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Guthrie Still Looking To Villa Park Future?
Published : 07 Jun 2012 14:32:46Rss feed
Danny Guthrie must have been gutted to see Aston Villa sack their manager last month ... just as the Toon midfielder was about to sign on the dotted line.
Although new Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has already identified several new faces he would like to bring to Villa Park ... is Guthrie one of them?
There could be a second chance for the former Liverpool midfielder, because Lambert was one of the four managers who checked out Guthrie last season (Alex McLeish, Mark Hughes and Roy Hodgson being the others).42-year-old Lambert was formally unveiled as the new Villa boss on Wednesday, taking over from Alex McLeish (who was going to sign Guthrie).Paul Lambert: "I have spoken with the chairman and (chief executive) Paul (Faulkner) and they know there are a few lads I want to look at."We are going to try and bring in new lads to help and try and keep the feelgood factor that is around the club at the moment."I have to assess the players when I get in and see them."We will try to bring in lads to help them which any football club needs."Once I get my feet under the table I can start to look at what's going on and dig a bit deeper. I am really looking forward to it."There is a good feeling around the place and it's up to me to try and keep that. As long as we give it a go that's all we can ask. I will do everything I can to make this club successful."Guthrie is available on a free transfer.EURO 2012 GROUP STAGES Friday June 8 Warsaw, Group A: Poland v Greece (1700) Wroclaw, Group A: Russia v Czech Republic (1945) Saturday June 9 Kharkiv, Group B: Holland v Denmark (1700) Lviv, Group B: Germany v Portugal (1945) Sunday June 10 Gdansk, Group C: Spain v Italy (1700) Poznan, Group C: Republic of Ireland v Croatia (1945) Monday June 11 Donetsk, Group D: France v England (1700) Kiev, Group D: Ukraine v Sweden (1945) Tuesday June 12 Wroclaw, Group A: Greece v Czech Republic (1700) Warsaw, Group A: Poland v Russia (1945) Wednesday June 13 Lviv, Group B: Denmark v Portugal (1700) Kharkiv, Group B: Holland v Germany (1945) Thursday June 14 Poznan, Group C: Italy v Croatia (1700) Gdansk, Group C: Spain v Republic of Ireland (1945) Friday June 15 Donetsk, Group D: Ukraine v France (1700) Kiev, Group D: Sweden v England (1945) Saturday June 16 Wroclaw, Group A: Czech Republic v Poland (1945) Warsaw, Group A: Greece v Russia (1945) Sunday June 17 Kharkiv, Group B: Portugal v Holland (1945) Lviv, Group B: Denmark v Germany (1945) Monday June 18 Gdansk, Group C: Croatia v Spain (1945) Poznan, Group C: Italy v Republic of Ireland (1945) Tuesday June 19 Donetsk, Group D: England v Ukraine (1945) Kiev, Group D: Sweden v France (1945) QUARTER-FINALS Thursday June 21 Warsaw, QF1: Winner A v Runner-up B (1945) Friday June 22 Gdansk, QF2: Winner B v Runner-up A (1945) Saturday June 23 Donetsk, QF3: Winner C v Runner-up D (1945) Sunday June 24 Kiev, QF4: Winner D v Runner-up C (1945) SEMI-FINALS Wednesday June 27 Donetsk, SF1: Winner QF1 v Winner QF3 (1945) Thursday June 28 Warsaw, SF2: Winner QF2 v Winner QF4 (1945) FINAL Sunday July 1 Kiev: Winner SF1 v Winner SF2 (1945) Group APolandGreeceRussiaCzech RepublicPOLAND HOW DO THEY PLAY?The vastly experienced Franciszek Smuda has been happy to look beyond the Ekstraklasa to compose his squad. Including players with Polish roots reared in France and Germany allows the coach to engineer a more high-energy approach, which has surprised opponents including Argentina and Germany in recent friendlies. The midfield is generally built to contain. Ahead of it, Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski provides options; he can hold the ball up to relieve pressure, drop deep to receive and even get in behind defences.Likely formation: 4-2-3-1Possible starting XI: Wojciech Szczesny; Lukasz Piszczek, Damien Perquis, Marcin Wasilewski, Jakub Wawrzyniak; Dariusz Dudka, Adrian Mierzejewski; Jakub Blaszczykowski, Eugen Polanski, Ludovic Obraniak; Robert Lewandowski.STAR MANPoland's outstanding player and biggest goal threat, Robert Lewandowski (pictured right) arrives at Euro 2012 in the form of his life.He was voted the Bundesliga's Player of the Year for 2011-12 after firing Borussia Dortmund to the domestic double. His hat-trick against Bayern Munich in the German Cup final took his tally to 30 goals in all competitions (plus eight assists).His form and fitness are absolutely critical to Poland's chances - they have no other forward in his class.Lewandowski, who usually plays as a lone striker for club and country, was given