Lakenheath Old Boys

We are all former students at Lakenheath High School and other public schools in East Anglia. We were in school in the 70s and 80s and drank deeply from the well of British culture of those decades - the pints, the telly, and of course the footie!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Euro 2012 Predictions Game - Semi-Final Update

Well - that was interesting, wasn't it chaps? At the penultimate stage of the tournament that most of us thought would be dominated by Northern European teams - Germany and the Netherlands - we're left with a "Revenge of the Debtor States" final between Spain and Italy. No surprisingly, it's created havoc among our predictions. Going into the final, there are two variables that seem key. Simon and Someone Said have predicted a Spanish win, while Red Devil, Thomas and West Ham are hanging on to their ten points due to their Golden Boot choices (Gomez and Cristiano Ronaldo) just about hanging onto their three goal position at the top. Now, obviously an Italy win or a Mario Balotelli goal in the final could change everything. However, for now, these are the standings:

1. West Ham Rising - 40 points
2. The Red Devil 1FCK - 33
3. Thomas - 32
4. Simon Burke - 29
5. The Blue Devil - 27
6. Someone Said - 25
7. Matt - 24
8. AZ Kicker - 23
9. Chelskilad - 21
- Gooner71 - 21
11. ManUtd Rules - 20
- UWS - 20

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Euro 2012 - Semi Final 2!

I've just woken up from that overwhelming coma-like stupor that was induced by Spain and Portugal yesterday and am desperately hoping for an open, exciting match with lots of goals when Germany meet Italy today. Join me from 2pm onward for all the LOB action!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Iberian Semi-Final!

The England hang-over is over and it's semi-final time, chaps. First up is the Iberian clash between holders Spain and pretenders Portugal. Will Cristiano Ronaldo show up again and add to his three Euro 2012 goals? Or will the controlled Spanish tippy tappy them into a coma? Join me from 2pm onward to see all the action.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The coveted LOB Shield

It looks like the Euro Predictions game is neck and neck between WHR and Thomas. But for now, I give you the current holder, the Blue Devil.

Euro 2012 Predictions Game - Quarter-final Update

It was a heartbreaking weekend for all England fans but more points were earned as a result in our predictions game. Participants earned four points for each correct quarter-final winner (i.e., if you correctly guessed that Portugal, Germany, Spain and (sigh) Italy would progress to the semi-finals). Cristiano Ronaldo's goal against the Czechs also added a third person to the Golden Boot race (along with Red Devil and Thomas's choice Mario Gomez and the Russian striker Dzagoev who is out of the tournament - I've added ten points to West Ham Rising's total for that one, and he's consequently jumped out to a big lead. If Ronaldo keeps scoring against the Spanish, WHR is odds on to win our new LOB Trophy. If Gomez catches fire against Italy, then Thomas will likely lift the trophy next weekend. Here are the current standings:

1. West Ham Rising - 34 points
2. Thomas - 32
3. Blue Devil - 27
- The Red Devil - 27
5. Matt - 24
6. AZ Kicker - 23
- Simon Burke - 23
8. Chelskilad - 21
- Gooner71 - 21
10. ManUtd Rules - 20
- UWS - 20
12. Someone Said - 19

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Come on, England!

The mojo is in full effect here at Gooner Central in Alexandria, VA today as we prepare for the epic clash between England and Italy. We're all kitted out in the Three Lions attire and hoping for a Michael Caine-style "Italian Job." Friends will be joining us for a backyard barbeque this afternoon, so blogging again will be sporadic. Come on, England!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Euro 2012 - Quarterfinal 3

We've barely recovered from the splendid Germany v. Greece spectacle yesterday and another Euro cracker is upon us. The LOB reunion crew will be at West Ham Rising's palatial Georgetown abode today to watch Spain v. France. Apparently paella and Abbot Ale are on tap for the festivities so I can't wait. Hoping that the Spanish forgo their technical tippy tappy nonsense and give France a proper spanking today. Blogging will likely be sporadic but I hope to post and perhaps Skype before and after the match. Enjoy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bad Precursor for the Germans

The Germans and Greeks have of course met on the pitch before with a great deal at stake. Anyone not familiar with that epic encounter should check out the highlights here: Monty Python's International Philosophy

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Euro-2012 Quarter-final 1

It's the quarter-final stage today, starting with Portugal v. the Czech Republic. The Portuguese led by Cristiano "Skippy" Ronaldo are favored in this opener, but the wily Czechs may trip them up. Join me to see all of the action!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Euro 2012 Predictions Game - Group Stage Final Update!

