Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Euro 2012 Roundtable #1: Euro-introduction!

Did you know that, as a writer, the best chance you have of anyone reading your work (unless you are a name writer) is during a big sports tournament? That is if you write about the actual sport. I don’t want to imply Harry Potter fanfic is read more during the World Cup (and having seen no stats on the matter, nor would I wish to dissuade that idea!). Jon Arnold keeps trying to get yours truly to write more about football, and so I decided to turn the tables on him.

I proposed a Roundtable Article series for Euro 2012, covering the tournament from start to finish. People will drop in and out of it like Les Negresses Vertes, in theory, but the show will have a backbone in contributions by myself (piecing the whole charade together), Jon and our writer pal in Estonia, Gavin Mills.

Many from Bert Kassies’ coefficients forum and some from the Gallifrey Base forum join us. For this edition, we also welcome Andy Francis.

So, time to ask questions.

What country do you support. Did they make the Euros? 

Jon Arnold: “a) Wales and b) don't be silly!”

Millerqueen – “Scotland”

Gavin Mills: “I support Estonia during the qualifying round but my native country of England for the tournament due to a dodgy referee.”

João Diogo Reis : “None… Or the 16 participants; I wish to see great football from the 16 participants; I don’t have any preference for the final outcome. “

Karl: Sweden.

Alan Kalter: “Spain; if we go out, Portugal.”

Mikael: “Denmark, and yes we did!”

Dave Beattie: “England - for my sins. And yes they made the Euros. “

Andy Francis: “England.”

Ben List: “England.”

I support Scotland, for my sins. They didn’t make the Euros. No shock there. 

What are your Memories of the qualifying route? 

Jon Arnold: “Maybe when it expands to 32 teams we'll pioneer new and entirely spectacular ways to blow qualification...”

Karl, Sweden: “Beating Finland 5-0 and stopping Netherlands gaining a 100% Record. Qualifying as Best Runner Up and not having to go through a Play off. “

Dave Beattie: “Actually I don't have too many significant memories of this qualifying campaign. I remember Montenegro made a terrific start to the campaign & looked like they might be the one serious danger to England winning the group after they drew 0-0 at Wembley.

I must admit I missed the games in early June where England came back from 2-0 down against Switzerland to draw & later the same day Montenegro failed to beat Bulgaria. I guess that was the pivotal day of the campaign. If England hadn't come back and/or Montenegro had kept their run going things could have gotten sticky. As it was Montenegro didn't win another game & Switzerland & Wales had both started their qualifying campaigns so badly that they never got close despite improved form later. “

* I'm hoping you've got another England fan who might be better when it comes to this particular campaign.

Dave hoped I had another England fan who could expand on their campaign. Isn’t that what Barnet boy is for?

Andy Francis: “Uninspiring, plodding.”

Ben List: “Just the classic variable England performances where we look good against lower nations then look poor again against opposition with any skill.”

Sounds like we missed a thrill a minute there.

Mikael, Denmark: “My main memory is the home match against Portugal, in which we secured the qualification with a win. It was also the only match that I watched in the stadium. It was overall a very dominant performance by Denmark, starting with a wrongfully disallowed goal after 4 minutes. Portugal also had their chances, but the 2-0 lead was very deserved as the match ebbed out. Then Ronaldo scores from 30 yards in the 92nd minute, giving us a nervous couple of minutes towards the end. We also tried (with limited success) to follow Sweden - Holland as a Dutch point would help Denmark a lot. They lost, but fortunately, we didn't need that help after all. “

Keld, Denmark: “Well, it started out in the most nerve-wracking way against Iceland. After a much criticized performance at the World Cup, it was imperative to start this qualification with a win and regain some optimism. Furthermore, it was essential not to drop any points against the two small teams in a group that was widely considered a three-way battle. I didn't have the chance to see the game myself, but followed it anxiously on Italian TV through a live ticker in the bottom of the screen. It continued to say 0-0 for a very long time, even when the game should have finished, but then finally it changes to 1-0. A stoppage time goal by Thomas Kahlenberg had secured an important victory.