his international debut in a World Cup qualifier in 2008, and took just nine minutes to get on the scoresheet.The 23-year-old comes from a sporting family: his father was a national judo champion, his mother and sister played volleyball, while his fiancée is a traditional karate fighter who has won medals at world and European level.ONE TO WATCHA late call-up for Euro 2008 as a replacement for the injured Jakub Blaszczykowski, four years on Lukasz Piszczek is very much a key man for both club and country. Originally a right-winger or striker, his career has taken off since switching to right-back during the 2009-10 season.Piszczek has missed just three league games in two seasons since moving to Borussia Dortmund, winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles.GREECE HOW DO THEY PLAY?Former Greece midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos: "The Portuguese coach Fernando Santos has his own mentality, and he has changed the style a little bit. It is a more controlled team, a team that tries to build from the back. It's different from Otto Rehhagel because he wanted more direct football."We don't have the big stars, but we have Georgios Samaras, Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis, who have played in the Euros before especially at 2004. The team is not based on the players, it is based on the team spirit and if someone tries to play for themselves, everybody loses and nobody wins."Likely formation: 4-5-1/4-3-3Possible starting XI: Kostas Chalkias; Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Jose Holebas; Kostas Katsouranis, Giannis Maniatis, Giorgos Karagounis; Sotiris Ninis, Fanis Gekas, Georgios Samaras.STAR MANGreece are hardly well endowed with attacking midfielders, so the serious knee injury Sotiris Ninis (pictured right) suffered in September 2011 was a real blow. The Panathinaikos playmaker damaged cruciate ligaments moments after scoring a spectacular solo goal against Israel.However, Ninis' absence did not prevent the Greeks clinching qualification with victory against Group F favourites Croatia. The 22-year-old made his return in March, and has since signed a deal to play for Parma next season.Born in Albania to Greek parents, Ninis was selected for the 2010 World Cup but veteran coach Otto Rehhagel appeared reluctant to trust the youngster. The midfielder made two substitute appearances in South Africa, spending a total of 41 minutes on the pitch.He was eventually promoted to the starting line-up by new manager Fernando Santos after Greece drew their opening two Euro 2012 qualifiers. The move immediately paid off, his selection coinciding with a run of five successive wins.ONE TO WATCHGreece's success under Rehhagel was based around a rock solid defence, and they remain pretty miserly under his successor, conceding just five times in qualifying. A baby-faced but athletic centre-back, Kyriakos Papadopoulos was not used in the first half of the campaign but the Schalke youngster started four of the final five qualifiers, impressing observers with his maturity.The 20-year-old, who can also play as a holding midfielder, was watched by a number of top European clubs, including Manchester United, before eventually joining Schalke in 2010.Papadopoulos had not scored a club goal prior to this season, but he ended the campaign with five in all competitions. He has also provided an attacking threat in his brief international career - he netted twice in qualifying, including a goal against Malta 26 minutes into his debut.RUSSIA HOW DO THEY PLAY?Dick Advocaat has not been overly experimental with his sides up until now, so it is likely that he will stick to the well-known players. Russia will probably set up with Aleksandr Kerzhakov up front, supported by Andrey Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev, while utilising Yuri Zhirkov's attacking runs on the flank.Russia would also hope to use set-pieces, with Sergei Ignashevich and Arshavin both capable of scoring from free-kicks. As for plan B, Advocaat can call upon Pavel Pogrebnyak, Artyom Dzyuba or Roman Pavlyuchenko and switch to 4-4-2, with Aleksandr Kerzhakov supporting one of the tall forwards with crosses into the penalty area.Likely formation: 4-3-2-1Possible starting XI: Igor Akinfeev, Aleksandr Anyukov, Vasili Berezutski, Sergei Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirkov, Roman Shirokov, Konstantin Zyryanov, Igor Denisov, Alan Dzagoev, Andrey Arshavin, Aleksandr Kerzhakov.STAR MANCSKA Moscow's Alan Dzagoev (pictured right) was named the Best Young Player in the Russian Premier League following a successful debut season with them in 2008-2009. The 21-year-old