Exposed's Euro 2012 Preview

Euro 2012 is set to kick off on Friday (excuse the terrible pun) and on the eve of Europe’s festival of football Exposed’s resident Sport Billy, Matt Casbolt, gives us his thoughts, memories, hopes and predictions.
Will it be tears on the terrace, or can Roy work some Euros magic? We pick Matt’s brains…
What’s your most anticipated match and why?
No doubt at all about this one, it’s got to be England’s opening game against France. Any encounter between the two nations is always a big occasion and coupled with the fact it’s Roy Hodgson’s first competitive game, it has all the ingredients to be a classic.
Who do you see as the dark horse team of the tournament and why?
With the likes of Ronaldo, Pepe, Nani and Meireles, Portugal have a very strong squad on paper. Although many of their ‘golden generation’ have now retired, they will provide a stern challenge to all that face them.
Who is your top player to watch and why?
PSV Eindhoven's 22-year-old midfielder Kevin Strootman is tipped by many in the game to be the next big thing, so this could be the opportunity in which for him to shine on the big stage for the Netherlands.

How do you rate England’s chances in the tournament?
Unfortunately, I think this tournament might just have come a little too soon for the Three Lions. Roy Hodgson has had only a matter of weeks to try and stamp his mark on the side, but it may prove to be too little too late. A tough group that consists of neighbours France, co-host nation Ukraine and our ‘bogey’ side Sweden means England have it all to do, especially with our main talisman sat on the sidelines for first two games. However, if we manage to scrape through the group then confidence will be sky high and anything is possible in the latter stages.
Who do you think the stand out England player will be?
With Rooney missing England’s first two games due to suspension, it may be the case that we will have to look towards the midfield to provide goals. Hopefully Frank Lampard can step up to the plate and carry his rich goal scoring exploits for Chelsea into an England shirt.
Who do you think the finalists will be and who do you think will ultimately take the crown?
I don’t think you can look too far past the Germans in any major tournament. They had a young side in South Africa two years ago and all the indications are that they have now matured and developed into a formidable force, that could potentially dominate the international scene for years to come. However, it would also be foolish to rule out Spain’s chance of retaining the crown.
What has been your ultimate Euro highlight from previous competitions?
It has to be one of my earliest footballing memories – Paul Gascoigne’s legendary volley against the Scottish at Wembley in Euro ’96.

Who do you think will win the ‘golden boot’?
Well Robin Van Persie comfortably won the honour in this year’s Premiership and I can see him carrying on his potent form for the Dutch.
What’s your prediction for the first England game?
It will be a cagey affair that could be decided by the odd goal, so I will opt for 1-0 to England.
Latest Odds (from Sky Bet):
Spain 5/2, Germany 3/1, Netherlands 13/2, England 10/1, France 11/1, Italy 14/1, Republic of Ireland 80/1.
Words by Matt Casbolt

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