With just a few days to go before the start of Euro 2008, as a fan of England and the other Home Nations its time for some tough decisions.
With the likes of Gerrard, Boyd, Healy and Giggs sunning themselves on beaches at some expensive resort, the big question can no longer be avoided.
Just who do you support over the next few weeks?
Its a toughy to be honest but Footy Boots can now offer you a Euro 2008 equivalent of a pin stickers guide to assist in making your choice of adopted team.
Manchester United fans will doubtless be keeping a close eye on the exploits of Cristiano Ronaldo after his epic season at Old Trafford. Other England fans though will be hoping for him and his team mates to fall flat on their faces as Portugal were responsible for England’s exit at both Euro 2004 and the World Cup in 2006.
They’ll always be a soft spot for the boys from the Czech Republic in the British Isles after they, as Czechoslovakia, beat West Germany in the 1976 final. And any team that beats the Germans can’t be all that bad. Chelsea fans will be rooting for Petr Cech but injuries to some key play makers mean the Czech Republic might struggle for depth.
One for the underdog fans here. They’ll have the advantage of home support but the disadvantage of not being terribly good. Phillippe Senderos is their rock in defence – enough said! Nice clocks though. And lovely banks.
This lot finished 3rd in the 2002 World Cup but have gone off the boil since then. Plenty of passion and are normally well prepared but, like Switzerland, probably come in to the long shot category.
The tournament favourites with the bookies and Castrol Performance Index. Qualified without a hitch and now have Chelsea’s Michael Ballack in prime form too. It’ll take a brave punter to bet against them. Haven’t lost a penalty shoot out since 1976 as plenty of England supporters will remember all too well.
The team that ended England’s hopes in qualifying so probably won’t be too high up on the list of Steve McClaren (who’s summarising at Euro 2008 for the BBC at our expense – lovely). West Ham and Everton supporters could take an interest as the coach is Slaven Bilic who played for both teams. Might get a sympathy vote too from Arsenal fans after Eduardo’s horrific leg break earlier this year.
Gee whizz. Another team who haven’t done England too many favours over the years. There are a lot of them aren’t there. Strongest card might well be the man on the bench – Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker.
Hmm. Rather like co-hosts Switzerland they’re not expected to get out of the group and as such, probably won’t generate much support or punters cash outside of Vienna. That said, a natural team for Ultravox fans to get behind.
There’s always a group of death at a major tournament and this is it. France though will fancy their chances of making the knockout stages and they’ll likely be closely watched from the other side of The Channel with the likes of Henry, Makelele, Gallas and Evra in the squad. Have come a cropper at big events in the past as Senegal will testify. More likely Ooh la la this time round as opposed to Ooh b%*$”r.
Current world champions and capable of beating anyone on their day – just ask Zinedine Zidane. Italian restaurants will come to a stand still when they play but should they get knocked out, make sure the chef hasn’t spat in your pasta. One or two players missing through injury though so not at full strength.
The team that play beautiful football in a most un-beautiful strip. Loads of past and present Premier League connections for English fans to latch on to and a great coach in Marco van Basten who’s knitted together a team from a bunch of highly gifted internationals. Bound to be well backed by lovers of Tango, satsumas and spacehoppers, circa 1970.
Group outsiders but certainly in with a chance. All their players once famously dyed their hair blonde at a World Cup. If they go for a nice shade of orange against Holland, could be a commentator’s nightmare. Worth a punt at decent odds of causing a surprise and reaching the knock out stages.
Like the French, there’s bags of Premier League experience here with Arsenal and Liverpool well represented. Always seem to underachieve when push comes to shove but with Torres and Fabregas in their ranks, it just might be their year. Any Brits on holiday in Spain while the tournament is going on will get swept up with their supporters unbridled patriotism and won’t be able to support anyone else.
Here’s a team that Celtic fans can get behind after former striker Henrik Larsson came out of retirement for one last hurrah. Well drilled if not spectacular, unlike their female fans who’ll doubtless be caught on camera at every opportunity. Bound to be well backed by people who’ve been to the West End to watch Mumma Mia 27 times.
A very good coach and a plastic pitch did for England in qualifying, so bound to be well backed by the other Home Nations. Guus Hiddink has a tremendous record in getting teams to major finals and is a renowned tactician. Will have Roman Abramovich watching in the stands so Chelsea fans will see at least one familiar face.
The defending champions who shocked Portugal and the rest of Europe in 2004. Well organised but lacking in real world class talent. If you fancy a top night out, watch their group games in your local Greek eatery but expect a few smashed plates, or indeed more than usual, if they don’t make it out of the group.