attacking midfielder from North Ossetia has already scored 25 league goals for them in fewer than 100 games, and scored four goals for his national side in the eight qualifying matches he played as Russia finished top of group B.ONE TO WATCHAndrey Arshavin left Arsenal during the January transfer window after a frustrating few years in the Premier League. Glimpses of quality - his four-goal haul at Anfield in 2009, a sublime winner against Barcelona in 2011 - were almost forgotten after a poor season this year. Now back in Russia with Zenit, Arshavin has the potential to light up the tournament in the same way he did four years ago.CZECH REPUBLIC HOW DO THEY PLAY?A lack of width at the start of the qualifying campaign encouraged coach Michal Bilek to switch his formation, with Tomas Rosicky now playing centrally behind a lone striker Tomas Pekhart or Milan Baros. The performances of deep-lying midfielder Jaroslav Plasil have been key to their progress, giving the Czechs more creativity, while wide forwards Jan Rezek and Vaclav Pilar are supported by offensive-thinking full-backs Theodor Gebre Selassie and Michal Kadlec. A largely organised side that likes to break on the counter-attack, captain Petr Cech says their strength is their adaptability.Likely formation: 4-2-3-1Possible starting XI: Petr Cech; Theodor Gebre Selassie, Tomas Sivok, Roman Hubnik, Michal Kadlec; Jaroslav Plasil, Petr Jiracek; Jan Rezek, Tomas Rosicky, Vaclav Pilar; Tomas Pekhart.STAR MANHousehold names in the Czech squad are few and far between, but Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech (pictured right) needs no introduction. The 29-year-old kept clean sheets in both play-off matches against Montenegro, making several important saves in the second-leg victory in Podgorica.Cech, who is set to take part in his fourth major international tournament, will be keen to erase memories of his costly error against Turkey at Euro 2008. The Czechs were heading for the quarter-finals until Cech fumbled a routine cross in the 87th minute, allowing Nihat Kahveci to equalise. Moments later Cech was again beaten by Nihat, sending the Czechs out.ONE TO WATCHBayer Leverkusen left-back Michal Kadlec was top scorer in qualifying with four goals, although three of them came from penalties.He held his nerve to convert the crucial late spot-kick against Scotland, which was controversially awarded after team-mate Jan Rezek appeared to dive .Kadlec made an inauspicious start to his international career, scoring an own goal on debut in a Euro 2008 qualifier against neighbours Slovakia, but has nonetheless established himself as a regular starter.Group BNetherlandsDenmarkGermanyPortugalNETHERLANDS HOW DO THEY PLAY?Coach Bert van Marwijk is first and foremost a pragmatist. His preference for two defensive midfielders is still a bone of contention at home, just as it was when they reached the 2010 World Cup final. Wesley Sneijder's improved form in recent weeks is a huge boost. Along with Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, he makes the Oranje serious contenders. One problem is that van Marwijk's formation makes it difficult to accommodate on-fire Klass-Jan Huntelaar, who scored against England in February.Likely formation: 4-2-3-1Possible starting XI: Maarten Stekelenburg, Gregory van der Wiel, John Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Vurnon Anita, Mark van Bommel, Kevin Strootman, Dirk Kuyt, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Robin van PersieSTAR MANKlaas-Jan Huntelaar (pictured right) had to settle for a place on the bench at the 2010 World Cup, but the Schalke striker pressed his claims for a regular starting spot with a red-hot 12 goals in eight qualifiers. While 'The Hunter' filled his boots against minnows San Marino, scoring five times in total, he also netted in both matches against Group E runners-up Sweden.The 28-year-old has regained confidence following a permanent move to Schalke from Real Madrid.Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk's preference is for a 4-2-3-1 formation, meaning there is only one striking spot up for grabs - which, in turn, means either Huntelaar or Robin van Persie could miss out. Hard to imagine, given the Arsenal striker's searing form.Huntelaar started the first four qualifiers before picking up a knee injury which ruled him out of the double header against Hungary. Van Persie netted in both games against the Hungarians and kept his place for June's glamour friendly against Brazil, prompting Huntelaar to ask for "a little more faith" from Van Marwijk. Perhaps a tactical change is on the cards.ONE TO WATCHAfter winning rave reviews for his punishingly impressive consistency in the heart of midfield, PSV Eindhoven's 22-year-old captain Kevin Strootman is being called 'the new Roy Keane' in some quarters, having quickly established himself as a key player for both club and country. Strootman is vying with Manchester City's Nigel de Jong for a starting role, having only made his debut in February 2011.DENMARK HOW DO THEY PLAY?Former Denmark midfielder Jan Molby: "We have the same manager in Morten Olsen, who has been in charge for 12 years, and we play 4-3-3 and we play it extremely well. All the players will know their jobs and I think that's what international football is all about."The main players are a lone striker Nicklas Bendtner and we have a great player in the midfield with Christian Eriksen. But our best player is Daniel Agger, he's the one who keeps our defence together and if he plays well we have a chance. Eriksen is good enough to have an impact at the Euros and he has learned more about his responsibilities now."Likely formation: 4-3-3Possible starting XI: Thomas Sorensen; Lars Jacobsen, Simon Kjær, Daniel Agger, Simon Poulsen; Niki Zimling, Christian Eriksen, William Kvist; Dennis Rommedahl, Nicklas Bendtner, Thomas Kahlenberg.STAR MANChristian Eriksen (pictured right) was the youngest player at the 2010 World Cup, but the 18-year-old was restricted to two substitute appearances, spending a total of 44 minutes on the pitch. However, it is hard to imagine the Ajax player will be a peripheral figure at Euro 2012.In the last 18 months the attacking midfielder has established himself as first-choice for club and country. Often compared to Denmark great Michael Laudrup, former Ajax manager Martin Jol has likened Eriksen to Dutch stars Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart.Eriksen had two trials with Chelsea before joining Ajax in 2008. However, the Blues felt he was not strong enough for the Premier League, according to the player's father, who feels his son would be better suited to Spanish football. Eriksen is contracted to Ajax until 2014 and has indicated he is unlikely to leave before then.ONE TO WATCHSimon Kjaer is looking to get his career back on track at Roma after an unhappy spell with Wolfsburg. The 22-year-old defender moved to the Bundesliga side from Palermo for a reported £12m fee, but admits he struggled to adapt to German football.Kjaer started two games at the 2010 World Cup, setting up a goal against Cameroon with a glorious cross-field pass, and was a regular in qualifying for Euro 2012.GERMANY HOW DO THEY PLAY?Germany's game has become more possession based since the 2010 World Cup. They look to dominate in midfield and rapidly change positions up front; the front four are very fluid - especially if veteran forward Miroslav Klose recovers in time. Joachim Loew has also tried slight modifications to the formation, in order to make the team less predictable. In recent friendlies against the Netherlands and Brazil, Germany played with attacking verve and a level of creativity that had the domestic critics drooling with full-back Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil the key men to make the system function.Likely formation: 4-2-3-1Possible starting XI: Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Marcel Schmelzer; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira; Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil, Lucas Podolski; Mario GomezSTAR MANRelatively unknown to the masses before the 2010 World Cup, Mesut Ozil (pictured right) exploded onto the international scene with a series of eye-catching displays in South Africa as Germany played some of their most offensive football in memory.After being nominated for the Golden Ball Award - given to the tournament's best player - the 23-year-old 'Number 10' soon moved from Werder Bremen to Spanish giants Real Madrid. He racked up seven assists in the qualifying campaign.ONE TO WATCHThe time could be right for Bayern Munich's visionary young midfielder Toni Kroos to shine after an influential qualifying campaign. He won the Golden Ball for the best player at the 2007 FIFA Under-17 World Cup.But it's Borussia Dortmund's little 19-year-old Mario Gotze who really has Nationalmannschaft hearts racing.Quick feet, flawless technical skills, endlessly creative - some say he's a Messi in the making. Germany's technical director Matthias Sammer says he is one of the best young players he has ever seen. Has helped club side to past two German league title.PORTUGAL HOW DO THEY PLAY?Portugal have evolved in the last 18 months in the image of their coach Paulo Bento; discreetly, but decisively. Gone is the miserable circumspection