Well, well, well. That was quite exciting yesterday, wasn't it, chaps? I've now relocated to the nation's capital, where - as The Bruces would say, "it's hot enough to boil a monkey's bum." All participants have been awarded two points for a correct prediction of one of the semi-finalists and three points if they got the team in it's correct finishing place in the group (i.e., England on top - wahay!). Several of us also got two points for correctly predicting that Robert Lewandowski would score Euro 2012's opening goal. Finally, Thomas and The Red Devil are sitting pretty at the top of the charts largely due to their love for SuperMario Gomez, the current co-Golden Boot contender (with 3 goals). Here are the standings at the end of the group stage:

1. Thomas - 24 points
2. The Red Devil 1FCK - 19
3. Matt - 16
- UWS - 16
- West Ham Rising - 16
6. AZ Kicker - 15
- Blue Devil - 15
- Simon Burke - 15
- Someone Said - 15
10. Chelskilad - 13
- Gooner71 - 13
12. ManUtd Rules - 12

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Euro 2012 - Day 12 - England Expects!

It's another day of reckoning for Roy Hodgson's "New England." So far, it's been a job well done. Through two gutsy (and skilful) performances, Woy's babes have taken themselves to within a point of qualifying for the quarter-final stage of Euro 2012. But they can't be complacent today against co-hosts Ukraine. Roon is back in the fold, so it's all systems go, right? Don't be a numpty - join me from 2:45 pm EST onward to cheer on the boys - come on, England!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Euro 2012 - Day 11!

It's the culmination of Group C today, with three teams in contention for those quarter-final places. We saw one of the big boys - the Netherlands - leave the tournament in disgrace yesterday - will Italy join them today? They'll need a big performance against the scrappy Irish in order to ensure it. Meanwhile, the Spanish art project will attempt to tippy-tap their way through Croatia. Join me in an hour or so for all the LOB action!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Euro 2012 - Day 10!

It's the end of the Group of Death - Group B - today, and the culmination should be as thrilling as yesterday's finish, if not better. Again - all four teams are mathematically still in it, and the Dutch will take a great deal of inspiration from the Greek's rise from fourth to second slot during the 90 minutes. The Germans, of course, are in pole position but they won't be complacent after watching Russia go down in flames. Join me from 2:45 pm EST to see how it all plays out.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Euro 2012 - Day 9!

Group A seems almost an anticlimax after the dramatic goings-on in Group D yesterday, especially that thrilling victory by Roy Hodgson's "New England." But here we are, nonetheless. Lots to sort out here, as none of the sides have either progressed or been eliminated mathematically, yet. Russia are in pole position, with four points, while Greece are barely hanging on with one point. Of course, due to the dreaded "Anschluss Football" perpetrated by the Germans and Austria way back in 1982, both games will be played simultaneously starting at 2:45pm. Join me then for all of the action!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Euro 2012 Predictions Game - Group Stage Update

I'm back with the second update of our predictions game and the picture is starting to form in most of the groups. Groups A, C and D look to be edging toward form, with only Group B producing a major shock with the Netherlands on the edge of elimination. The Red Devil and Thomas have jumped out to a considerable lead, given their prediction of SuperMario Gomez as Golden Boot winner. Gomez is tied on 3 goals with Russia's Dzagoev, but Mario may be rested for the third match which may give some others a chance to catch him. Here are the current standings:

1. The Red Devil - 26 points
2. Thomas - 23
3. Blue Devil - 17
- Chelskilad - 17
- Simon Burke - 17
6. Gooner71 - 16
- West Ham Rising - 16
8. ManUtd Rules - 14
- UWS - 14
10. AZ Kicker - 13
11. Matt - 11
12. Someone Said - 10

Euro 2012 - Day 8!

