1. Poland will do very well – Host countries often make surprise runs during major tournaments. South Korea beat Italy en route to a semifinal appearance in the 2002 World Cup, Portugal reached the EURO 2004 final, and Germany had a successful semifinal run in the 2006 World Cup. In 1998, France was able to be crowned World Cup champions in front of their fans. Poland has the ability to do a similar feat.
They boast a great striker in Robert Lewandowski, who helped his club Borussia Dortmund to a league and domestic cup double, scoring 30 goals this year. On the opposite end of the pitch, Poland will have emerging talent Wojciech Szczesny in goal who has impressed recently for Arsenal. Their EURO 2012 group happens to be rather soft and pits Poland against Greece, Russia, and the Czech Republic. Look for this host to emerge from the group and possibly reach the semifinals if they can muster an upset against Germany or the Netherlands.
2. Ukraine will NOT do very well – Unfortunately for the Ukraine, even the roar of the home faithful won’t help them make a EURO 2012 run. The only two players of note on the side are strikers Andriy Shevchenko and Andriy Voronin, both of whom are aging and well past their primes. Worse yet, the top three goalkeepers are all injured or suspended which leaves a large hole in front of their goal. The man who will take charge is Andriy Pyatov and he will need to be at his absolute best to help the team. Their group is also daunting and features England, France, and Sweden. England is dealing with their own injury crisis but still have more talent. Sweden has talented striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who will be licking his chops at the Ukrainian goalie situation. France is loaded with talent and are one of the favorites. Therefore, home support will do little to keep the Ukraine in this tournament.
3. Mario Balotelli will lead Italy to greatness – Mario Balotelli is no stranger to danger and has cost his teams dearly for his immaturity and silliness. He has achieved red cards and scoldings from managers, but they seem to only feed his insurmountable ego. However, when he actually tries to help his team, Balotelli is one of the best young strikers around. His assist to Sergio Aguero in the dying moments of the English Premier League did help them lift the trophy.
Somehow, I can envision him hitting a few crucial goals and sealing his place in the Italian side for the future. Although he is still young, and crazy, EURO 2012 could very well set the stage for Mario Balotelli’s proving ground.
4. England will NOT do very well – Based upon recent events this claim can hardly be classified as “bold” anymore but it still won’t sit well with the English faithful. Let us go over the facts: Roy Hodgson was appointed manager roughly one month ago. Multiple starters have gone home injured including Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, and Gary Cahill. Top striker Wayne Rooney was banned for the first two games because of a silly red card at the end of qualification. And to top it all off, Rio Ferdinand has been excluded from participation because of his brother’s racist accusations towards John Terry.
Yes, EURO 2012 looks to be a short affair for the Brits, but then again, perhaps this is just the kind of trauma that a team can rally around. Maybe England can pull it all together like Chelsea and win it all! Now that would be bold!
5. Olivier Giroud will lead France to greatness – After a stellar year with Montpellier, Olivier Giroud is like a flower waiting to blossom. Yes, I just wrote that, but it's true.
France’s national squad has all the keys to support him, and I envision that he will lead Les Bleus to EURO 2012 glory. With players like Frank Ribery, Samir Nasri, and Hatem Ben Arfa, the team is stacked with attacking midfielder options but France has lacked that killer edge since the departures of Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane. Karim Benzema has struggled to fill the void at striker, but if there is a tandem between himself and Giroud, France could have a field day. Giroud scored 25 goals this season and has caught the attention of major European clubs. Giroud can score all the goals, ranging from tapped in rebounds, to blasts from range, to cool finishes from tight angles, and even scintillating overhead kicks. He will desperately want to succeed and prove his worth. Winning the Golden Boot at EURO 2012 should do just that.
Nicholas Spiller is a freelance soccer writer and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.