Counting down to the Big Cup

The title of this blog and the stuff published so far have had no direct relation.

Not anymore.

All the 16 teams have been announced. Some surprises like the sudden withdrawal of Clarence Seedorf from the Dutch national team for 'personal reasons' is quite a blow for their plans.

Others like Pavel Nedved stayed retired. No Francesco Totti. No Trezeguet. No Raúl. But Materazzi is coming..so opponents beware.

Austria is a total unknown to me. I am only slightly better with Switzerland thanks to their exploits in World Cup 2006. Greece is coming back. Quite a few of the all conquering (albeit in a boring way) 04 team are back.

Czech Republic is another team with a lot of new faces compared to the 2006 World Cup. Germany is bringing bank more or less the same team that played so well in 06.

Portugal - as usual are overloaded with midfielders and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Spain - Has talent strewn all over the pitch starting from Torres/Villa upfront to Pepé Reina, the backup goalkeeper. But that doesnt meant much as they rarely live upto expectations. There is no reason why the script cant be different this time but if history is any indicator of things to come, the usual script will repeat.

Italy - Alessandro Del Piero is in the best form of his life. Although he presents a challenge to coach Donadoni as to the position he fits in his system, its still a sensible move to have someone on a goal scoring streak over the past few months in the team.

France - A very strong team in a very strong group that includes the Netherlands, Italy and Romania. Trezeguet is the biggest omission from the squad. I think if were playing for any of the otther 15 teams in the finals, he would be selected based on his form and ability to score goals.

Russia - Russian football is riding high on the phenomenal success of Zenit St. Petersburg in the UEFA Cup.

Sweden - Always a tough team to beat. Could be the swansong of the great Henrik Larsson. If Ibrahimovic is fully fit, they can cause a suprise.

Croatia - Their best striker Eduardo is out due to that huge injury he sustained playing for Arsenal a few months ago.

Turkey - Turkey is one of those teams with a lot of good players most of whom dont get the publicity as they play in the Turkish League. They are very capable of an upset or two.

Poland and Romania complete the 16 with a couple of solid yet unspectacular teams. Look out for Chivu, Contra and Mutu from Romania.

And I realized a few days ago that Leo Beenhakker is coaching Poland :). I know that he coached Real Madrid, Club ámerica in México and more recently Trinidad and Tobago to the world cup. But I am sure the old man has coached many more teams in his long career.

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