It's the big day, lads - Group D and Engerland are back up again. And this time means business - it's a must win against the Swedes who looked toothless against Ukraine the other day. Before that, we've got France v. Ukraine to entertain us. I have no idea what to predict or want out of that one. I just want an England win. Join me for that - come on, England!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Euro 2012 - Day 7!

Morning, chaps - Group C second group stage matches today, starting with the surprisingly good Azurri team against Croatia in an Adriatic derby. Will Prandelli keep the faith with Mad Mario - I hope so. Then we've got the tippy tap nonsense of the Spanish against the blood and thunder of the Irish in the late one. Join me for all the fun today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It Was Thirty Years Ago Today...!

The Hunters' backyard - June 13th, 1982 - crikey, how the time has flown!


What is going on at White Hart Lane? Everyone at Spurs was worried about losing Harry Redknapp to England. The FA pick Woy and now Appy Arry loses his job down the Lane? What happened? Who will take over? David Moyes is the bookies favorite. Would Moyes leave Goodison or is he waiting for an opening at Old Trafford? Your thoughts gentlemen? UWS

Euro 2012 - Day 6!

It's do or die day in Group B, especially for the Netherlands, would-be favorites of many before the tournament started. Their old enemies Germany have the tantalizing chance of knocking the Dutch out of Euro 2012 this evening. Before that, though, the surprising Danes also have the opportunity to send the Portugeezers home on an early flight to Lisboa. Should be fascinating today - join me from noon onward.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


A busy June of football as we enjoyed the Euros ; now we have World Cup qualifying. Some matches have been played and some have yet to be played.I will have my eye on El Salvador vs Mexico, which is on Telemundo and Guatemala vs the U.S. which is on sa sports station that I may get.Come join us for all the action.

Euro 2012 - Day 5!

We're back to Group A for the start of the second round of matches. Greece and the Czech Republic kick us off at noon today. Greece were sluggish at the start of Friday's opener but came on strong and might have won it but for a penalty save by Poland's #2. The Czechs would rather forget Friday altogether and will need something today to survive in the tournament after getting roasted by Russia. Later today, we've got the historic match-up between Russia and hosts Poland. Both surprised people with their attacking flair, so I'm hoping for a goal-fest this afternoon. Bring it on!

Euro 2012 Predictions Game - Group Stage Update

We're through the first round of group stage matches at Polkraine 2012, so it's time to take stock of our game. So far, I've given two points for each team corrected predicted to occupy the top two spots in the group (I'm going by the standings on the UEFA website, which alphabetizes in the case of ties - e.g. England over France) and three points for those you've predicted in the exact spot. So, the maximum points available there is 24. Six of us also got two points for correctly predicting Robert Lewandowski as the first scorer in the tournament. Sadly, no one correctly predicted Greece's Papastopilis as the first man to be red carded.

Here are the current standings:

1. Blue Devil - 13
-- Someone Said - 13
-- UWS - 13
4. The Red Devil (1 FCK) - 12
-- Simon Burke - 12
6. AZ Kicker - 10
-- Matt - 10
8. Chelskilad - 9
-- Gooner71 - 9
-- ManUtd Rules - 9
11. Thomas - 7
-- West Ham Rising - 7

Panini goes to the dogs...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away....

I was spending a year in Germany, and I was introduced to the wonder that is Panini sticker albums through collecting a Star Wars sticker album.

1982 I was back in Germany for the summer, and since I often did not get to watch much of the games (I stayed with relatives, few of which had an insatiable hunger for footie), my best bet for getting into the mood was collecting stickers. It was great! Even when I did not have the sticker, the album would provide info in each little box about the player, the club they played for and things like age, weight, and height, or even caps and goals.

