During the upcoming European Championships the Footy Show will be your home for daily vodcast shows taped immediately following the games. Each day, James and Kristian will be joined by one of Paolo Bandini, Andy Brassell, Michael Cox, Raphael Honigstein and Ben Lyttleton to react to the day’s matches.
The Footy Blog run by editor Richard Whittall will also have daily recap match reports as well as a whole host of other posts covering the tournament from Ukraine and Poland.
So to get you ready for the tournament these eight men sat down and discussed everything from predictions to what they hope to see over the next few weeks.
Andy Brassell, a freelance writer and broadcaster on European football. His work can be regularly read and heard via outlets including BBC FiveLive/World Service, ESPN Soccernet, The Independent and FOX Soccer. @andybrassell
Michael Cox, the sole writer at zonalmarking.net, winner of the Best Football Blogger in the Soccerlens Awards. He has also written for the Guardian, Blizzard, FourFourTwo.com, ESPN and The Score’s Footy Blog. @zonal_marking
Raphael Honigstein, the English football correspondent of Süddeutsche Zeitung and writes regular columns for the Guardian and Sports Illustrated. He’s the author of “Englischer Fussball. A German view of our beautiful game” and can be seen on ESPN’s Soccernet Press Pass and CNN World Sport. @honigstein
Kristian Jack, host of the Footy Show and a man who attended multiple games at Euro 96 but proudly sold his England-Scotland ticket to pay for a week long holiday in Newquay with his mates who he then needed more than ever after that Gareth Southgate miss. @kristianjack
Ben Lyttleton, a European football writer for publications in the UK, Asia and South America. He has also co-written the ebook ‘Best XI Insider: England v France’ now available on Amazon and is a contributor to the Sports Illustrated website and The Score’s Footy Blog. @benlyt
James Sharman, host of the Footy Show who every day for the past month has shouted ”one inch & England may have beaten Germany, won a Euro, and Paul Gascoigne may have put his demons to rest. If only he was one inch taller!” @jamessharman
Richard Whittall, Footy Blog Editor and a man who once risked death by being the only person to cheer for Greece’s only goal in the final of Euro 2004, in a bar filled with angry Portugal fans. @rwhittall
What team are you looking forward to watching the most at this tournament and why?
Michael Cox: It’s Germany for me – they’ve got tremendously talented players and I’m interested to see how they’ve progressed from two years ago. The emergence of Gotze and Reus has given them more options, but really I think their best side is pretty similar to the one from 2010, albeit with some alterations at the back.
Ben: I’m with you on Germany – they have been closing the gap on Spain ever since the 2008 final and this could be their year – so many exciting young players coming through.
Raphael: I’m naturally interested to see whether Germany can fulfil their huge potential. I always enjoy Spain, too. It’s easy to forget just how difficult their style of football is to pull off.
James: As much as it pains me to admit, as usual the minute Euro kicks off, the fanboy in me takes over and I will be living and breathing every frustrating and dreadful second that England chases the ball around the field. In fairness, I am curious as to what a Roy Hodgson England will look like, and whether pragmatism rules the day, which just might be the team’s best hope.
Richard: I have both of the teams you all mentioned. England, because I support them against my better judgment (and often my personal will). Germany because if they play to their ability, they should be the team of the tournament.
Kristian: Being an Englishman I gave up enjoying watching them the moment Gareth Southgate missed that penalty so I cannot say them. I’ll say Spain because I think they have some significant weaknesses this time around and I’m fascinated to see if they can prove me wrong and still be the powerhouse with some key absentees.
Andy: It’s France for me. Laurent Blanc has rebuilt very well and it’s a very talented squad, but not so much experience so I want to see how they’ll react under pressure.
Paolo: Predictable it may be, but the honest answer is Italy. With all the disruption caused by the latest match-fixing scandal and then the horrific earthquake in Emilia-Romagna, this Italy team ought to be operating under a black cloud – yet Cesare Prandelli remains a study in glorious optimism. I have a tonne of admiration for both his outlook on life and the way he tries to make his teams play.
What group game are you looking forward to most and why?
Ben: Germany v Holland – at the last World Cup, Germany played like Holland and Holland like Germany; in a friendly last year, Germany beat the Dutch 3-0; aside from the historical significance of the game and past clashes from 1974 and 1990, I’m glad this game is second in the group, and therefore ‘live’. If it was third, they might have both been able to settle for a draw – no chance now.
