A-Z of Euro 2008

H is for Hiddink: Big Guus is there at the expense Steve McClaren

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From Austria to Zurich we take a trip through the alphabet ahead of the European Championships.

A is for AUSTRIA

The Alpine nation will play host to the final in Vienna. However, with a group which includes Croatia, Germany and Poland, the chances of Josef Hickersberger leading his side there look slim.

B is for BLATTER
Despite this being the European Championships and under Uefa's jurisdiction, you can bet the FIFA president will stick his oar in about something.
C is for CROATIA
Slaven Bilic's well-organised team got the better of England twice to qualify ahead of Steve McClaren's under-achievers. Even without their injured key striker Eduardo, the 1998 World Cup semi-finalists look set to make an impression.
D is for DIVING
Expect to see the full works from Europe's top masters of falling to the ground, rolling around in agony, only to then jump up fresh as a daisy once the referee has booked the other bloke. Scandalous.
E is for ENGLAND
Well, it should have been, but for some bizarre tactical decisions by the 'Wally with the Brolly'. Still, at least there is Andy Murray at Wimbledon to look forward to, although proud Englishmen may have to overlook the fact that he is Scottish.
F is for FRANCE

Raymond Domenech's squad may be ageing, but the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Lilian Thuram and William Gallas certainly have the big-game experience needed to go one better than they did at the 2006 World Cup. However, as always, temperament will prove key to Les Bleus' chances.

G is for GERMANY
Love them or loathe them, you can never write off the Germans. Joachim Low's young side are still a work in progress, yet they breezed through qualifying and are among the favourites.
H is for HIDDINK
Guus the Dutchman out-thought Steve McClaren, to mastermind a crucial victory on the plastic pitch in Moscow last October. Despite a dramatic defeat in Israel, you could always rely on England to mess things up....
I is for ITALY
Champions of the world, they may be, but the Italians made hard work of qualifying ahead of the battling Scots. The quality is there to get through the 'Group of Death', which also includes France and Holland - but do they have the necessary bottle?
J is for JAN
Vennegoor of Hesselink. The big Dutchman with possibly the best name in the world, ever, which brings us nicely onto the next item...
K is for KITS

The must-have fashion accessory of the summer. Well, almost. You can't really see much of a demand for Germany's away strip. Yet the French and Italians always seem to look stylish - both on the pitch and around the cafes of Covent Garden.

L is for LEHMANN
You can always rely on good old Jens for a decent story, whether it is for a last-gasp penalty save or to get himself sent off in the Champions League final.
M is for MONEY
At the end of the day, that is what football is now all about isn't it? If you managed to splash out the 250 euros (that's about £195 in proper money) for the top-priced tickets at the opening game in Basle, you had better pray your credit card is still 165 euros (£125) shy of its limit, because that is what the cheapest seat for the final in Vienna will set you back. All that to watch the Germans win on penalties, again.

If they stop arguing amongst themselves about who is the best dribbler or most fashion-conscious, then Marco van Basten's boys could just edge out Italy and France. Just don't let them take penalties. The Dutch have a worse record than England, yes, that's right - WORSE!

O is for OFFSIDE
Was he active? Passive, or simply standing on the touchline having a chat with the physio? Who cares? If you are on the pitch, then you are 'interfering' with play and seeking to gain an unfair advantage. But you can bet there will be an assistant referee who doesn't agree.
Even if you are not a Manchester United fan you can't help but marvel at the skills of Cristiano Ronaldo. The flying winger is arguably the best on the planet at the moment, so expect more silky skills and stepovers this summer.
Q is for QUIT
Several managers are already set to call it day following the finals, and you can bet a couple more will follow in the wake of disastrous first-round exits. What price on Joachim Low again?
King Otto, as he is known to his pals, already has a place in football folklore for guiding outsiders Greece to glory four years ago. Once may have been a shock, but surely we cannot expect a repeat performance this time around?
S is for SPAIN
This lot just have to come good one year, don't they? A bit like England, but with more flair, the Spaniards always seem to flatter to deceive. With 2004 winners Greece, Sweden and Russia in their group, Cesc Fabregas and company will be hoping this does not prove to be another one of those years.
T is for TORRES
Fernando has breathed new life into the Liverpool attack this season and could emerge as a rival to Ronaldo for player of the tournament, provided the rest of his team-mates turn up on the day.
This time someone else will have to take on England's mantle. Take a look at the previous couple of entries for prime candidates. Hopefully, though, it will be Germany. Now wouldn't that make a nice change?
V is for VIENNA
The 'Tiergarten Schnbrunn' is the world's oldest zoo. Really? How interesting. Home to the final in the Ernst Happel stadium, the place really would go bananas if the Austrians make it that far.
W is for WEBB
England will at least have a representative at the finals in the shape of Yorkshire referee Howard Webb. Darren Cann and Michael Mullarkey make up the officiating trio, who will hope to avoid the same blunder as Graham "Three Yellows" Poll at the World Cup.
And penalties, which will no doubt settle more than one match this summer. Probably unjustly, as the Germans win, again.
Take a look at the entry for 'C'. Anyone for tennis? Or maybe cricket
Z is for ZURICH
Last, but by no means least come the Swiss. Great clocks, trains run on time, clean air. Yet with Arsenal reserve centre-half Philippe Senderos as their skipper and defensive anchor, you have to wonder just how far head coach Jakob Kuhn can take them in his swansong. Cloud Cuckoo Land perhaps?