Over the years, not only have the WC and EC expanded, but the albums themselves. Sure, there was the downside that they usually featured a limited squad which featured some players that did not end up traveling to the tourney, and excluded some young players who made the squad in the last minute. However, as seen in the picture above, the new album has no info in any of the empty boxes. Thus, the albums really are purely for collecting the pictures, and they are less of a resource. Further, they have added at least 100 useless pictures like photos of all the past champs or downtown Gdansk (notice my political correctness in not calling it Danzig). They even have some 'action' pix of players simply in action, but they are in addition to the normal squad photos and have no info on them. Overall, this means getting a decent amount of players (let's say 25%), you probably have to invest about $30, and a lot more will be useless pictures (like half of a photo of Kharkiv).

The world is going to the dogs, and Panini is leading the charge.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Woy's Army!

UWS and the Blue Devil urging on Woy's boys toward a serviceable opening 1-1 draw against France today. We would have pushed for better but we were knackered....

Euro 2012 - Day 4!

England v. France - it's as old as Agincourt. When it comes to titanic clashes such as this one, I have two choices: either watch alone in a darkened room free of any sharp implements or watch with close footie friends. I'm opting for the latter today. I've got the lucky England shirt and scarf on already and I'm hoping for a positive result today in Donetsk. Join me from noon onward for all the Gaul-slaying action. Come on, the Three Lions!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Classic Shirt Competition

This is a great way to waste 30 minutes. And if you get them all, you're automatically entered into a raffle. Click HERE

Euro 2012 - Day 3!

We turn to Group C today, lads, with two more matches with plenty of potential for exciting action. It all starts at noon EST with the clash of the titans - Spain v. Italy. Then after just enough time to grab a bite to eat, it's Trap's Irish against plucky Croatia. Join me for all the action today!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Euro 2012 - Day 2!

Welcome to the Group of Death, chaps. I woke up this morning to the heartening news that there is disarray in the Dutch camp as usual. We'll soon see if that's true as the Netherlands take on Denmark in a must-win match starting at noon. Then we'll barely be able to catch our breaths before Germany line up against Portugal. It should be another cracking day of European football action. Enjoy!

Friday, June 08, 2012

U.S. v. Antigua

The road to Brasil 2014 starts tonight for Sam's Army in Tampa against the minnows of Antigua. Join me for what promises to be a goal-fest at the end of a day full of goals in Euro 2012.

Euro 2012 - Day 1!

Hurrah! Euro 2012 has finally arrived. I've just arrived at Chez Nocito and am looking forward to a weekend of watching footie, brushing up on my Rock Band skills and reliving favorite Monty Python sketches. The opening ceremonies from Warsaw start in under an hour, so I thought I'd start this thread for the day's action. Let's hope for a cracking first day of action. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

How much are you prepared to watch?

I still look back fondly to WC 2002. Except for two halves of relatively meaningless games (don't tell me you were fevering for S Africa-Slovenia or Japan-Tunisia), I think I saw the entire thing. Since then, I have faced the reality that it is tough to watch games in Italy (where I spend my summers), since RAI often has not had all the rights to games. But honestly, it has been family responsibilities that make me feel guilty about saying to my wife: "It's good to be in Italy. Now, we can't leave the house for the next month."
Instead, I find myself almost cursing the fact that there is non-stop soccer every night for 12 relentless days before the first break. My wife has scheduled a dinner out on the night of Germany-Holland. Clearly, 5 years of marriage have not made everything about my priorities clear.
Looking at the matches, I think I will be watching 17 of the opening round games, and snippets of the rest. 10 years ago, I would not have imagined that such self-denial would be humanly possible for me.
How dedicated are the rest of your viewing habits going to be?

Euro 2012 Preview - Ukraine

We've reached the end of our previews, lads, with today's subject - Ukraine!

Nickname: "Zhovto-Blakytni" ("The Yellow-Blues")
Absurd FIFA ranking: 52nd

Coach: Former European Footballer of the Year Oleg Blokhin

Match Schedule:

June 11 – Ukraine v. Sweden (Kiev, 2:45 p.m. EST)
June 15 – Ukraine v. France (Donetsk, 12  p.m.)
June 19 – Ukraine v. England (Donetsk, 2:45 p.m.)

Prospects: Co-hosts Ukraine come into this summer's tournament with the lowest FIFA ranking in the tournament and the realization that, but for their hosting slot, they almost surely would have missed out on Euro 2012. No one rates them, which might just take a bit of the home pressure off the side. Could an aging squad led by journeyman striker Andrei Shevchenko be a surprise package?

