The holders, the world champions, the Euro 2012 favorites Spain headline the final Euro 2012 group: Group I. As was the case in World Cup qualifying, they should post a perfect record in these eight matches, though a three-way fight for second will hold our interest in the quintet. If the Czech Republic replicate their World Cup qualifying struggles, Scotland and Lithuania have a shot at Euro 2012.
FIFA Rank: 1
Elo Rank: 1
Recent Performances: Current World and European Champions.
Coach: Vincente del Bosque
Captain: Iker Casillas
Prominent players: Amongst those called in, Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Joan Capdevila (Villareal), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), David Silva (Manchester City), David Villa (Barcelona), Fernando Torres (Liverpool)
Outlook: Very good. We’ve yet to find a reason why Spain should falter. Clearly the world’s best team, they will qualify easily.
Predicted Finish: 1st
FIFA Rank: 33
Elo Rank: 31
Recent Performances: Finished third in their UEFA World Cup qualifying group. Eliminate in group stage of Euro 2008.
Coach: Michel Bilek
Captain: Petr Cech
Prominent players: Jaroslav Plasil (Bordeaux), Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal), Tomas Necid (CSKA Moscow), Milan Baros (Galatasaray)
Outlook: It’s a strange squad called-in by Bilek. A lot of the defenders you’d expect the see were not called-in, the coach selecting only two players older than 29. Return to health for both Baros and Rosicky could solidify a team that’s struggled over the last two years, losing their place as a seeded team for these draws.
Predicted Finish: 2nd
FIFA Rank: 41
Elo Rank: 45
Recent Performances: Third in their UEFA World Cup qualifying group. Failed to qualify for Euro 2008.
Coach: Craig Levein
Captain: Darren Fletcher
Prominent players: Scott Brown (Celtic), Kris Boyd (Middlesbrough), James McFadden (Birmingham City), Kenny Miller (Rangers)
Outlook: Because they’re Scotland, there’s always a lot of hope of regaining past glory, but the players just aren’t here. They’ll struggle to replicate their World Cup qualifying finish.
Predicted Finish: 4th
FIFA Rank: 49
Elo Rank: 63
Recent Performances: Fourth in UEFA World Cup qualifying group. Failed to qualify for Euro 2008.
Coach: Raimondas Zutautas
Captain: Tomas Danilevicius
Prominent players: Marius Stankevicius (Valencia), Deividas Sembras (CSKA Moscow), Edgaras Cesnauskis (Dynamo Moscow), Arunas Klimavicius (Sibir Novosibirsk), Deividas Cesnauskis (Aris), Zydrunas Karcemarskas (Gaziantepspor)
Outlook: The basketball rich country has been giving team trouble in soccer of late. They may finally be ready to qualify for a tournament. To do so, veterans Danilevicius and Semberas need to prolong their primes through the next 14 months. If they can beat Scotland on Friday and follow that with a draw at the Czech - two reasonable results -, they’ll have the inside track on qualifying.
Predicted Finish: 3rd
FIFA Rank: 149
Elo Rank: 169
Recent Performances: Sixth in UEFA World Cup qualifying group. Failed to qualify for Euro 2008.
Coach: Hans-Peter Zaugg
Captain: Mario Frick
Prominent players: Martin Stocklasa (Ried)
Outlook: Take Spain, hold a mirror to them, and you’ll have Liechtenstein’s chances.
Predicted Finish: 5th