of the Carlos Queiroz era. The current crop is no 2004 vintage, but they move the ball fluently and attack with vim.The key to this is a happier Cristiano Ronaldo, allowed to flourish under Bento while he was fettered by Queiroz's system. The movement of the midfield three also means Portugal are now an entertaining prospect.Likely formation: 4-3-3Possible starting XI: Rui Patrício, João Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fábio Coentrão, Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, João Moutinho, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo, Hélder PostigaSTAR MANNo introduction needed for Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured right) - only Lionel Messi can claim to be as good as the Real Madrid phenomenon. Officially the second-best player in the world - behind Barcelona's Argentine magician - Ronaldo has it all: pace, power, dribbling, heading, shooting, vision, passion.Ronaldo demands the limelight on the biggest stage possible, just as he did for Manchester United. Has now scored an outrageous 112 goals in 102 league games in two years in Spain, and led exultant Madrid to the La Liga title this season as they finally got the better of Barcelona. Boss Jose Mourinho insists he should win the Ballon D'Or.ONE TO WATCHSporting Lisbon, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Chelsea. Ricardo Quaresma has represented some of the biggest clubs in Europe, but never truly made it big. Hyped as a gifted young talent upon making his Portugal debut in 2003, the winger has failed to live up to expectations. But, still, there is hope. Now playing for Besiktas in Turkey, Quaresma was called up to the national squad in 2010 - after a two-year absence - and played in four of Portugal's qualifiers. This is his last-chance saloon.Group CSpainItalyRepublic of IrelandCroatiaSPAIN HOW DO THEY PLAY?Guiding a squad that has won everything already, Vicente del Bosque has to cope with the prospect of key players that are "melted" (in the words of Zinedine Zidane) with tiredness after a punishing schedule. The coach did this superbly at World Cup 2010, playing a more containing than dynamic possession game, which almost became a 4-3-2-1. Sergio Ramos is likely to move to centre-back to replace the injured Carles Puyol, though Athletic Bilbao's Javi Martínez could help circulate the ball better.Likely formation: 4-2-3-1Possible starting XI: Iker Casillas; Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso; Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, David Silva; Fernando LlorenteSTAR MANTricky... Spain has an incomparable galaxy of glittering talent. But, if there's one man they might - just might - miss, then you'd plump for pass-master Xavi (pictured right). The Barcelona midfielder is the world class linchpin around which his world class colleagues (for club and country) weave their magic, pinging his way out of trouble and carving delicious gaps that no other player on the planet can conjure. Minute upon minute. Match upon match. Season upon season. Xavi oozes dominant class.He was Uefa's player of the tournament at Euro 2008, when he completed 89% of his passes, including an assist for Fernando Torres' winner against Germany in the final. He was just as influential at the World Cup - on average, he attempted a pass every 57 seconds in South Africa.ONE TO WATCHWith David Villa recovering from injury and Fernando Torres trying to rediscover his best form, Fernando Llorente will hope to get a chance up front. In outstanding form for the Athletic Bilbao side which reached both the Europa League and Copa del Rey finals this season, Llorente's displays have made him one of the most coveted strikers on the continent.His strength and aerial ability give Spain a completely different attacking option, but the 27-year-old has shown at club level that is much more than a mere battering ram; his build-up play, first touch and finishing skills are also exceptional.ITALY HOW DO THEY PLAY?Italy have made a real effort to change style under Cesare Prandelli. Even though they booked their place at the Euros with the best defence in qualifying they're no longer a negative, counter-attacking side honouring the tradition of catenaccio. Instead the four-time World Cup winners look to impose themselves on the opposition with an attractive possession-oriented game based around a midfield of piedi buoni or good feet. Their aim is not just to win, but to convince too.Likely formation: 4-3-1-2Possible starting XI: Gigi Buffon; Christian Maggio, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, Domenico Criscito; Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi; Antonio