Key Player: 33 year old Bayern defensive middie Anotoliy Tymoshchuk will need to keep things tight.

Youngster to watch: Up and coming striker Anton Shynder could take some of the goalscoring pressure off the skipper.

Who Will Get the Goals: Those duties still fall to the skipper Andrei Shevchenko, now 35 and playing back at Dynamo Kiev.

Who Will Get the Cards: Shakhtar Donetsk hatchetman Oleksandr Kucher.

Prediction: Ukraine sadly don't even have the pomp and circumstance of an opening ceremony to stir the loins. Might nick a point off Sweden in the opener. Otherwise....bottom of the group.

No-nonsense Polish Cops

For anyone traveling to Poland for this event, the Sun suggests it might be safer to arrive with the American, rather than English, passport if you have both. Watch out for the dogs!

Tough Anti-Hooligan Police Tactics in Poland

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Euro 2012 Preview - Sweden

Nickname: "Blagult" ("The Yellow-Blues")
Absurd FIFA ranking: 17th

Coach: Former pro Erik Hamren

Match Schedule:

June 11 – Sweden v. Ukraine (Kiev, 2:45 p.m. EST)
June 15 – Sweden v. England (Kiev, 2:45  p.m.)
June 19 – Sweden v. France (Kiev, 2:45 p.m.)

Prospects: The Swedes qualified automatically for Polkraine 2012 as the top second placed side in qualifying after a stirring 3-2 win over group toppers The Netherlands in their last match.

Key Player: Veteran co-captain Anders Svensson is the key to Sweden keeping their shape under pressure from better sides. Under new manager Hamren, the Swedes have become a well-organized (if slightly boring) side with a few surprising weapons - the new Norway, essentially. Is it any wonder then that so many of their current squad ply their trade in England? That alone will make the June 15th match-up fascinating viewing.

Youngster to watch: 19 year-old John Guidetti hasn't got a look-in at his home club Man Citeh yet; but he's been is great goal-scoring form on loan at Feyenoord.

Who Will Get the Goals: Mercurial beanpole Zlatan Ibrahimovic - if he can rouse himself to give a toss, Sweden could be a handful.

Who Will Get the Cards: Blackburn Rovers defender Martin Olsson has picked up some bad habits in relegation dogfights this season.

Prediction: Sadly, France will likely top Group D ahead of England. That sets up a Quarter-final match-up on June 23rd with Italy. I'm taking a risk given Italy's current crisis, but I just sense that their superior tournament mentality will edge France out in a penalty shoot-out after probably the dullest match in the tournament.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Let's Be Havin' Ya!

We're only three days away from the start of Euro 2012 and I've still only got four predictions in from LOBers. So, get your ouija boards out and send those predictions in the following areas along as soon as possible to get in before the kick-off on Friday at noon EST.

* The top two in each of the groups (you'll receive two points for each correct team plus an extra point if you get them in the correct order)

* The winners of each of the eight Round of Sixteen matches (3 points per team)

* The winners of each of the four Quarterfinal matches (4 points per team)

* The winners of each of the two Semifinals (6 points per team)

* The Euro 2012 Champions! (8 points)

* The first goal scored in the tournament (2 points)

* The first player sent off (either straight red or two yellows) (2 points)

* The Golden Boot winner (top scorer) (10 points)

Let's be havin' ya!

Euro 2012 Preview - France

And now for England's first opponent - France

Nickname: "Les Bleus" ("The Blues")
Absurd FIFA ranking: 16th! (Yes, Croatia, Denmark, Russia and Greece are all rated more highly.)

Coach: World Cup '98 winner Laurent Blanc

Match Schedule:

June 11 – France v. England (Donetsk, 12 p.m. EST)
June 15 – France v. Ukraine (Donetsk, 12  p.m.)
June 19 – France v. Sweden (Kiev, 2:45 p.m.)