Kristian: I cannot get enough of Germany v Holland. I’m obsessed by this rivalry. I remember Frank Rijkaard lobbing one into Rudi Voller like it was yesterday.
James: Same here. There are some delicious matchups, but certainly Germany vs Netherlands on June 13th will be one to behold. Simon Kuper tells us that it will be nothing but love on show, and I want to see that, until then I can’t believe it. Two powers, one playing beautiful, gorgeous, flowing artistry, the other being the Dutch! Who’d have thought!
Michael: Yes, Germany v Holland is the standout game here – simply because they’re two of the best three sides, and there’s the old rivalry there.
Raphael: The quality on show, the storylines (Robben v Bayern) and the history means that Germany vs Netherlands is the one that stands out.
Richard: Spain versus Italy should be fascinating, both to see if Spain’s fortunes are indeed reflected in Barcelona’s infinitesimally small dip in form this season, and to get a sense of what Prandelli’s Italy are capable of. Also, Mario Balotelli in a big game.
Paolo: It might be Italy v Spain – though I’m not sure “looking forward” is necessarily the right phrase – frankly I’m very nervous! So perhaps a more accurate answer to the question would be Germany v Holland.
Andy: Germany v Portugal. I’ll be covering the Portuguese and I like the thought of their biggest test coming so quickly. It’s an exciting prospect.
Give us one player who you think will breakout and elevate his game to new heights in this tournament?
Michael: Ones I hope get playing time are Kevin Strootman of Holland and Christian Eriksen of Denmark – both clever central midfielders who’ve been impressive in the Eredivisie this season.
Ben: On the international stage, this is a huge opportunity for Samir Nasri, playing as France’s number ten, to prove himself as a top player. He may have won the Premier League with Manchester City but he hasn’t yet shown his best for France.
James: It was several months ago that someone told me to begin paying special attention to Toni Kroos, so I did just that. This season we’ve seen the Bayern man enjoy a breakthrough season, and could force his way into Germany’s starting XI. Such an intelligent player, this could be his tourney. If not? Pick one of the other German wonderkids.
Kristian: Thanks for the plug Sharms, I do love Kroos but I’ll go with another player who will definitely start for Germany. Mats Hummels was named number 73 in our top 100 players list but is better than that and will prove in this tournament that he is a world class defender who deserves to be discussed as one of the game’s best. A star performance in this tournament will do that.
Paolo: Poland certainly have very high hopes for Robert Lewandowski – though perhaps it’s a bit late to call it a break-out for him given that he already has 40 caps and scored 22 times for Borussia Dortmund this year. Perhaps a bit more under-the-radar is Greece’s Sotiris Ninis – who is joining Parma this summer.
Raphael: I also think we’ll see big things from Lewandowski as well as Alan Dzagoev and perhaps from Marco Reus, too.
Richard: I think Fernando Llorente will turn a few heads, particularly for those not aware of his spectacular form with Bilbao. He’ll have a lot to prove particularly in the highly publicized absence of David Villa.
Andy: If he’s fit, Yann M’Vila. The ability to become the best defensive midfielder of his generation, but people have started to doubt him a touch after an average season – but he looks so at home playing for France. If whoever wants him doesn’t seal the deal before the Euros (not looking at any club in particular, honest…), they’ll regret it.
If you could have one coach at these Euro’s to manage your country who would you pick?
Raphael: I’d have Löw to manage… Germany. Could it work?
Paolo: Giovanni Trapattoni. Not for the football, obviously (though I’m fairly sure nobody in Ireland is complaining about defensive tactics now that it has got them here). But for the press conferences.
Michael: Cesare Prandelli! Great attitude to attacking football, loves to bring through young players, talks to the media well, seems a lovely chap. Not convinced about Italy’s chances but Prandelli is a star.
Ben: Slaven Bilic for comedy value, Joachim Low for results, and tight jumpers.
Kristian: Laurent Blanc. A real top class coach, I think he’s still quite underrated as a manager but he connects well with players and is very intelligent.
James: Blanc for me as well. Firstly, he’s an absolute legend (despite what teenage Man Utd fans think) secondly he assumed a job that needed an extremely stern, yet deft hand to deal with the enormous ego’s he inherited. He ruled with an iron fist, and welcomed a new generation of player, whilst at the same time instilling responsible, result oriented football. Blanc would do wonders with England.
