The Euros

Can the drama, intensity and late minute heroics of the Euros 2008 be beaten? We’re a month away from finding out.

With the signing of Roy Hodgson as England manager, the table is finally set for the Euro 2012. Sixteen countries qualified for the tournament that is being held in Poland and Ukraine, and all 16 are looking at this tournament dreaming of national glory. Defending champion and World Cup winner Spain is the favorite going in, with the Netherlands and Germany also being picked by many to win it all.

Poland and Ukraine were given automatic bids as co-hosts, but are likely to bow out as both are in Pot A with Spain and the Netherlands. Pot 2 is the tournaments “group of death,” with the Germany, Italy, England and Russia. England’s chances of winning the tournament are seen as slight, but getting through this pot and on to the knock-out stages would do a lot for Hodgson’s future with the Three Lions — England has never reached the final of the competition.

This will be the 14th edition of the European Championships, with Germany (including wins by West Germany) taking home the trophy three times. Spain and France have both won twice and no other team has won more than once.

There is no doubt this competition is one of the most important that these players will get to participate in throughout their careers, with aging players like David Beckham trying his hardest to impress the England brass for one last chance at international glory. Players on club teams around the world have been angling for more playing time to try and show their international team’s coaches that they have what it takes to be selected for the team – some even asking for transfers to lesser clubs that will allow them more playing time.

One problem will remain no matter what the outcome: only one of 16 teams will go home satisfied. Second place might be seen as a success for teams like Ireland, Russia or Sweden, but getting that close and still losing hurts nevertheless.

Over 12 million applications for tickets were received for the 31 matches that make up the Euro 2012, an all-time record for the championships. Ukraine and Poland will look quite different this summer, going through the same influx of visitors and festivities that South Africa saw two years ago when it hosted the World Cup.