Prospects: Laurent Blanc took over at the shambles of France's acrimonious South African World Cup campaign in 2010 and Raymond Domenech's sacking. Since then, Blanc has shed some of the old guard (e.g., Anelka, Henry), has brought along some bright new stars (e.g., Yann M'Vila, Loic Remy) and Les Bleus have gone on an impressive run of 16 matches unbeaten after a rocky start to the qualifying campaign. The French as always have an embarrassment of riches in the middle of the park but are a wee bit light up front, especially after the withdrawal due to injury of Remy. I suspect they'll have a slow start against England and will then have to win their second match against hosts Ukraine. The last match with Sweden will then be vital.

Key Player: Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa has been a revelation this season, laying on many of the goals snapped up by the Senegalese duo Ba and Cisse. He'll need to do the same this summer if France are to progress further than the quarter-finals. 

Youngster to watch: 25 year old Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is often overlooked but as the skipper, he's a key part of what makes Blanc's side hard to beat.

Who Will Get the Goals: Karim Benzema has been in sparkling goalscoring form for Real Madrid this season and is the top scorer in the current squad. A decent shout for Golden Boot.

Who Will Get the Cards: Milan center back Philippe Mexes' lack of mobility could be a liability.

Prediction: Sadly, France will likely top Group D ahead of England. That sets up a Quarter-final match-up on June 23rd with Italy. I'm taking a risk given Italy's current crisis, but I just sense that their superior tournament mentality will edge France out in a penalty shoot-out after probably the dullest match in the tournament.

Monday, June 04, 2012

The Guardian Euro 2012 Animated Series

The LOB's media wonk UWS came across this brilliant new series of animated shorts created by the Guardian wags to go along with their previews for Euro 2012. They won't necessarily make you feel better about England's chances (Guardian readers tend to prefer a "glass half empty" philosophy going into international tournaments after all), but it might give you a chuckle or two.

Check out the short about England's tournament history here:


Euro 2012 Preview - England!

Less than a week to go, then - time to talk about Engerlund and Group D:

Nickname: "The Three Lions"
Absurd FIFA ranking: 7th

Coach: Cosmopolitan journeyman Roy Hodgson

Match Schedule:

June 11 – England v. France (Donetsk, 12 p.m. EST)
June 15 – England v. Sweden (Kiev, 2:45  p.m.)
June 19 – England v. Ukraine (Donetsk, 2:45 p.m.)

Prospects: Our boys have the advantage of going into this tournament somewhat under the radar, as no one really rates them. This includes former French manager Raymond Domenech who recently commented that Sweden were more of a threat to Les Bleus. Ouch - that hurts. Still, although I don't expect England to light up the tournament with sparkling form, we could surprise a few people. Woy's hand has been forced by the early withdrawal of Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard, which means that youth will be pushed to the fore. That helps, as I don't think that our opponents will have expected to line up against old lions such as JT, Lamps, Stevie G. and Roon and won't have sussed out the likes of Gary Cahill, Jamie Milner and Danny Welbeck. Let's hope not!

Key Player: Given the relative youth and inexperience of this squad, the leadership duties will fall even more heavily on skipper Steven Gerrard; his link up play between the back four and our pacy forwards will be key.

Youngster to watch: 18 year old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still raw but could just be the live wire needed to break the deadlock in a tight match.

Who Will Get the Goals: Ashley Young has the best strike record of the current squad - six goals in his last ten caps.

Who Will Get the Cards: Given the position he plays, Scottie Parker is always good for a yellow (but let's hope not two yellows!).

Prediction: An opening 1-1 draw with France will set the tone of England's tournament - good, not great. Second to France in the group stage, which sets up a titanic Quarter-final against the current champions on June 24. Taki taka-ed to death, sadly. Another quarter-final exit.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Canada vs USA

Canada hosts the U.S. from Toronto as the Canadians celebrate the centenary of their soccer association. This match is also a warm up for both teams as they start the final stage of World Cup qualifying next Friday. When these teams meet it's never a friendly.

