Pissed through qualifying, winning all 10 matches from an admittedly
easy group. Reasonable recent form.
Nedved - Two seasons ago he was the best left sided player in Europe and
he's back to his best. Scary pace, creative, an eye for goal. Fabulous,
Berger - Like Nedved also left sided. Awesome shot, scores plenty of goals,
deadly free kicks
Koller - Giant striker who has averaged almost a goal a game at international
level. Great in the air and surprisingly good on the ground
Face a nightmare opening match against the hosts and then it gets worse!
Berger is suspended for the opening two games due to a previous red card,
UEFA's insistence in carrying forward suspensions from non tournament
matches is beyond stupid. Poborsky just plain sucks so unless Nedved,
Koller and maybe someone like the talented youngster Rosicky can earn
the Czechs a point in the first two games, they're going home.
Came through the qualifiers by violating Israel 8-0 on aggregate. Abysmal
recent form, loosing five games up until the end of April.
Jorgensen - A dribbling machine, has scored breathtaking goals in Serie A
this season although doesn't make enough assists.
Tomasson - Absolutely stunk in the Premiership but rescued his career at
Feyenoord, outstanding in the Champions league for the Dutch club this
season but very inconsistent.
Schmeichel - One of the untouchables, beyond criticism. Awful for Man United
last season and continued to make mistakes for Sporting and Denmark this
year. He may be an inspirational captain but Sorensen should be in goal
Helveg - Hopeless at Milan, continually wasted possession, continually
embarrassed by forwards
Can play spectacular football but recent form has been shocking. Don't have
a consistent goalscorer and more importantly don't have the Laudrups.
Have played half arsed since winning the World Cup and only secured
qualification in the final match. Haven't play well in friendlies, with the
exceptions of victories over England and Morocco, but they haven't been
Thuram - Still one of the best defenders in World football despite some
poor performances for Parma. Never lets France down.
Petit - Hugely underrated player, for me the star of their World Cup triumph.
Hard working, tough tackling midfielder with a superb range of passing.
Plagued by injuries all season.
Anelka - The super-brat played super football for Real Madrid in the closing
rounds of the Champions League. Devastating pace, has even managed to
score with his head! Unstoppable WHEN in the mood.
Lebouef - Wretched in the air, too slow, makes hospital passes
Deschamps - Old, slow, gets embarrassed and retaliates by making violent
Trezeguet - Everyone remembers during France 98 he missed 100%
chances and despite finishing as top scorer in the French league nothing
seems to have changed
France may lack pace in the centre of defence but Blanc and Desailly's
positional sense is so damn good it's rarely a problem. Petit and Viera form
one of the best central midfields in Europe, if picked - Lemerre still
prefers donkey Deschamps to partner Petit. Zidane has been abysmal for Juve
but is a solid and often spectacular performer for France. Shouldn't have
their trademark problems in attack, Henry has blossomed into a great striker
and Anelka's recent form has been encouraging. As both are reliant on their
pace against teams that defence deep Wiltord is the alternative.
Understandably one of the favourites and easily the most well rounded team.
Should have gone to the Low Countries : Dalmat (Marseille), Frey (Verona)
Should have stayed home : Lama (PSG), Deschamps & Lebouef (Chelsea),
Qualified as hosts. Friendly form has been awful.
Van der Sar - Holland still have a dodgy defence but Van der Sar is one
of the best 'keepers is the World. No weakness
Davids - Another solid season at Juve but below his usual standards. The
driving force in midfield. Does the dirty work, allowing others to play
Overmars - Fantastic at Arsenal, threatened to set the World Cup alight
until injury and that still remains a problem. Very direct, unlike many of
his team-mates who pass the ball to death
Winter - He's 33, plays like a 40 year old
Kluivert - Hugely gifted but a choker in front of goal and heads the ball
like a girl
Should have gone to the Low Countries : Hasselbaink (Atletico Madrid),
Van Gastel (Feyenoord)
Should have stayed home : Winter (Ajax)
Favourites, obviously given home field advantage. Need to play more
direct and need to kill off games. Have a tendency to score and then piss
about and allow the opposition back into the game. Kluivert is wasteful to
the point of treachery. Can Makaay get the job done at this level? Bergkamp
is along with Nilis the only technically perfect player in the tournament and
although he has been plagued by injuries he's still capable of the one
moment of absolute class that can decide games.
Overall : Dubbed the group of death it's hard to imagine anyone other than
France and Holland qualifying for the next round and beyond, they may even
meet for a second time in the final.
The past two European Championships really sucked arse, especially Euro 96.
I'm not expecting great football. I think many coaches will set a 4 points
target to make the next round. New stars could emerge from teams such
as Belgium, Romania and Turkey but it's difficult to see a 'new Michael Owen'
as Sweden's coaches have predicted. Four things are always guaranteed, a
crap opening ceremony, goals, dodgy refs and those damn penalty shoot-outs!