BBC experts give us their views
THE European Championships are here again, and sadly we won’t see an Englishman in sight. But unlike England there are 16 teams who deserve to be competing on the big stage. From Portugal’s wizard winger Ronaldo, to Germany’s star striker Lukas Podolski, Euro 2008 is expected to be a thriller. So who tickles your fancy? Who’ll crash out like a damp squid and who’ll be the tournament’s star player?
Here are some of the BBC’s sporting experts to give us their views…
Okay – who’s going to win Euro 2008 and what makes them the strongest team?
Alan Shearer: The usual favourites will be there or thereabouts; you’ll have Holland, France, Italy, but if it was down to me I’d go along with France. I look at the players that they have, and the experience that they have – they’ve still got players who have won World Cups, who have won European Championships, and they know how to win a tournament. That’s why I would go for them.
John Motson: Germany. Unlucky in 2006.
Mark Bright: I’m thinking France or Spain… Both teams have experienced and very good players and both are capable of producing the goods for the tournament. But I’ll go with Spain, David Villa and Fernando Torres aren’t a bad strike force, it’s about time they won something. Viva Espana!
Steve Wilson: Germany – history and current form means you cannot ignore them.
Jonathan Pearce: Portugal are my dark horses. They came close four years ago on home soil and have a younger, improved squad this time.
Who’s likely to be the top striker?
Alan Shearer: That’s a very difficult question. I think that’s what I’ll be looking forward to most, the strikers, having played in that position myself. I’m interested to see whether Fernando Torres can carry his Premier League form on to the Euros.
John Motson: Fernando Torres (Spain).
Mark Bright: Always difficult to predict this, possibly Van Nistelrooy, Torres, but I’ll go for the best player in Europe at the moment, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Steve Wilson: Look out for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of Holland.
Jonathan Pearce: Cristiano Ronaldo, the best player in the world right now.
Which player(s) do you think will be the most influential?
Alan Shearer: You look at one player – Ronaldo. It will be fascinating to see how he goes, totally different to him playing in the Premier League every week, and again, like Torres it will be interesting to see whether he can carry that form on into the Euros.
John Motson: Gattuso (Italy), Modric (Croatia), Nihat Kahveci (Turkey).
Mark Bright: Huntelaar from Holland, Daniel Niculae from Romania and Gekas, a forward for Greece, are all going to impress, but I’ll go for Ronaldo; I fully expect him to confirm his place as the world’s best footballer.
Jonathan Pearce: Ronaldo has the pace, power and breathtaking talent to dominate any game. There have been critics who say he doesn’t perform in the big games. He can prove them wrong this summer.
Anyone we may not have heard much of yet likely to make a name for themselves?
Alan Shearer: When I watched Croatia when they played England I was impressed with them and I’m fascinated to see how they get on. They’ve got a couple of Premier League players, not really household names, in Vedran Corluka from Manchester City and Portsmouth’s Niko Kranjcar, plus Dinamo Zagreb’s exciting young playmaker Luka Modric who’s attracting interest from a lot of bigger teams – but whether they can go on and be a success remains to be seen.
John Motson: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Holland).
Mark Bright: Huntelaar from Holland, if he plays could end up in the Premier League.
Steve Wilson: There are very few quality players who are not well-known long before they reach this level.
Jonathan Pearce: Lyon’s holding mid-fielder Jeremy Toulalan can emerge as the natural successor to Claude Makelele.
Any particular games you’re most looking forward to, and why?
Alan Shearer: There’s that group with France, Italy and Holland; that’ll be a great group, all those games will be big games.
John Motson: Italy v France (repeat of 2006 World Cup Final).
Mark Bright: France and Italy, all the talent and stars on the pitch, should be a beauty.
Steve Wilson: Watching the Dutch play anyone.
Jonathan Pearce: I always tingle before my first game. This time it’s Germany v Poland. The Germans will be very strong again.
Which two teams do you think would make the best final?
Alan Shearer: Anyone and England but unfortunately that’s not possible!
John Motson: Holland v Czech Republic.
Mark Bright: Portugal v Germany, contrasting styles.
Steve Wilson: Portugal and Holland.
Jonathan Pearce: Portugal/Spain.
Most exciting player of the tournament?
Alan Shearer: Ronaldo, I think he is without doubt the most exciting talent in the world at this minute.
John Motson: Karim Benzema (France).
Mark Bright: Cristiano Ronaldo.
Steve Wilson: Ronaldo.
Jonathan Pearce: Ronaldo followed by Torres and Henry in his swansong.
Any favourite memory from previous European championships?
Alan Shearer: The Holland game at Wembley [Euro 96] was incredible, and an unbelievable atmosphere – to beat them 4-1 as we did was great.
John Motson: Euro 96 England v Scotland. The most memorable European game I’ve commentated on was the 1976 final, West Germany v Czechoslovakia.
Mark Bright: Euro 96, when Stuart Pearce scored that penalty, the roar of emotion from him toward the crowd was sent right back to him from every England fan inside that stadium, incredible moment in time, a real “I was there” moment as a fan. And seeing Frank Rijkaard cry when Holland lost in the semi-final in 2000, I’ve never seen a manager cry, it showed how much it meant to him. I also loved the final in 2000, it was my first tournament for the BBC, and I sat in the press box for the final. Italy were winning with a few moments to go when Wiltord scored for France, the game went into golden goal period and David Trezeguet scored for France, what a moment.
Steve Wilson: Watching England 4 Holland 1 in Euro 1996 at Wembley. For drama, maybe Portugal v England in Lisbon in 2004.
Jonathan Pearce: In 1992, Capital Radio decided to pull the second commentary team out of the finals once England had been knocked out, for budget reasons. Bobby Moore, my co-commentator, paid for the other two men to stay in Sweden because he saw how upset they were. On the field the richest memories would be watching the Gullit/van Basten Dutch team winning Euro 1988 and England’s win over Holland eight years later; the saddest would be seeing Gareth Southgate’s face at Euro 96 after the semi-final penalty shoot out. Commentating, the sheer drama and ultimate despair of England v Germany at Wembley in 96 sets it above all others.
Which foreign superstar do you wish had an English passport for a month?
Alan Shearer: Without a doubt, Ronaldo. England have not really ever filled the left-hand-side role and he can play anywhere across the front as well.
John Motson: Frank Ribery (France).
Mark Bright: Ronaldo, simple as that.
Jonathan Pearce: Ronaldo of course.
One former England player who could have helped them reach the finals?
Alan Shearer: A world-class Paul Gascoigne on his day. It’s a shame what’s going on in his life now, he’s had a tough time but he’s one of the best I’ve ever played with, on his day he was as good as anyone – he was the best in the world at one stage. People paid money just to watch him.
John Motson: Peter Shilton.
Mark Bright: Gary Lineker…
Steve Wilson: Alf Ramsey!
Jonathan Pearce: Paul Gascoigne.
Who will emerge from Euro 2008 as the superstar of the future?
Alan Shearer: Ronaldo
John Motson: Lukas Podolski (Bayern Munich and Germany).
Mark Bright: Ronaldo.
Steve Wilson: Huntelaar is already a superstar but will be the player everyone wants to sign this summer.
Jonathan Pearce: Ronaldo, Torres, the usual suspects.
Uefa Euro 2008, coverage starts on the BBC on Sat 7 June, Switzerland v Czech Republic, 5pm.