Danish player Niki Zimling adjusts his pulse meter during a training session this week. Michael Probst/AP/Press Association Images
Euro 2012

On a wing and a prayer: what each team hopes, expects and faces in Poland and Ukraine

Miguel Delaney breaks down what fans throughout the continent can hope for this month at the Euros.

Every country at Euro 2012 has dreams. Every country also has nightmares. Here, we peer through the possibilities to assess the realistic prospects for each team.


Where they’re at: somewhere between brilliant and brittle. Croatia have the potential to be exceptional, but are currently one of the most inconsistent teams going into the competition.

Worst-case scenario: out in the first round without a win.

Best-case scenario: turning it on and turning over one of Spain or Italy as well as Ireland to reach a semi-final.

What they’ll most likely get: a tough battle for second in the group, ending with elimination.

Czech Republic

Where they’re at: a moderate team who are arguably only in this competition because their qualifying group was so poor beyond Spain, the Czechs have been blessed with an equally open group this time.

Worst-case scenario: out immediately without a point.

Best-case scenario: a quarter-final against one of the big boys from Group B.

What they’ll most likely get: early elimination.


Where they’re at: under the radar but in with a real chance. The eye-catching glamour everywhere else in Denmark’s group has meant their very real threat has been dangerously disregarded.

Worst-case scenario: immediately squeezed out by the sheer size of the other three.

Best-case scenario: doing what they did to Portugal twice in qualifying to defeat one — or even two — of the bigger sides. If so, a semi-final is far from impossible.

What they’ll most likely get: a valiant attempt that sees them just denied qualification.


Where they’re at: exceptionally hard to say. A team that was eminently reliable — if never quite rousing — in qualification has endured the worst possible preparation. At the least, Roy Hodgson’s watchword is reliability.

Worst-case scenario: an embarrassing first-round exit.

Best-case scenario: a solid base allowing the team to stumble through to a semi-final.

What they’ll most likely get: what they always get — a quarter-final defeat the first time they face a top-level side.


Where they’re at: on an upward curve, even if the process of evolution and imbalances in talent as regards position means there are still a fair few surges and drops.

Worst-case scenario: the dynamic attack can’t fully compensate for a dismal defence and the team caves early on.

Best-case scenario: winners. If France can pick up momentum from their forgiving opening group, then they may have the confidence to properly take on the more fatigued bigger sides.

What they’ll most likely get: semi-final


Where they’re at: usually celebrating. The team with one of the best attacks in the competition are very optimistic of winning it.

Worst-case scenario: suffering one surprise bad result in a tough group and allowing it to just about derail them, as with Italy in 2004.

Best-case scenario: winners

What they’ll most likely get: victory


Where they’re at: defending. The team is built with the same blueprint as 2004 but is not quite as effective.

Worst-case scenario: no goals and no points meaning no quarter-final.

Best-case scenario: given the intricacies of their side of the draw, an eminently possible quarter-final could well provide a further step.

What they’ll most likely get: first-round exit.

Ireland fan Cathal Gantley from Co Meath who travelled 22 hours from Krakow to watch team training at Municipal Stadium, Gdynia.Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire.


Where they’re at: somewhere near their own box. Giovanni Trapattoni has made Ireland exceptionally hard to break down and, as such, always in with a fighting chance.

Worst-case scenario: the three-man opposition midfields expose the holes and limitations in Trapattoni’s system in every game.

Best-case scenario: Ireland continue their fine defensive record and hold firm in every game, pulling off a few opportune attacks to make their way into the last eight.

What they’ll most likely get: a very good account of themselves but not enough to make it through.


Where they’re at: in turmoil. But also in control of the ball. Despite all the recent ructions, manager Cesare Prandelli has given Italy a new proactive, possession-based identity.

Worst-case scenario: all the problems cave in and the team goes out.

Best-case scenario: rallying around and roaring towards the final.

What they’ll most likely get: a siege mentality before a quarter-final ending.


Where they’re at: about to play their very first competitive fixture as a team, given how manager Franciszek Smuda has built an almost entirely new one over the last two years. It is, however, fresh in terms of attacking ideas as much as age.

Worst-case scenario: the pressure gets to them and they fold in the first round.

Best-case scenario: home advantage enhances them and fires them to the last eight.

What they’ll most likely get: a qualified success as they reach the quarter-finals.


Where they’re at: they’re not really sure. Like a few teams in this tournament, Portugal veer from fantastic to functional too much to be fully confident. Certainly, they’re not of the status they were in 2008, 2004 or 2000.

Worst-case scenario: Denmark do them for the third game in a row and leave them bottom of the group.

Best-case scenario: a semi-final after surging past whoever comes out of Group A, with Cristiano Ronaldo also taking his club form to the international stage.

What they’ll most likely get: three tough games and a third-place finish.


Where they’re at: on the slightest of dips after the 2010 World Cup but still the third best team in the competition.

Worst-case scenario: Portugal and Denmark finally cut through what is a tactically broken team. Bottom of the group isn’t out of the question.

Best-case scenario: neither is first. If the Netherlands can hold steady, they have more than enough ability up front to beat anyone with a few choice individual moments. It may yet take them to victory.

What they’ll most likely get: a semi-final.

England’s Steven Gerrard arrives arrive at the Stary Hotel, Krakow.
Picture date: Wednesday June 6, 2012. England face France in their opening game on Monday. See PA Story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/POOL/PA Wire.


Where they’re at: enjoying the third longest unbeaten run going into the competition and the best defensive record, both if which make them a very strong outside bet.

Worst-case scenario: one goes in and the roof falls in.

Best-case scenario: another semi-final.

What they’ll most likely get: a quarter-final defeat.


Where they’re at: still on top of the world but not quite as secure there as they once were.

Worst-case scenario: France 2002 as fatigue finally catches up with them.

Best-case scenario: history is made with a third major trophy in a row.

What they’ll most likely get: a final defeat as Germany just prove that bit fresher.

Spain are 14/5 to retain the cup with Betfair


Where they’re at: at a break with the past as, going against stereotype, they are open at the back and inventive up front.

Worst-case scenario: bottom of the group.

Best-case scenario: reclaiming their fine historic record against England and going through to the quarter-finals.

What they’ll most likely get: third place in the group.


Where they’re at: at home but not exactly sure of themselves given some wildly variant friendly results.

Worst-case scenario: three defeats, fourth place.

Best-case scenario: the quarter-finals.

What they’ll most likely get: a first-round exit.

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