I've spent the past week doing a bunch of pre-tournament research to try to understand who's who and which teams are going to fare best. Here's how I think Group A (the tournament's "group of attrition") will unfold.
First thing to say is that there's not a lot of goals in this group. All of the teams involved seems to gradually suck the life out of opposition in order to qualify. If Alex McLeish watches the tournament, this is the group he'll fancy. Turgid, defensive, threat-less football abound - it should be a classic.
1. Russia - I have a feeling that Arshavin will be up for this, following what appears to have been a 4 year rest. The usual combination of aggressive bestubbled defenders and blonde waif like strikers, should bring about a group win, especially when knitted together by the like of Dzagoev. You never know, it might even be a little bit entertaining
2. Greece - I think the Greeks are going to provide their nation with some much needed relief. Whilst there might not be much support for the team (presumably the majority of Greeks can no longer afford the bus ticket, let alone a seat at the matches) - I think they've genuinely got a purpose. It must be pretty shitty at the moment, and there's nothing like the siege mentality to raise a team's game. Style wise, it won't be pretty. Papadopoulos will lead from the back in a defensive minded team, and the overall style won't be much different form when they won in 2004.
3. Poland - Sadly I foresee an exit for the co-hosts. They will run about in an enthusiastic way but prove ultimately to be lacking in the necessary quality. Should be fun listening to the commentary though, there's a lot of long tricky names to remember.
4. Czech Republic - traditionally full of flair, the Czech's are not as attractive and mighty as they once were, and I think they'll take the honour of trailing in the group. Rosicky is the man who could prove me utterly wrong, he has come back into form of late.
Group B to follow soon.