Cassano; Mario Balotelli, Antonio Di Natale.STAR MANIgnored by Marcello Lippi, temperamental forward Antonio Cassano (pictured right) has flourished under current Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli.Since joining AC Milan he has contributed more assists than goals, but he was prolific in qualifying, netting six times.Cassano's dreams of playing in a third European Championship looked in doubt after he suffered a transient ischaemic attack - something often described as a "mini-stroke" - on the flight back from Milan's game away to Roma in October. He was barely able to speak or move, and admits he feared for his life.A few days he later he underwent surgery to close a small opening in his heart. He was able return to light training in January, and made his first-team comeback in April.After starting off with Bari, Cassano's spells with Roma, Real Madrid and Sampdoria all ended in acrimony, but Prandelli insists his enthusiasm is "contagious", adding "I need players like him".ONE TO WATCHMario Balotelli only played 19 minutes during qualifying, but the serious injury suffered by Giuseppe Rossi means the Azzurri are short of attacking options.He scored his first international goal in November's win in Poland, but was dropped for the next squad as punishment for his indiscipline at club level. Prandelli called his behaviour "a sign of weakness", adding "you can't be in the national squad if you risk leaving the team with 10 men."REPUBLIC OF IRELAND HOW DO THEY PLAY?Former Ireland midfielder Matt Holland: "Ireland's success in qualifying has come from being difficult to beat. They have an outstanding goalkeeper in Shay Given, and Richard Dunne has been solid in the middle of the defence, while the full-backs tuck in and defensive midfielders remain disciplined."Creativity is down to the two wide men in Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff, who often switch wings, with forwards Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle making a front four. An added extra is Sunderland winger James McClean, who has made an impact in the Premier League and gives Ireland a more direct option."Likely formation: 4-4-1-1Possible starting XI: Shay Given; John O'Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, Stephen Ward; Aiden McGeady, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Damien Duff; Robbie Keane; Kevin Doyle.STAR MANRobbie Keane (pictured right) was Ireland's top scorer at their last major tournament, the 2002 World Cup, and almost a decade later the Dubliner remains the chief Irish goal threat.He contributed seven goals in qualifying, an impressive tally from a side that often struggles to create clear-cut chances. The captain may have lost a yard or two of pace, but there is no doubting the predatory instincts that have made him Ireland's record scorer with over 50 goals.The 31-year-old joined Los Angeles Galaxy last August, and created the only goal in the MLS Cup final. The striker used the winter break to recharge his batteries in time for the 2012 season, also spending a brief but productive loan spell at Aston Villa. Fatigue should not be an issue for him this summer.Keane scored three times in four appearances at the 2002 World Cup, with his injury-time goal in the 1-1 draw with Germany the highlight of the tournament for many Irish fans.He was part of the Irish team that won the European Under-18 title in Cyprus in 1998, although he missed in the penalty shoot-out win against Germany in the final.ONE TO WATCHIn an otherwise workmanlike midfield, Aiden McGeady is one of the few players capable of producing the unexpected. Spartak Moscow are believed to have paid Celtic at least £9.5m for the left winger in 2010, making him the most expensive export from Scottish football.The Glasgow-born player is eligible for the Republic through his Donegal-born grandmother.Handed his Ireland debut in 2004, he failed to score in his first 37 international appearances.However, he netted twice in qualifying (against Macedonia and Andorra), albeit both goals were aided by heavy deflections.CROATIA HOW DO THEY PLAY?Croatia have struggled to replace brothers Robert and Niko Kovac, who were key players and the spirit of the team. They have problems at the back, too, because Jo Simunic is not playing regularly and is out of form. This means a lot of the responsibility will fall on star midfielder Luka Modric. He is an outstanding talent but like at Tottenham, he doesn't score too many goals. He will dictate Croatia's tempo yet the question remains whether his team-mates can finish off his creativity.Likely formation: 4-4-2Possible starting XI: Stipe Pletikosa; Vedran