The loss against Portugal and the victory against Cyprus meant that the chance to qualify was still very present, but there was a feeling of slight dismay as the performances were quite weak. That was why the draw in Norway was the turning point despite the Norwegian equalizer ten minutes from time. Denmark had been very dominant against a Norwegian side that seemed very primitive and without creativity. Despite the strong Norwegian start to the qualifiers, this game proved to Danes that we should at least be able to finish ahead of them.

Another win against Iceland was secured, before the decisive battle against Norway. There was quite some optimism as Nicklas Bendtner returned to the team and Niki Zimling and William Kvist had established themselves as a dynamic and energetic central midfield duo. The performance was as dominant as in the first encounter between those two teams but this time we got the result to go with it. Especially the offensive triumvirate Eriksen, Rommedahl and Bendtner were great.

Before the last group game against Portugal, many were expecting that some Dutch help from Stockholm was probably needed if Denmark should qualify directly. But another impressive performance in Parken meant a Danish 2-1 victory and direct qualification. “

João Diogo Reis: “For Portugal… the shocking beginning where almost everything was ruined. Carlos Queiroz was suspended, and Portugal had a caretaker, Agostinho Oliveira, who tied 4-4 with Cyprus and then lost in Norway. Then Paulo Bento became the coach, 5 wins in a row, the most important was the 1-0 against Norway. Portugal finished level on points with Norway, if it wasn’t for that Postiga goal, Portugal wouldn’t be in Euro 2012.
The playoff against Bosnia (again) was also fantastic. “


Memories of failing to qualify (if applicable) 

Ben List: “Not from this time, but Shteve McLaren under that brolly will stay with me forever.”

Alan Kalter: “ N/A for 2012. Regarding other years, the away game vs USSR back in 1971 stands out--goalie for them was Rudakov, who just died a couple of weeks ago. They beat us 2-1 away to knock us out. “

Gavin Mills: “ my main memories of the qualifying stages were of a constant feeling of "woah, they might actually qualify!”

Sadly for lovers of the underdog everywhere, Estonia failed to qualify, undone in the playoffs by the Rep. Ireland.

Jon Arnold: “ As Brian Stimpson, played by the immortal John Cleese, said in Clockwise 'It's not the despair...I can take the despair. it's the hope I can't stand.' Generously, as they so often did under John Toschack, our national football team spared us even the hope this time. Even by our standards this was a spectacular crash as we lost our first four qualifiers under three different managers. John Toshack finally paid the price for always promising jam tomorrow but tomorrow never coming after a 1-0 away loss to what had been the lowest seeded side in the group. Of course, Montenegro's ranking was a deceptive one based on a lack of footballing history (this being their European Chamionship qualifying debut) rather than the dubious footballing merits of being lumped in with the likes of Moldova, Liechtenstein, Armenia and Kazakhstan so there was no real shame in the result, more in the performance against a side lacking one of their best players (Jovetic). We might've scraped a draw but for missed chances and woodwork, but we're outplayed. We followed up by putting in two abysmal performances under caretaker coach Brian Flynn, firstly against Lothar Matthaus' aspiring to mediocrity Bulgaria team and secondly to a rampant Swiss side who'd also lost their first two games. Only Bale provided a bright note in the latter, his pace providing a constant menace which was always snuffed by a lack of accompanying quality in attack. Effectively our hopes of even reaching a qualifying playoff were dead But hey, at least we managed to score! And maybe, just maybe we could slip a banana skin or two into England's qualifying path.

At first glance Gary Speed's appointment appeared to be another cheapskate cock up on the part of the Welsh FA. Rather than fork out for a manager of proven quality they repeated their actions when looking to replace a manager who'd started as an unpopular appointment and gone downhill from there; they appointed a novice at the end of his playing days. For Hughes replacing Gould read Speed replacing Toshack. Even the appointment seemed clumsy with Speed faring badly in his first role at Sheffield United it seemed as if a wait of a month or two might allow us to avoid paying a compensation fee.