Euro 2012 Preview - Croatia

Wrapping up our discussion of Group C, today's topic is Croatia:

Nickname: "Vatreni" ("The Blazers")
Absurd FIFA ranking: 8th

Coach: World Cup 1998 villain Slaven Bilic

Match Schedule:

June 10 – Croatia v. Ireland (Poznan, 2:45 p.m. EST)
June 14 – Croatia v. Italy (Poznan, 12  p.m.)
June 18 – Croatia v. Spain (Gdansk, 2:45 p.m.)

Prospects: Despite a recent renaissance and a top seeded spot in qualifying, Croatia finished second behind Greece in a weak group and were forced to defeat Turkey over two qualifying legs in order to join the elite 16 this summer. So, although the Croatian squad is full of skilful and familiar players to those of us who watch the Premiership, survival in a group that includes Spain and Italy seems remote.

Key Player: Wee Spurs playmaker Luka Modric makes this side tick; he'll have to be at his best in Polkraine if Croatia is to progress.

Youngster to watch: 20 year old Hadjuk Split striker Ante Vukusic already has ten caps and three goals under his belt.

Who Will Get the Goals: Former Arsenal man Eduardo, now playing at Shakhtar, has a remarkable strike rate for his national side - almost 50%.

Who Will Get the Cards: Rugged skipper Darijo Srna is fond of the rash challenge.

Prediction: Recent results such as yesterday's disappointing 1-1 draw with Norway suggest a bottom of the group finish for Croatia.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Final Tune-up!

With Euro 2012 less than a week away now, those bound for Polkraine have one last chance for a tune-up today.  England kick-off at Wembley on the day of Liz II's Diamond Jubilee against the France stand-ins Belgium at 12:15 and the news out of the England camp is that Woy is going to start with The Ox alongside Danny Welbeck up front. Join me for all the action from 11am onward.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Euro 2012 Predictions Game

We're a week away from the kick-off of Polkraine 2012, so it's time to introduce our patented Euro 2012 Predictions Game. Here's the set up. Just post (or email) your picks for the following areas:

* The top two in each of the groups (you'll receive two points for each correct team plus an extra point if you get them in the correct order)

* The winners of each of the eight Round of Sixteen matches (3 points per team)

* The winners of each of the four Quarterfinal matches (4 points per team)

* The winners of each of the two Semifinals (6 points per team)

* The Euro 2012 Champions! (8 points)

* The first goal scored in the tournament (2 points)

* The first player sent off (either straight red or two yellows) (2 points)

* The Golden Boot winner (top scorer) (10 points)

If you've got any suggestions or additions to this, let me know. Good luck, chaps!

Euro 2012 Preview - Ireland

Nickname: "The Boys in Green"

Absurd FIFA ranking: 18th

Coach: Wily Italian Giovanni Trappatoni

Match Schedule:

June 10 – Ireland v. Croatia (Poznan, 2:45 p.m. EST)
June 14 – Ireland v. Spain (Gdansk, 2:45  p.m.)
June 18 – Ireland v. Italy (Poznan, 2:45 p.m.)

Prospects: On paper, Ireland's squad of lower league nobodies has very little chance in a group that includes the current champions and one of Europe's perennial powers. However, Trappatoni may be the secret weapon, as he (and his deputy Marco Tardelli) will surely know how Italy will approach the vital third match in the group. If Ireland go out to try and match Spain and Italy on the pitch, they'll be on a quick flight home to Dublin. However, if they rely on Italian-based strategy, they might just be able to pull off a Switzerland.

Key Player: Villa keeper Shay Given has been in poor form since he was pushed out of Citeh by Joe Hart; however, if Trap's secret plan is to work, Given will have to keep some clean sheets.

Youngster to watch: Sunderland winger James McClean has been one of the spark's behind Martin O'Neill's resurgence at the club.

Who Will Get the Goals: Most would tip evergreen forward Robbie Keane - Ireland's top scorer - but I'm tipping Shane Long, who's been rattling them in for the Baggies all season.

Who Will Get the Cards: Wolves schemer Stephen Hunt is a nasty piece of work, as the dent in Petr Cech's head still attests.

Prediction: Nothing would delight me more than to see the Irish knock a cynical Italian side out, but I just don't see it. Out in a blaze of glory after a thrilling last match.