Qualified as joint hosts. Under George Leekens Belgium bored everyone to
tears during the last World Cup and form in friendlies was so poor many
felt the team would suffer the ignominy of a first round exit at home.
Waseige's appointment as coach has seen a dramatic turnaround in
fortunes for the Red Devils. Since his appointment the Belgians have
defeated Italy and Norway and held neighbours Holland to consecutive
draws including a sensational 5-5 thriller in Holland in Waseige's first game
Like their neighbours, Holland, Belgian always seem to produce good,
technical players many of whom are still playing in the less competitive
championships, no doubt clubs from Italy, Spain and England will be
watching closely. Nilis rarely plays well for Belgium but they are no longer
toothless in attack with Strupar and Emile Mpenza scoring regularly at
international level, well in friendlies. Good recent form ensures confidence
will be high and with home support Belgium should get to the
After a great start Italy laboured through qualification taking only two
points from their remaining 3 games. Form in friendlies has been awful
aside from victory over Portugal. Italy were humiliated at home to hosts
Belgium and away to Spain.
Toldo - Italy's fourth and fifth choice goalkeepers, Abbiati and Mazzantini,
would be starters for the majority of national sides, such is the quality
Italy are blessed with in goal and Toldo is the best of the bunch.
Comfortable in the air and despite his huge frame, is one of the most
spectacular shot stoppers in the World, more so than Batistuta's goals,
Toldo's saves got Fiorentina to the second stage of the Champions league
Nesta - The best defender in the World. Precision tackler, strong, quick,
good in the air. Has been heads and shoulders above any other defender in
Serie A this season including Thuram
Fiore - Despite good performances when given the opportunity to play, Parma
sold Fiore to Udinese at the end of last season and he has been a spectacular
success. A rarity in Serie A, a goalscoring midfielder, Fiore posses an explosive
shot and has the ability to play wonderful through passes
Albertini - World Class at making inaccurate 40yd passes, a complete waste
of a position. Supposedly gives tempo to the team, the sort of tempo every
team could do without i.e. a half arsed one
Inzaghi - His form during the second half of the season for Juve was awful.
Against Perugia in the last game of the season Inzaghi missed guilt edged
chances that ultimately cost Juventus the championship
Should have gone to the Low Countries : Di Canio (West Ham), Simone
Inzaghi (Lazio), Ferrante (Torino), Fuser (Parma)
Should have gone on Holiday : Albertini, Delvecchio, Filippo Inzaghi
Like Keegan, Zoff's pig headed instance of picking players based on
reputation may cost him dearly. Vieri is a huge loss, none of the forwards
have played well in recent months so unsurprisingly Zoff leaves the two
form Italian strikers at home i.e. Simone Inzaghi and Marco Ferrante and
didn't even consider Marco Simone or Paulo Di Canio who have had
outstanding seasons at Monaco and West Ham respectively. Totti is a
wonderful talent but since the arrival of Nakata at Roma has tried to win
matches by himself, over dribbling and shooting from improbable distances
and angles. Totti needs to get his head straight if Italy are to stand a
chance. Fiore should to one of the stars of the tournament and in true
Italy fashion is equally as likely to blow the crucial penalty in a shoot-out!
Should make the quarter-finals but will struggle to get further.
Came through one of the tougher qualifying groups with ease, dropping
just two points on the way. Predictably solid in friendlies.
One word describes Sweden - methodical. A hard working, tough
tackling team that lack flair and imagination. Much has been made of
Larsson's return from injury but he's never convinced at a higher level,
there is a World of difference between playing in Scotland and against
the top teams in Europe. Sweden may be difficult to beat but they are
desperately short of quality in attack, feeding off the giant Kennet
Andersson has become too predictable. Gifted youngsters Ljunberg and
Osmanovski will need to deliver the goods if Sweden are to have a good
Here's a quote from Torbjorn Pettersen who I assume writes for Swedish
newspaper, Daggens Nyheter, taken from World Soccer :
"To succeed at Euro 2000, I wish our midfield would read Ljunberg, Ljunberg,
Ljunberg. Also what's the use of playing friendlies like the one against
Denmark, where most of the football was just shit?"
Missed out on an automatic place to Germany and came through the
play-offs against Ireland thanks to inspired goalkeeping from Rustu.
The backbone of the team is built around this years treble winning
Galatasaray side (league, cup and UEFA Cup). Turkish players are now hot
property in Europe with many targeted by clubs from the more glamorous
leagues. Turkey have qualified for their second successive European
Championships and the experience will stand them in good stead in the future
but this tournament has probably come too early for them.
Overall : Belgium and Italy to qualify but Sweden could ruin both teams
chances if they find some goals.