'Resurgent Germany are the team to beat'
England begin their Euro 2012 campaign against France tonight. Here, Football Writer MATT DANNATT predicts how he thinks the tournament will pan out
WITH all the hype surrounding the London Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee, I can't help but feel that Euro 2012 has crept up on us all.
While England has been swept up by the maelstrom of 'jub-olympic' fever, international football's second-biggest tournament has come up on the rails.
Perhaps it's down to the nation's lack of faith in – or worse – indifference towards the current crop of England's footballers and their chances of success in Ukraine and Poland.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
As Graham Taylor put it, when I spoke to him last week, "no-one" is giving Roy – not Harry's – men a chance against the cream of the continent.
In fact, as Mr Taylor quite rightly remarked, they prepare to take on the French in their opening fixture this evening with the least amount of expectation on them than ever before.
But this is something I feel could work in England's favour.
While I am as far as possible from being confident that we will see Steven Gerrard lift the Henri Delaunay trophy aloft on July 1, I do believe that England may surprise a few of the nay-sayers, pessimists and signed-up members of the 'Arry for England brigade.
Apart from the injuries, withdrawals and controversial omissions, England still count a few members of the fabled 'golden generation' among its number, allied with promising youngsters such as Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
In Joe Hart, England can boast one of the best keepers in the tournament, and in Wayne Rooney – once he returns from suspension – a truly world-class forward.
But, despite this, not many will give the Three Lions much of a prayer against Laurent Blanc's swashbuckling squad, currently riding on the high of a 21-match unbeaten run.
But anything more than a defeat and England will have given themselves a more than decent chance of qualifying from, what is on paper, one of the toughest groups in the tournament. And, after that, who knows?
For what it's worth, I've got a feeling that Germany will run out as eventual tournament winners – although few would be brave enough to rule out reigning world and European champions Spain.
Joachim Low's side ran the Spanish close in the 2010 World Cup final, and I feel they have improved in the intervening years.
Boasting established stars such as Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger, perennial goal-getter Miroslav Klose as well as exciting young talents such as Mario Götze and Marco Reus; 'Die Mannschaft' certainly has the capacity to go all the way in the tournament. They started solidly enough with a 1-0 win against Portugal on Saturday.
But, as we all know, in football, very few things are ever certain.
As with most tournaments, there is likely to be an underdog that blazes a trail; a la South Korea in the 2002 World Cup or Greece in Euro 2004, a giant footballing nation will probably go home too soon and if England get far enough, history tells us that we are likely go out on penalties, again.
But what is for sure is that for football fans of whatever nation, the next two weeks are going to be filled with excitement, intrigue, entertainment and for the lucky ones, it will culminate with glory for their country.
I for one can't wait to see how it plays out.