Corluka, Gordon Schildenfeld, Josip Simunic, Ivan Strinic; Darijo Srna, Tomislav Dujmovic, Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar; Mario Mandzukic, Ivica Olic.STAR MANEasily one of the best midfielders in the Premier League, Luka Modric (pictured right) might also be described as one of the best players in the world. Tottenham dug their heels in to stop Modric from moving to Chelsea last summer, and have been rewarded as he continues to lead them on an upward curve with a heady blend of creation and vision.Spurs clinched his signature shortly before Euro 2008, where Modric's majestic midfield displays saw him chosen in Uefa's team of the tournament. He converted a penalty in Croatia's opening win against Austria, but dragged his spot-kick wide in the shoot-out loss to Turkey. The 26-year-old will be desperate to make amends this summer.ONE TO WATCHCroatia's captain Darijo Srna has been a regular on the right flank for almost a decade, and is probably their second-best player behind Modric. Mainly used by Shakhtar Donetsk as an attacking right-back, he was deployed on the right wing by Slaven Bilic during the latter stages of Croatia's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.Srna has an excellent goalscoring record, and was on the scoresheet at both the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008.He was briefly dropped by Bilic after visiting a nightclub before a qualifier in 2006, but three years later was handed the captain's armband following Niko Kovac's retirement.Group DUkraineSwedenFranceEnglandUKRAINE HOW DO THEY PLAY?The Ukraine squad has been depleted by injuries to its defence but manager Oleg Blokhin will hope that key midfielders Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka can provide the firepower for the likes of Andriy Shevchenko and Andriy Voronin. The co-hosts are a team that likes to counter attack but must do without experienced goalkeeper Olexandr Shovkovsky and injured Shakhtar defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy, so there will be areas to exploit. Voronin tends to drop behind Shevchenko but the former AC Milan and Chelsea forward can also do the same with Marko Devic the lone striker.Likely formation: 4-4-1-1Possible starting XI: Andriy Pyatov; Oleg Gusev, Olexandr Kucher, Taras Mikhalik, Yaroslav Rakitskiy; Andriy Yarmolenko, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Ruslan Rotan, Yevhen Konoplyanka; Andriy Voronin; Andriy Shevchenko.STAR MANAndriy Shevchenko (pictured right) was once one of the most feared strikers in the European game, and the 35-year-old will see playing on home soil at Euro 2012 as the perfect way to bow out from international football. However, chronic back pain threatens to ruin Shevchenko's fairytale finish.The forward has been undergoing medical treatment in a bid to be ready for the tournament, and has been used relatively sparingly by his understanding club, Dynamo Kiev. Shevchenko insists publicly that he won't play unless he is fully fit, but it would still be a major surprise if he was not involved.Shevchenko regularly terrorised defences in Serie A with AC Milan, and won the Ballon d'Or in 2004. However, by the time he moved to Chelsea in 2006 for a British record fee his physical attributes had started to decline, and he managed just 10 Premier League goals in two full seasons at Stamford Bridge.Allowed to return to Kiev in 2009, he provided a timely reminder of his technical ability in Dynamo's Europa League win against Manchester City last season.ONE TO WATCHShould Andriy Shevchenko's fitness problems prevent him from making an impact, his Dynamo Kiev team-mate Andriy Yarmolenko may be the best alternative. The talented 22-year-old underlined his credentials with a goal in the recent friendly against Germany.Yarmolenko scored on his full international debut against Andorra in 2009, but still took part at this summer's European Under-21 Championships in order to gain tournament experience.SWEDEN HOW DO THEY PLAY?Former Sweden coach Lars Lagerback: "When Erik Hamren took over he wanted to play attacking football but during qualification he quickly realised you need to have a lot more balanced line-up and they are more balanced now, particularly defensively. They are a well-organised Swedish team with everyone working hard in defence. They can keep the ball very well but also hit teams on the attack too. They will look to do that as much as possible."Likely formation: 4-4-2Possible starting XI: Andreas Isaksson; Mikael Lustig, Jonas Olsson, Olof Mellberg, Martin Olsson; Seb Larsson (if recovered from injury), Rasmus Elm, Anders Svensson, Kim