Ten members of the Arsenal first-team have been called up and will be flying out to Ukraine and Poland to represent their respective countries in this summer’s European Championships. Euro 2012 kicks off in just under two weeks time when Greece take on co-hosts Poland in Warsaw on June 8th.
Group A includes Czech Republic, Poland and Russia, meaning Tomáš Rosický, Wojciech Szczęsny and Andrei Arshavin will all face each other in a group that’s simply too close to call. Greece – who have no Arsenal players – are the team who complete the group. The Greeks will be trying to replicate their run in 2004 when they were crowned Champions of Europe after a simply heroic string of performances in Portugal.
Łukasz Fabiański was originally in the Poland squad but he has been ruled out after picking up a shoulder injury in training last week. The unfortunate Fabiański reminded fans, “I picked up the same injury in very similar circumstances the first time at Arsenal [in January 2011]. It is the same shoulder.”
With his fellow gunner goalkeeper forced out of the tournament, Wojciech Szczęsny is in Pole position ahead of the competition. The Arsenal number one, who turned 22 last month, played 90 minutes on Saturday keeping a clean sheet in the process as Poland saw off Slovakia in a 1-0 win.
Tomáš Rosický missed Saturday’s warm-up match at the weekend as the Czech Republic saw off Israel with a 2-1 win. The 31-year-old, who sat out of Saturday’s friendly against ex-Gunner Yossi Benayoun’s side, has not taken part in a full training session with the Czech team. Rosický, however, remains confident he’ll be fit to captain his country at Euro 2012, “it [the injury] does not make me nervous anyhow. I count on being 100 per cent ready for the Euros.”
The Russians could spring a few surprises next month. And after winning the Russian Premier League whilst on-loan at Zenit Saint Petersburg, Andrei Arshavin will be flowing with confidence ahead of the tournament. The little Russian will decide his future after the tournament so his performances at Euro 2012 may prove to be a huge factor when Arsène Wenger decides where Arshavin will be playing his football next season.
My Group A predictions: Russia and Poland to progress.
Group B will see four Arsenal players – Nicklas Bendtner, Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Robin van Persie – go head-to-head as Denmark, Germany, Holland and Portugal face off in the appropriately named group of death.
Bendtner has an impressive goalscoring record for Denmark, and after scoring against Brazil at the weekend, I guess that means you should never rule anything out. Nevertheless, the Dane is expected to leave Arsenal this summer after an eight-year spell at the Gunners since he arrived at Highbury way back in 2004.
With the in-form Robin van Persie upfront, Holland should be in for a real shout. And with Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Mark van Bommel and Klaas Jan Huntelaar also in the side, Bert van Marwijk’s side are no doubt one of the strongest teams at the tournament. I don’t think they’re quite good enough to win it, but I’m certainly not going to rule them out.
But no matter good Holland are, I’m still tipping Germany to win Group B. Despite their recent 5-3 loss to Switzerland, they’re still my joint-favourites – along with Spain. If the Germans don’t win it, they will certainly go far. After the Gunners secured a deal for Lucas Podolski, who officially becomes an Arsenal player when the summer transfer window opens on July 1st, I am incredibly excited to see the Polish-born German in action. And it’s not just him; it’s always a pleasure to watch players Mario Gómez, Mesut Özil, Mario Götze and of course, Per Mertesacker perform together.
My Group B predictions: Germany and Holland to progress.
Group C features no members of the current Arsenal side. However, ex-Arsenal captain Cesc Fàbregas is expected to feature for Spain as they try to win yet another major international tournament. Croatia, Italy and the Republic of Ireland join them in the group and will make every effort to dent the World Champions’ domination.
My Group C predictions: Spain and Italy to progress.
Group D will see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Laurent Koscielny come together in a mouth-watering group. England face France, Sweden and the co-hosts Ukraine in the final group.
The Three Lions looked very average on Saturday as they beat Norway in an unconvincing 1-0 win. Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain both came off the bench, with the latter coming on for his England debut. The speedy duo made good contributions to a disappointingly dull game in Oslo. With Jack Wilshere missing the tournament through injury, the two wingers will be Arsenal’s only English representatives at the tournament. I think Walcott will have a good tournament… but Oxlade-Chamberlain will have an even better one!
Koscielny’s new-look France side will be hoping they can put their miserable 2010 World Cup campaign behind them as they try to claim back some glory. Arsenal (supposed) targets Marvin Martin, Yann M’Vila and Olivier Giroud are all expected to feature for Laurent Blanc’s side. Alternatively, and with home advantage, I think Ukraine may cause a few surprises in Group D.
My Group D predictions: England and Ukraine to progress.
Final squads are confirmed this Thursday so there could be a few changes between now and this time next week.
My Euro 2012 prediction: Germany beat Spain 2-1 in the final – with the winning goal coming from
Per Mertesacker Lucas Podolski.