At first there appeared to be no change, a limp 2-0 home loss to England coming in the middle of a wretched performance in the Nations Cup. The rumblings of discontent with the way the Welsh FA was running the national side continued, Speed's inexperience and suitability for the job constantly questioned. Unexpectedly though, a Nations Cup win in the wooden spoon match against a depleted Northern Irish team was a portent of change.

Montenegro's victory against us had proved to be the catalyst for a very good campaign for them and they came to us in September 2011 unbeaten. Few were the Wales fans with any optimism at his point, instead they turned up to see the likes of Jovetic and Vucinic and hope for an honourable performance. What they produced was quite probably the best performance by a Welsh side since the famous 2002 win over Italy, Bale and Morrison ripping the defence to shreds to record a 2-1 win that wasn't nearly as close as the scoreline suggests. There was a purpose and an easy on the eye passing style that had been missing the previous season. Only a now infamous miss by Earnshaw prevented them from gaining an impressive draw in a match of few chances at Wembley and Wales confirmed that the present and future wasn't as gloomy as it had appeared by avenging the defeats to Switzerland and Bulgaria, Bale, Morrison and Ramsay providing a sword sharp edge to an attack which had been blunter than a Cambridge based Soviet spy.

The future looked brighter for Wales than at any time since the heady days of 2002. Tragically dark clouds loomed.”

Not sure how I can top that. So over to MQ for the inside track on how Scotland failed to go.

Millerqueen – “We've got to beat who?" "hmm, maybe we've a chance." "No we don't" "Pint of whisky please"

That sums it up quite well. 

Earliest European Championship memories. 

For me, the earliest memories of the Euros are of Euro 2004. I remember a nervy 2-1 win over Iceland at Hampden as my first Qualifier on the road to Euro 2004. We were hideous, despite a creditable draw against a dire German side, and handily eliminated by the Dutch in a playoff. Though the memory of Christian Daily’s guttural “****in’ Cheat!” towards Tobias Rau reverberating loudly over Bertie Vogts post match interview lives long in the mind.

Keld, Denmark: “ EURO 2000. It quickly became apparent that this wasn’t exactly going to be a Danish triumph but luckily there were so many great matches, that I still rank this as the greatest tournament that I can remember. “

João Diogo Reis: “Euro 96, Poborsky, Shearer, Bierhoff… “

Jon Arnold: “ Platini '84 came just too early for me, instead I had to wait til my early teenage years for my first Euros, the Euro '88 tournament in Germany. I'm still convinced that the eight team tournament was the most difficult to win, with only eight teams qualifying there wasn't a weak link in the tournament, as proven when a decent England team went home early with three losses. It wasn't a vintage tournament, with goals being in short supply outside the Spain-Denmark game. But aside from the individual genius of the likes of Laudrup, my memories were all from Group B; a but brave Republic of Ireland team under Jack Charlton (think Stoke but less sophisticated) only bowing out after a late goal by Kieft in the last game of the round sneaked the Dutch through, both goals from Liverpool midfielders. Then there was the last great Soviet side, a footballing machine composed mainly of Dynamo Kiev players, managed by one of the finest football minds of all time, Lobanovsky and inspired by former European footballer of the year Igor Belanov and the rampaging Vasily Rats. But ultimately it was all about the Dutch as a generation who were kids weeping when West Germany foiled one of the greatest sides of all time in the 74 World Cup final avenged that memory in style. After an opening loss to the USSR, a sublime Van Basten hat trick dazzled England and that late Kieft goal put them into the semi-finals where a late comeback avenged the 1974 loss and a rocket fuelled header from Gullit was followed by one of the finest goals ever scored in the Euros, a perfectly executed volley by van Basten from a ridiculous angle against one of Europe's finest goalkeepers. For fans of my generation, that strike is an indelible memory; the one we were talking about and trying to recreate for months afterward. Needless to say, in what seemed like a million tries not one of us ever did.”

Mikael, Denmark
: “1988. I was on summer holiday with my grandparents, so not watching any of the decisive matches. Already back then, I had developed a taste for Holland, because of the trio in AC Milan, so I had to call my dad on a pay phone and have him tell me that Holland won the final against USSR. Great joy for a 9-year old kid! “

Millerqueen – “Euro 92. There was a real belief we could actually achieve something and progress from the group stages, ah well.”

