Group D


During qualifying the European Champions took more points than any other team. In terms of the starting XI little has changed over the past four years. Charisteas plays to the right of Gekas who is now the centre forward. Basinas has replaced the inspirational Zagorakis in midfield and the 6ft 4in Kyrgiakos lines up alongside fellow giant Dellas, the man marking specialist. Greece are a hard working, well oiled machine who revel in socking up pressure and hitting teams on the break. Although they won't have the element of surprise they will be doubly determined to prove 2004 was no fluke.

Key Players : Dellas, Basinas, Gekas
Strengths : Physically intimidating defence, even the full backs are over 6ft, tireless midfield, great team spirit
Weaknesses : What happens if the opposition score first?

Prospects : Will pose a major threat to three average defences especially on set pieces and have the added advantage of playing Spain, the one team with the patience to trouble them, last


The proverbial dark horses. For once Spain actually had the talent to go all the way but Aragones has made some curious selections. The biggest problem is in midfield. Xabi Alonso, Iniesta and Fabregas are likely to the start with Xavi also in contention. Fabregas aside the other three are carbon copies of each other, players with a good passing range and little else which means the width has to be provided by fullbacks Ramos and Capdevilla and that will expose slow centre backs Puyol and Pablo. Villa and Torres linked well at the last World Cup and will score as long as they get good service.

Key Players : Casillas, Fabregas, Torres
Strengths : Keep possession better than any team in Europe, great goalkeeper and strikers
Weaknesses : No variation in a midfield that will be overpowered in the latter stages of the tournament. Centre backs have been in poor domestic form

Prospects : Head and shoulders above their group rivals in terms of talent.


Sweden lit it up at the last Euro's before losing on penalties to the Dutch which as one journalist (Simon Bank) wrote "was a bit like losing to Uganda at Ice-Hockey". Under Largerback Sweden have developed into a painfully boring team. The Swedes do have attacking potential in midfield but the conservative Largerback deploys playmaker Kallstrom in front of the defence and dead ball specialist Sebastian Larsson is a sub. Allback, who of many players who ply their trade in the lesser leagues, has an excellent goalscoring record at international level and links well with Ibrahimovic who is of course capable of winning any game by himself but is also a big game bottler.

Key Players : Mellberg, Kallstrom, Ibrahimovic
Strengths : Physical, hardworking
Weaknesses : Uninspiring, suspect defence. First choice goalkeeper Isaksson spent much of the season on the bench and conceded eight goals in his last competitive game

Prospects : In an evenly balanced group a conservative coach is not an asset


Hiddink is a latter day Bora Milutinovic, the first choice to lead a lesser team in a major tournament only he's not shit. The Russian's almost made a pig's ear of qualification but were bailed out by England's greater ineptitude. Akinfeev is one of the best young goalkeepers in Europe but the defence in front of him is terrible. The domestic game has finally produced two promising strikers, Pavlyuchenko and 10 goal UEFA Cup joint top scorer Pogrebnyak but they will struggle to score without playmaker Arshavin, suspended for Russia's opening two games.

Key Players : Akinfeev, Arshavin, Pogrebnyak
Strengths : Hiddink, pace down the flanks, dangerous strikers
Weaknesses : Poor defence, will struggle without Arshavin

Prospects : Need to pick up a point before Arshavin returns to face Sweden in the final group game

Group Qualifiers : Greece, Spain