The 2012 European Championship in Poland and Ukraine is just a week away now, but what issues do the teams involved still have to iron out?
GMF goes through the final warm-up fixtures for the teams who are competing and assess what they will want to learn from the games.
Norway v Croatia
A usually tough trip to Oslo will be good preparation for Slaven Bilic’s side, but there are not many issues for them to resolve other than getting Luka Modric and Ivica Olic more playing time together. The Spurs midfielder is their star man, but Olic has been a bit-part at Bayern Munich this season and will need as many minutes as he can get to provide the threat we know he can.
Czech Republic v Hungary
Coach Michal Bilek has insisted captain Tomas Rosicky will be fit for the opening game, but will not be able to take part in the Hungary match. It will provide Bilek with a chance to assess Rosicky’s supposed replacement Vladimir Darida, who only recently made his debut. Bilek will also get a last chance to assess who will occupy the lone striker berth – veteran Milan Baros or Nuremberg forward Tomas Pekhart.
Denmark v Australia
The Danes do not have a great deal to ponder over and have a pretty settled squad, other than goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen having to be replaced by Kasper Schmeichel due to a back injury.
England v Belgium
England’s preparations have been dealt a savage blow with the news that Frank Lampard will miss the tournament with a thigh injury. Roy Hodgson will now have to rethink his centre-midfield set up, having already lost Gareth Barry through injury. Wayne Rooney’s absence is another unresolved issue, with the replacements in his position yet to really shine.
France v Estonia
Laurent Blanc will have a last chance to decide who will start up front out of Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema or Montpellier’s Olivier Giroud, though the former is favourite. Blanc has been known to experiment with his side compositions since he took over but most will have a good idea of the starting XI for the opener with England.
Germany v Israel
Joachim Loew has had a settled side for much of his time in charge, but the fitness of midfield linchpin Bastian Schweinsteiger is uncertain and they will need to test a contingency plan. The form of young Marco Reus with Borussia Monchengladbach may cause ‘Jogi’ to rethink his attacking personnel, but Mario Gomez is almost certain to start their first game.
Armenia v Greece
The Greeks qualified without losing a game, but they found goals a touch difficult to come by, scoring just 14 in their ten games. Portuguese coach Fernando Santos has a settled side, but will be hoping to instil some fluency in their final warm up games in the hope of producing more goals.
Italy v Russia
The Italians have been rocked by another match-fixing scandal, which included investigations into members of the provisional squad and caused them to send defender Domenico Criscito home. Manager Cesare Prandelli will have to decide who his new first choice left-back will be.
Russia, meanwhile, will have to decide who is going to play up front out of Roman Pavlyuchenko, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Alexander Kerzakhov. Coach Dick Advocaat must also decide whether to play Igor Akinfeev in goal over Vyachelav Malafeev, as the former is probably the better of the two but has not played much through injury and the latter has doen no wrong while standing in.
Holland v Northern Ireland
Bert van Marwijk muct decide who to play in the central striker role – Rob van Persie or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, or both, though they have not looked fluent when the two play as a pair. The left-back position is also a problem with one-cap youngster Jetro Willems coming in for the injured Erik Pieters, though his inexperience could be an issue.
Poland v Andorra
The co-hosts have had a settled side leading into the tournament, other than an injury scare to goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. The Arsenal number one has recovered, however, and they will be hoping star forward Robert Lewandowski can keep emulate his Borussia Dortmund goalscoring form.
Portugal v Turkey
Paulo Bento has the world's second best player at his disposal in Cristiano Ronaldo, but getting goals has been a problem with no recognised quality centre-forward. The idea will be to get the ball to Ronaldo or Nani of Manchester United and hope they can do something special.
Hungary v Republic of Ireland
Giovanni Trapattoni is open about wanting a settled team and does not easily change his mind over selection. However, the poor form of Kevin Doyle up front could provide Shane Long an opportunity to impress once again, while Sunderland winger James McLean will try and do more to force his way into the side.
Spain v China PR
Injuries to David Villa and Carles Puyol have deprived Vicente del Bosque of some vital experience, but they have quality enough to replace the absentees. The central striking role will need another audition due to the poor form of Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente looking tired. They have also experimented playing without a recognised centre-forward though, a ‘false nine’ if you will, and could test that out once more.
Sweden v Serbia
Erik Hamren has no real worries other than trying to get his leaky defence organised enough to keep out some of the better players they will face. Former Bolton Wanderers striker Johan Elmander is usually a good accompaniment to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but is struggling with injury.
Turkey v Ukraine
Defensive injuries have meant coach Oleg Blokhin will be concerned with covering his back four sufficiently and may have to adjust their already counter-attacking game plan to incorporate an even more conservative set-up. Any further chance for exciting young midfielders Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka to play together will only do the team good, as they attempt to provide captain Andriy Shevchenko with some service.
What other issues do you think any of these games should be used to decide?
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