Karl, Sweden: “Euro 92 I remember going to Sweden vs Denmark in Solna we won the Game 1-0 through a Tomas Brolin goal. “

Alan Kalter: “We won in 1964--back when I didn't know professional soccer existed. I found out that it did in 1965, and started hearing about "el gol de Marcelino." That, of course, was the winner vs USSR.”

Dave Beattie: “The first World Cup I remember is 1978 but I really don't remember anything significant from the 1980 Euros even though England were in them. My first significant memory is from 1984 with that wonderful French team with Platini, Giresse & Tigana. The game I remember from that year - though I have a feeling I only saw highlights - is the semi-final against Portugal. I seem to remember France being big favourites & typically I was rooting for the underdog. Portugal actually led in Extra Time but France came back with Platini scoring a late winner - set up by Tigana (that last bit from YouTube not memory).”

Andy Francis: “Opening game of Euro 96 against Switzerland. Remember being heartbroken when Turkyilmaz scored a penalty late on.”

Ben List: “Pulling the Czech Republic out of the hat for Euro 2004 competition and being pleasantly surprised.”

Favourite Euro memories of your own side. 

Scotland beat France twice in the Euro 2008 qualifiers. That’s just about all I’ve got here.

Andy Francis: “Either of the 2 following games against Scotland or Holland. The game against Scotland took place on the same day as my school fair. Some bright spark (my mother!) came up with the idea of having a tv outside under a marquee, to sell beer and hope for sun. Turned out to be a brilliant sunny day, where the school made 10k everyone had a great time and Paul Gascoigne scored a blinder. The following game v Holland was the first real example to me that England were a force. As an 8 year old boy it was the first opportunity I had to be influenced as a fan and to destroy Holland at that point was a big deal.”

Dave Beattie: “Oof. I guess England's best single performance in the Euro Finals was probably 1996 against Holland. I was actually in Scotland at the time - somewhere on the Isle of Skye (Portree I believe) - & missed the game - though I did listen to most of it on the radio. I was in Kyleakin 3 days earlier when Gascoigne scored that goal against Scotland. That was fun.

The most excited I've been by an England team in recent times was probably in 2004. Although we lost the opening game against France - to two painfully late Zidane goals - we still qualified impressively from the group. It was Wayne Rooney's first major tournament & he was terrific at times. I still wonder what might have happened if he hadn't hobbled off early in the quarter-final against Portugal. You sometimes need that bit of luck in major tournaments & that was an example where England didn't get any. “

Ben List: “Watching Rooney play and thinking 'We really have a player here'.”

GarlicBread of the Gallifrey Base forum: “Euro 88.Ray Houghton slamming his header into the back of the England net.Whelans spectacular goal against Russia was another highlight from the same championship. We were 7 minutes away from the semis and Holland got the flukiest goal I've ever seen.That was a hell of a team we had back then.”

Karl, Sweden: “Qualifying from the Group Stage at Euro 2004. “

Millerqueen – “ 2003, reached the playoffs to qualify. Our opponents? Holland. First match at home was IIRC largely incident free- or rather I don't recall many details apart from the fact that "Faddy" James McFadden scored the only goal. We had beat them, maybe this time we'd qualify. Real buoyant feeling in the nation for the four days between this and the follow up match in Holland. The team nearly floated across the North Sea lifted by the hope of the Tartan Army alone. Then the game started. Holland qualified 6-1 on aggregate. "We're shite and we know we are!"”

João Diogo Reis: “Euro 2000, Portugal defeating England 3-2 after being 0-2 down;
Euro 2004 again Portugal vs. England, also vs. Spain in the previous game and Holland in the next… “

Keld, Denmark: “Well, the Danish Euro win in 1992 is off course the mythical memory that will be hard to beat. From those two Euros with Denmark, that I can remember, 2000 and 2004, there is one match that stands out. Denmark vs. Sweden in the last match of the group stage. A 2-2 draw would sent both teams through and eliminate Italy; this was off course highly debated before the match. And a Swedish equalizer two minutes from time did indeed bring that exact result, which infuriated the Italians. Especially Gianlugi Buffon was very outspoken against what he called "an international scandal". Thinking of the things that were revealed in Italy a few seasons later, maybe he should have kept a bit quieter!”

