciding who gets out of Group D. England don't have a great record against the French, having not beaten them in five outings since 1997, so they are really up against it. This time next week we will have a much clearer picture of how things are panning out, and we can start to look how the tournament is shaping up.
You may remember last week, I was talking about the Fantasy League office Professional auction we were in the middle of. Well, we completed the bidding earlier in the week and it looks set to be quite an even contest. The most expensive player was Cristiano Ronaldo who went for £40m, from a £100m budget, in round one, while the likes of Huntelaar, van Persie and keepers Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon were just a few of the players who went for over £20m.
If you want to follow the progress of the office league, you can do so here.
P.S. Don't forget to set your Supersubs !
Did you pick up any bargains in your auction? Who are you tipping for the tournament? Who did you get in your sweepstake? We'd love to hear from you, comment below. Meanwhile, I'll be back next week with some more blogging.
Ian Hart - Games Manager, Aston Villa fan.