Kallstrom; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Johan ElmanderSTAR MANOne of the most outspoken names in European football, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (pictured right) is Sweden's totem. No question - the former Barcelona striker has rich talent. But doubts remain about his ability to apply it on the biggest stage. Here, perhaps, is his chance to silence those critics. He once said he was the best player in the world. Let's see.ONE TO WATCHLyon's left-footed midfielder Kim Kallstrom conjured up seven assists in qualifying - the most of any European player across the entire campaign (along with Germany's Mesut Ozil). He also chipped in with three goals. The 29-year-old will be aiming to utilise the influence he has gained in winning more than 80 caps for his country.FRANCE HOW DO THEY PLAY?Coach Laurent Blanc has experimented with a number of different formations over the past two years. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and centre-backs Adil Rami and Philippe Mexes always play when available, Yann M'Vila is the mainstay in midfield, and Karim Benzema is the first-choice striker. Under Blanc, Les Bleus have become more attack-minded; they invariably aim to dominate possession using their short passing game, and rely on the skills of Franck Ribéry, Samir Nasri and Benzema to unsettle defences.Likely formation: 4-2-3-1Possible starting XI: Hugo Lloris (c); Mathieu Debuchy, Adil Rami, Philippe Mexès, Patrice Evra; Yann M'Vila, Yohan Cabaye; Loic Rémy, Samir Nasri, Franck Ribéry; Karim Benzema.STAR MANKarim Benzema (pictured right) was left out of France's World Cup squad because of disappointing form during his first season at Real Madrid, but new coach Blanc has shown more faith in him.The 24-year-old has also won over Jose Mourinho this season. Benzema's improved form at the Bernabeu is in part down to a new fitness regime that helped him to shed seven kilos over the summer. He scored 32 goals in all competitions and assisted 15 others, and has begun to justify his €30m price tag. Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo netted a combined 118 league and cup goals this term, breaking the record for a trio (previously set by Barcelona's Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry in 2009).Benzema contributed three goals in qualifying and netted decisive strikes in friendly wins against Brazil and England. The former Lyon star will be keen to make amends for his lacklustre display at Euro 2008, when he started two games but made little impression.ONE TO WATCHYann M'Vila . The Rennes holding midfielder played for France at every youth level before making an accomplished senior debut in Laurent Blanc's first game in charge, a friendly defeat to Norway. He was a regular in qualifying, scoring once in eight appearances.ENGLAND HOW DO THEY PLAY?There is little time for new boss Roy Hodgson to experiment, so he is likely to stick with many of the players who gained qualification. The former West Brom, Liverpool and Fulham manager is renowned for playing a 4-4-2 formation, but without Wayne Rooney he is likely to try Steven Gerrard behind Danny Welbeck to start with.Defensive organisation has been a lynchpin of Hodgson's success, but he has loaded the squad with attacking midfielders to add an attacking threat. Don't expect fireworks without Rooney, but England have shown in recent games that a counter-attacking approach suits them.Likely formation: 4-2-3-1Possible starting XI : Joe Hart; Glen Johnson, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Ashley Cole; Scott Parker, Frank Lampard; Theo Walcott, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Young; Danny WelbeckSTAR MANAfter more than a decade as one of the world's best midfielders, can Liverpool's Steven Gerrard (pictured right) haul England's underachievers to the heights which were expected of them at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa?One of the so-called 'Golden Generation' upon whom the lights are starting to fade, at least at international level, much will rest on inspirational Gerrard initially - if fully fit - in the absence of his fellow Liverpudlian Wayne Rooney, who is banned for the first two group games.ONE TO WATCHManchester United striker Danny Welbeck is being tipped by many pundits to break into the England team following a promising season at Old Trafford, which has seen him keep Dimitar Berbatov out of the side. The 21-year-old has made four England appearances to date and scored five goals in 14 games for the Under-21s but needs to fully recover from an injury suffered at the end of the season.
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