Alan Kalter: “In 1967, I saw us beat Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the Bernabéu--I think the winner was by Pirri. Eire then beat the Czechs away to allow us to advance. And then there was the whole tournament in 2008 . . . High point: Torres's goal in the Final!”

Mikael, Denmark: “Easy-peasy! Euro'92, of course. Again, I was on vacation with my grandparents. This time we were in Crete and we watched the semi final at a bar with a lot of other Danes, mostly. We missed the first few minutes because they couldn't find the right channel, but we got plenty afterwards with ET and PSO. The final was played the day we flew home, so we heard the first half in the radio in the car and watched the second half on the ferry between Funen and Zealand. My grandma still believes that the captain slowed down to allow us to watch the end of the match before docking.”

Jon Arnold: “Being too young to even be aware that we made it to the quarter-finals in 1976 it has to be two matches that proved to be false dawns. The first was the visitor the now reunited Germany to the old Arms Park. Following their reunification this German side had yet to be defeated and despite the talent in the Welsh side - Rush, Hughes, Saunders, Ratcliffe and the man who for my money had been the best British (if not European) goalkeeper of the decade Neville Southall - it seemed fanciful to even dream of a result. But Southall performed heroics; quite probably the finest night of his career and then on the hour Germany were reduced to ten men. And then, gloriously, Ian Rush latched on to a long ball and slotted the ball past Illgner, the one chance we'd create all night. And despite a continuing onslaught we held out for a 1-0 win, three points clear of the Germans in the days of two points for a win. Or course, they had a game in hand and slaughtered us 4-1 in the return but the memory of Rush's strike remains indelible.

The second came eleven years later, with a contact providing a group of us from the office with tickets to the big match of the group against the Italians. Hopes had been stoked with an impressive win away to Finland to open the campaign, still we were at the Millennium Stadium to see the stars of Serie A; Buffon, Cannovaro, Nesta, Pirlo and Del Piero. The pre-game atmosphere was magnificent, the pubs as full of optimism and song as alcohol, Anne Robinson being invited to 'suck my Pembroke Dock' for some anti-Welsh slights. An pre-match appearance by Wales' greatest player John Charles and then the Manic Street Preachers helped fire up the crowd before the game, as did Bryn Terfel's stirring rendition of the national anthem. And the retractable roof being on somehow intensified the atmosphere, none of the crowd's passion leaking into the night. What followed was easily the greatest Welsh international performance of my lifetime. After just 12 minutes Bellamy played in Simon Davies who beat Buffon from an angle. Did we dare to dream with Wales' record of heroic failure? Del Piero's deflected free kick warned us not to, however well we were playing. 1-1 at halftime. Typical Italians, defending well and then sneaking a goal to come out undeservedly level.

But Savage kept up his superhumanly energetic harrying of the Italian midfield, denying them space and time. And chances continued to come our way. Not only were we level with one of the great footballing nations, we were outplaying them. And then with 20 minutes left Hartson held off a defender, slid the ball through to Bellamy. The crowd collectively held its breath as he outran a defender, took the ball round Buffon and coolly knocked the ball home. I swear the roof lifted into orbit at that point.

Of course, it all went pear shaped when Hartson's lack of fitness undid our game plan in the return fixture and we went from holding them 0-0 after an hour to losing 4-0 before Hughes' tactical naivety and Russia flattening the atmosphere by insisting on the roof being open resulting in a 1-0 defeat in the playoffs but for a few months we dared to dream.

With my dad being English I'd be remiss in not nominating England's 4-1 demolition of the Netherlands at Euro 96; as close to perfection as the English side has ever been over 90 minutes.”