Richard: Yep, Laurent Blanc, an exciting prospect and a much-needed change after the Domenech dark ages.
Andy: I wish Fabio Capello was there. I would have loved to see how he learned from the experience gained and mistakes made at the World Cup in 2010.
Turkey got to the Semi’s in 08 and we all remember Greece in 04 so give us a sleeper team who can make the semi’s that most people wouldn’t expect?
Andy: Poland. The Dortmund three of Lewandowski, Piszczek & Kuba have been on great form this season, and the easiest of the four groups will help.
Michael: For a real outside bet, Ireland. In terms of individuals they’re the weakest side, but they’re used to playing a certain way, and I think they could shut out the bigger boys in their group.
Ben: I can just about imagine Portugal sneaking past Holland in Group B and that will give them an easy-ish draw against a Group A team to reach the semis. You could say England are a sleeper team but can they reach the semis? No chance.
Paolo: Would it be too cheap to say England? Yes? OK – I’ll go with Poland as well.
Richard: I’m saying England. New manager, lots of injuries, pressure off in a weird subdued way. More Turkey than Denmark/1992 or Greece/2004.
Raphael: I was quite positive about England’s chances until recently but now I believe that Sweden can get out of the group and cause an upset.
Kristian: I like Croatia. They are solid at the back and have some real difference makers going forward. No one is talking about them because they are with Italy and Spain but I think they can get through the group. After that anything can happen because they match up with group D and they can beat anyone in that group in one match.
James: Does France count? Although I have them bowing out in the quarters, this is a definite darkhorse team, that could go an awful long way at Euro.
What team do you think won’t go as far as most people think?
James: Dreadfully difficult question! Does Greece count? I think many favour Greece to get out of its group, I don’t.
Michael: I worry about Italy. I just don’t think they’ve got the individuals, although I hope I’m wrong because of my respect for Prandelli. England also have a decent chance of failing to get out of the group.
Raphael: Italy are in danger, I think.
Ben: Russia and the Dutch.
Andy: It’s the Netherlands for me also. I can’t help but think their defence is a bit flimsy, and Joris Mathijsen has not had a great season.
Richard: I agree. I think they’re due for a correction following their run to the 2010 final, unless Klaas-Jan goes all golden boot.
Kristian: Spain. No team has ever won Euro-World Cup-Euro and I will be really surprised if it happens on July 1st. Good teams have been knocked out of groups in this tournament before and that could happen again here. There is a real thin line between success and failure in these championships. You can play great in a game, average in a game and poor in a game and you go home. David Villa’s goals made all the difference in 2010 and 2008 and he is a huge loss.
Paolo: I’ll go with Spain. That’s not to say that they won’t go quite far, but as far as I can tell most people expect them to win again. Without Villa and Puyol, I’m not convinced.
Who will win group A?
Who will win group B?
Who will win group C?
Paolo: Spain. (I’d never dare tempt fate by saying otherwise!)
Who will win group D?
Which two teams do you think will meet in the final on July 1st and who will win?
Michael: Germany to meet Spain and Germany to win.
Ben: I have the same, Germany to beat Spain.
Raphael: Spain against Germany. Germany to win 2-1 in extra-time.
Andy: I have that final, Germany beating Spain.
James: Same for me but Spain to win beating Germany.
Kristian: This tournament has seen two teams paired in the same group meet in the final before and I have Germany playing Netherlands in the final and beating them.
Richard: I have Germany winning beating Italy in the final.
Paolo: Germany to beat France in the final (the latter having finished second in their group … because these things never work out as they are supposed to).
Whose your pick to be the top scorer?
Michael: Such a difficult thing to choose. Honestly…I don’t know. Let’s go for a real outsider, and Robert Lewandowski. Easy group and he’s had a good season. Karim Benzema another good shout.
Ben: That’s my pick, Benzema.
James: Miroslav Klose. Why not?
Raphael: Staying with Germany, I’m getting Poldi vibes.
Andy: I like Lewandowski. I would say Huntelaar, but it’ll probably take an injury to get him in the starting line-up.
Paolo: Robin van Persie. Betting pick: Cassano – six goals in 10 games for Italy in qualifying, and he’s widely available at over 50-1.
Kristian: I like to think outside the box a little on these and I mean that literally in this case. I think the top scorer may not be a direct centre forward so I’ll go with Mesut Ozil. I think this can be his tournament.