OMFG! Football! EURO 2012! Eng-ur-land!
That's right kids, another major international football tournament is upon us already, so I may as well continue my tradition of incorrectly predicting what will happen and noting it all down on here so you can all laugh at me afterwards. After a fine Premier League season and a thoroughly entertaining Champions League campaign, we're going into this one with enthusiasm and excitement - albeit for the tournament itself and not England's chances. More on them later.
Some quick predictions for you then. I'll use the structure that the Grauniad uses here:
Germany v Spain
I'm sold on the Germans this year, I really am. I thought they were sensational at the World Cup of two years ago, the best team there, but just ran out of fizz when they needed it the most. With the experience of that campaign under their belts, I like their chances. Spain? Jam packed with quality, of course, but David Villa's absence is a blow and they can't keep on winning these things. What a fantastic final this would be, and I reckon Germany would just sneak it.
Germany 2-1 Spain
One name springs to mind immediately, but I have a feeling he'll be Top 5 but not the #1 goalscorer. So I won't go for Robin van Persie on this one, but I will go for Mario Gomez. A lot of that is based on my "Germany to win" prediction so we'll see, but I do fancy him to bounce back from a rotten Champions League final and bang in a few.
PLAYER TO WATCH
A number of people spring to mind here. Close to home, I think this tournament could see the emergence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as a real player. He's so much better than Walcott it's untrue, and searing pace + a brain = trouble for defenders. Further afield, I really like Cabaye of France, and I hope he can play for his national team like he does for Newcastle. Mario Balotelli is of course always very watchable - will it be triumph or despair for the maverick Italian? What about Fernando Torres - can he get back to this best? From my tip Germany there's Toni Kroos, Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller, all quality young players. I'm not sure how much they'll play, but the Spanish duo of Santi Cazorla and Fernando Llorente are both fun to watch despite having thoroughly different styles.
The squad isn't as terrible as some are making it out to be, but it is still difficult to see England winning this one. The first match against France will tell us a lot. A win, and the momentum will carry you through towards being group winners. A draw, and suddenly you're a bit worried about topping the group, but still content you can qualify from it. A defeat, and you're facing Sweden who you've never beaten in a major tournament before followed by Ukraine who are a poor side but are at home and haven't had to travel all the way from Poland for the match, and you're beginning to sweat a bit.
Group winners or runners up, however, it's a stretch imagining England beating the likes of Spain, Germany et al in the knock-out stages. It could very well be QF and out, once again.
MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO
Germany, Holland and Spain playing good football. Danny Welbeck to do well and gain a whole world of confidence in time for next season. Ireland to do well, and have fun whilst doing it. Mario Balotelli to do...something. The French to spontaneously combust again.
LEAST LOOKING FORWARD TO
The lingering threat of hooliganism and racism. The inevitable fall-out when England lose. The endless Ferdinand/Terry questions immediately after Terry slips on his arse and costs England a goal. Poland and Ukraine being bloody awful and really not warranting their places in the tournament.
Enjoy the tournament, fellow soccerball fans!