Gavin Mills: “ has to be the first leg of the playoffs against republic of Ireland. It took a lot of persuading to get any of my Estonian work colleagues to join me but we made our way to the A Le Coq arena in Tallinn with a strange sense of "we can do this." We couldn't, of course, because the damn Hungarian referee was more interested in making up for a Terry Henry handball than letting the "tiny country that could" have their first go in a major tournament.”

Poor Gav. It’s like the 6-0 in Holland all over again, and I know how long it took to recover from that. 

7. Greatest Euro match. 

Holland v the Czech Republic, Euro 2004. It still stands as my favourite game I saw live. End to end attacking football by two brilliant sides, it left me breathless. I hear it’s not a popular memory in Holland though, as the Dutch went from 0-2 up to losing 3-2 against a Czech side that ought to have won the tournament. For want of avoiding a Nedved injury, they might well have done. Nedved was one of the finest footballers of his generation, yet he missed out on both the Euro 2004 final (injury) and the 2003 Champions League final (red card due to Steve McManaman histrionics). Tragic for a player of such majesty.

Jon Arnold: “I'm tempted to nominate the Italy-Holland semi-final from Euro 2000, the Dutch coming off a 6-1 hammering of Yugoslavia before thoroughly outplaying the Italians and managing to miss two penalties in normal and extra time before compounding it with another three misses in the penalty shootout. But another two matches from that tournament stand out; the Dutch (again!) in a high quality match against a virtual French reserve team and the one I'll actually nominate, Spain's 4-3 win over ten man Yugoslavia after going into injury time trailing 3-2.”

Karl, Sweden: “Yugoslavia vs Spain at Euro 2000 it had many turns and was a very exciting game for a Neutral. “

João Diogo Reis: “Portugal vs. England, Euro 2000

Keld, Denmark: “It's hard to choose between Yugoslavia’s 2000-games, but Spain - Yugoslavia 4-3 probably just gets the nod, especially as it meant Norwegian exit . The 3-3 game against Slovenia was extremely spectacular as well. Quite a few of the English collapses have been wonderful games as well. The two 2-3 defeats in 00 against Portugal and Romania respectively and the 2-1 defeat to France in 04. Other honourable mentions are the Euro final 00 and pretty much every game including Turkey in 2008. Apologies for the many mentions, but they were all great games. “

Mikael, Denmark: “2000, Holland - Yugoslavia. I had money on Kluivert and Milosevic as top scorers, so it was perfect when Milosevic scored the 6-1 goal in injury time so I won on both players. Holland - France and Holland - Italy in 2008 were also great. “

Ben List: “Czech/Holland. Had everything. Ran home to watch it.”

Dave Beattie: “Spain v Yugoslavia in 2000. Yugoslavia only needed a draw to qualify but Spain had to win. Yugoslavia led 3-2 until deep in stoppage time but Spain scored two late goals to win.
Happily Norway failed to beat Slovenia in the other game in the group so both teams that played this terrific game qualified. Less happily they both lost in the quarters. “

Andy Francis: “ Either England 4-1 Holland or the semi final at 96. I rewatched it recently and it was a great game, worth so much more than just the miss at the end or the penalties. End to end stuff, I recommend watching it again to really appreciate a midfield of Anderton, Ince, Gazza and McManaman.”

8. Greatest Euro shock. 

Mikael, Denmark: “Greece and Denmark”.

Jon Arnold: “It has to be Denmark's 1992 tournament win. A side that initially failed to qualify was only summoned back together at the last minute thanks to Yugoslavia falling apart. It's hard to say what was a greater shock, Denmark winning or John Jensen scoring a goal

Aside from that, probably the Germans actually losing a shootout (in 1976 and sealed for the Czechs with one of the finest, cheekiest penalties of all time).”

Panenka went down in history with that chip, I hasten to add.

Dave Beattie: “Has to be Greece winning the tournament in 2004 I guess. For an individual game I do remember Latvia holding Germany to a 0-0 draw in that same tournament which was a fair achievement. Since I haven't mentioned them anywhere else yet I'll also mention the Czech team from that year. They beat both Germany & Holland in the groups (the game with the Dutch was another contender for best ever) & although you have to give the Greeks great credit for what they did I was really disappointed that the Czechs lost out in their semi-final. I remember they had an incredible number of chances in that game - particularly early on - but just couldn't score. The way they played the game in that tournament was just wonderful & I was sad they didn't win it.”

