Group C


The biggest talking point in the run up to the finals has been coach Raymond Domenech's insane squad selections. The exclusion of Mexes in particular leaves France with a decidedly shaky centre back pairing of Gallas and the ancient Thuram. France's midfield and attack is awe inspiring, on paper at least even if the team have rarely convinced during Domenech's four year tenure. Much will depend on Ribery, the team's main creative threat now Zidane has retired, and the explosive finishing of Benzema.

Key Players : Coupet, Ribery, Benzema
Strengths : Spoilt for choice in attack and midfield, get out of jail options on the bench. A powerhouse side with incredible experience

Weaknesses : Domenech doesn't train his team on defending set pieces. Thuram, Vieira, Makelele and Henry don't have the legs to last the tournament

Prospects : Can go all the way IF Domenech rotates his ageing stars


The World Champions arrive in confident mood after a tricky start to their qualifying campaign. Donadoni plays with an adventurous three man forward line in which the powerful Toni is flanked by the pacey Di Natale and hard working Camoranesi. Gattuso and De Rossi form an formidable barrier in front of a defence which is the teams weak link but Cannavaro's pre tournament injury could be a blessing in disguise if Gamberini is given a chance. If Cassano gives the opposition as many headaches as he does to his coaches Italy will be awfully hard to stop.

Key Players : Buffon, Gattuso, Toni
Strengths : Packed with experience and strong leadership, rich in attacking talent, confident
Weaknesses : Centre backs are a worry, no alternative to Pirlo

Prospects : Italy are notoriously slow starters but being drawn in the Group of death should work in their favour.


The attacking football that has long been this nations trademark has given way to an uninspiring, confused mess with constant changes in selection throughout the qualifying campaign. At the request of his senior players Van Basten has ditched the classic 4-3-3 formation in favour of a 4-2-3-1 system. Even by Dutch standards the defence is poor as are the two DMs, the ageing Van Bronckhorst and inexperienced De Zeeuw. The midfield is packed with pace and flair. Van Nistelrooy remains a deadly finisher though increasingly struggles for fitness. Van Basten HAS to finally show faith in Huntelaar.

Key Players : Van der Sar, Van der Vaart, Huntelaar
Strengths : Dynamic midfield and two quality strikers
Weaknesses : Poor defence. Lightweight DMs

Prospects : Are capable of beating any team IF they can keep possession but it's hard to see how they will withstand the power of the French and Italian midfield. Van der Sar is going to be very busy


Romania impressed during qualifying from a difficult group and are an exciting young team. The centre backs are strong with 6ft 2inch Goian a threat on set pieces. The chubby and versatile Chivu partners Cocis in front of the back four. Mutu will start out wide but has free licence to roam and is coming off another tremendous season domestically. The same can't be said of Marica who is expected to lead the attack. Playmaker Dica has an excellent record in European Competition, scoring 13 goals in 36 Champions League and UEFA Cup games, and could ease the burden on Mutu given the chance.

Key Players : Goian, Chivu, Mutu
Strengths : Good defence, dangerous on set pieces, pace on the flanks
Weaknesses : Strikers don't convince, players lack big tournament experience

Prospects : Are capable of springing an upset If they take advantage of France's poor marking on set pieces. Will fancy their chances of beating the Dutch

Group Qualifiers : Italy and France, just