With just 24 hours until the European Championships kick-off in Poland & Ukraine this summer, excitement is understandably rising across the continent amongst all participating nations.
Spain, Germany, Holland and Italy are all amongst the favourites to make a major impact over the coming three weeks, and all took part in light training sessions over the past 48 hours ahead of their upcoming matches.
Dutch boss Bert van Marwijk remains in high spirits despite a 2-1 defeat to Bulgaria in their final friendly, although the fitness of defender Joris Mathijsen is the nation’s biggest concern ahead of their Group B opener against Denmark.
“We do still have two days to make a decision on Joris and we will see how he progresses. At the moment I would say it is about 80% that he will not make the first game against Denmark," he told the gathered media yesterday.
Germany are one of the pre-tournament favourites, ranked third in the world by FIFA but facing a tough path to the later stages in ‘the Group of Death’ alongside Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal.
Joachim Loew’s side face the Portuguese in their opener on Saturday, but former striker Oliver Bierhoff is eager to guard against complacency.
“We have shown what we can do against the Netherlands, against Brazil and also in the qualification. But we have also shown what is possible in the other way,” he noted.
“That's why the stress has maybe never been higher. We all know that all, the DFB, the team, the fans have high expectations.”
The odds appear to be against Italy to make an impact this summer, with their opening match against Spain on Sunday a potential eye-opener over what to expect for the remainder of the competition.
Match-fixing, injuries and in-consistent friendly performances all suggest things might not go the way of the Azurri, but with the likes of Mario Balotelli in their side, an upset could be on the cards.
Vicente Del Bosque’s side appear to be in much better shape in Group C, and are chasing a historic trophy treble after claiming Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup in the last four years.
Expectation is understandably high, but young players are coming through the ranks to challenge for starting spots, and Javi Martinez doesn’t think injuries to Carles Puyol and David Villa will have an impact on the trophy challenge.
"It's true they are very important players and they have been a big part of the last two titles that we've won, but we're lucky we have players who can play the same as they can, if not better,” noted the Athletic Bilbao starlet.
“I am convinced with all the team support, we won't miss the loss."
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