Andy Francis: “Got to be Greece winning the thing in 2004!”

João Diogo Reis: “Greece winning Euro 2004; Never won a game in previous or following Euros, and wouldn’t have won one at Euro 2004 either, if it wasn’t for Scolari’s stupidity.

Karl, Sweden: “Denmark winning Euro 92 followed by Greece winning Euro 2004. “

And for the flipside of that coin,

Alan Kalter: “Elimination at Euro 2004--only major I've ever attended. Sáez played a coward's game--went for a 0-0 vs Portugal, and when we gave one up--to Nuno Gomes, of course, we didn't have what it took to strike back. But no hay mal que por bien no venga (Every cloud has a silver lining)--Sáez stepped down, Aragonés was allowed to prepare the Roja as he saw fit, and the rest . . . is history.

Keld, Denmark: “ Greece's incredible run at the 2004 must be the greatest shock that I can remember, but Latvia delivered some very surprising performances as well at that tournament. They took the lead against Czech Republic in a game they narrowly lost, before they got an impressive 0-0 draw against the mighty Germans. “

The recurrent theme seems to be the two shock winners, Greece and Denmark, though a third mention needs to be made of the 1976 Czech side who upset West Germany on penalties. For those watching this Summer, Germany are undefeated in penalty shootouts in thirty six years now, so folk will want to avoid that scenario against the Germans if at all possible. For me, again the Greeks come to mind, but the specific I wish to dwell on is their elimination of France. Before the Quarterfinals, they had shocked the hosts, nicked a draw, and been beaten by an eliminated team: hardly the form of champions. By eliminating the Champions, Greece laid out a marker for the tournament that none of the other five teams left in the draw could match.

9 Your pick for Euro 2012 winner just now. 

Millerqueen: “Gut shot is Spain.”

Jon Arnold: “ It's hard to look past Spain. They still have the bulk of the players who're currently both reigning World Cup and European champions. Germany look like the most likely contenders, though their group is tougher and looks like it'll take more out of the, which may prove crucial. And while they're not precisely dark horses, it's worth keeping an eye on France, whose recent 2-1 win away to the Germans suggests they won't be the disorganised rabble who limped home early from South Africa.”

Keld, Denmark: “just now, Italy!”

Andy Francis: “ I reckon Germany might be the ones to do it.”

Ben List: “Germany. Spain are too narrow and formulaic, and Holland don't seem to have that much at the moment apart from Robben, especially with Sneijder's form.”

Dave Beattie: “I haven't really studied any of the finalists in any detail yet but it's really impossible to look beyond Spain as favourites at this stage with Germany - followed closely by the other usual suspects - as biggest dangers.”

Gavin Mills: “Germany!”

Karl, Sweden: “Germany!”

Mikael, Denmark: “Germany!”

I was beginning to think I’d look really clever with my Germany pick, despite their Group of Death, but they seem everyone’s favourites to beat Spain if Spain fail to take another trophy home.

Alan Kalter: “Us. A por ellos, oé “

João Diogo Reis: “the logical pick is Spain. They win everything (Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup, under-21 Euro Cup), their clubs win everything… I hope that the difference between the 16 participants won’t be big. Any team can defeat Spain. Switzerland defeated Spain in the 2010 World Cup and they haven’t even qualified now. Serbia defeated Germany and they haven’t qualified now. No game will have a “obvious” winner. “

And that about does it for our introduction to the Euros. Next time: me, Jon, Gav and some friends yet unforeseen tackle an indepth look at Group A in this summers Championships!

*Gavin Mills can be followed on twitter @epiphanyg

*Jon Arnold can be followed on twitter @the_arn

*The Artist Known as Millerqueen can be followed on twitter @millerqueen

*Andy Francis can be followed @Andrew_Francis

*Dave Beattie can be followed @badgerboy1969

*Ben List can be followed @ @ACosmicHobo

*Yours truly can be followed at the usual place.