With the European Championship starting on Friday, IBTimes UK felt it the ideal time to jump on the predictions wagon ahead of the finals in Poland and Ukraine.
Holders Spain, with Carlos Puyol and David Villa on the side-lines, begin as favourites to keep hold of their crown and build on their World Cup success in South Africa. After Vincente del Bosque's side come Netherlands, beaten finalists in 2010 and seeking their first major trophy for 24 years, Germany, beaten Euro 2008 finalists, and France, who have embarked on a 21-match unbeaten run under Laurent Blanc.
Other contenders come in the shape of Italy, who will look to bounce back from a second set of domestic match fixing allegations, while if Cristiano Ronaldo can repeat his Real Madrid form this summer, then Portugal could emerge of potential contenders.
The expectations surrounding Roy Hodgson's England have been tempered by a spate of injuries and the loss of Wayne Rooney for their opening two group games, in direct parallel to previous campaigns which have included several disappointing performances.
The IBTimes UK team have taken it upon themselves to predict the outcome of this summer's tournament. Disagree? Attach your own prediction in the comment section below.
Winner: Germany - A team for the big occasion, the Germans are likely to be contenders yet again in Poland and Ukraine, and unlike previous years, could make the final step towards silverware this term. Fancy Joachim Low's side, whose lack of individual class is more than made up for in team unity, to go all the way, fighting off Spain in the process.
Runner-up: Netherlands - The Dutch have an all-star attacking line-up, spearheaded by Arsenal's Robin van Persie, Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben and Barcelona's Ibrahim Afellay. Another side looking to go one better than in South Africa, however, they're likely to be piped to the post by old rivals Germany. Netherlands to remain as bridesmaids.
Underachiever: France - Laurent Blanc has rallied the French from their World Cup disappointment and turned them into genuine contenders. However, despite their fearsome forward line, Blanc has worries over Les Blues' back-four, which came under fire during the warm-up win over Estonia.
Surprise package: Croatia - Slaven Bilic will be looking to go out on a high after six years at the helm with Croatia, but he faces a tough ask to emerge from Group C. Holders Spain and 2006 World Cup winners Italy lie in wait, but in Luka Modric and Nikicia Jelavic, Bilic has two players worthy of the task in hand.
Top scorer: Robin van Persie (Netherlands) - After a 30-goal haul in the Premier League, Van Persie appears in red hot form going into the summer finals. A double against Northern Ireland shows he's still got an eye for goal despite a long season, and Netherlands' hopes rest largely on his shoulders.
Player(s) to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Andy Carroll (England) and Mesut Ozil (Germany)- The trio all enjoyed decent ends to their respective domestic campaigns and all three will hope to take their club form into the international arena. Ozil will be the linchpin in Germany's midfield, while Ronaldo will be the main source for goals for Portugal. In the absence of Wayne Rooney, Carroll will be relied upon to fire England to the knock-out phase.
Flop (s) of the tournament: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden) and Mario Balotelli (Italy)- Ibrahimovic has often flattered to decisive during major finals, despite his club career, which has seen him turn out for some of the world's biggest sides. Balotelli meanwhile is likely to hit the headlines whatever happens during Italy's campaign, but the negatively surrounding the Azzuri camp doesn't lend itself to a pleasant tournament for the 2006 World Cup winners.
Winner: France - Laurent Blanc has been credited with leading France's revival since their awful showing at the 2010 World Cup and they go into the tournament on the back of a promising 21-game unbeaten stretch. Les Bleus go into their opening match against England as favourites to top Group D ahead of Ukraine and Sweden and will view a semi-final appearance as the minimum objective this summer. Nevertheless, with Franck Ribery in the best form of his international career and Samir Nasri a constant threat behind Karim Benzema, Blanc's young side could edge tournament favourites Spain and Germany for the crown.
Runner-up: Netherlands - The Netherlands will be hoping to push on from their World Cup heartbreak and end a 24-year wait for major honours. Bert van Marjwick has two world class centre forwards in Robin van Persie and Klass-Jan Huntelaar to choose from but it is at the other end where the Netherlands could come unstuck. The Dutch face Denmark, Portugal and Germany in their first three games but they are strong enough to progress from Group B and will pose a real threat in the knock-out phase.
Surprise package: Russia -Semi-finalists four years ago in Austria-Switzerland, Dick Advocaat led them to top spot in qualifying and Russia should top a relatively straight-forward looking Group A. Difficult to see beyond a quarter-final appearance - against the runner up of Group B - but with the impressive duo of Roman Shirokov and Alan Dzagoev operating behind either Pavel Pogrebnyak or Roman Pavlyuchenko, Russia will be a tough proposition for Europe's elite.
Underachiever: Portugal - Having overcome Bosnia-Herzegovina in a play-off, Portugal warmed up for the tournament by drawing with Macedonia and losing 3-1 at home to Turkey. Hardly an auspicious start and, with an opening game against Germany to come, there are plenty of question marks surrounding Paulo Bento's side. Cristiano Ronaldo has had another phenomenal season and can win a match singlehandedly if required, but their volatile defence and brittle midfield should ensure a group stage exit.
Top scorer: Karim Benzema (France)-But for Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's exploits, Benzema's 31 goals for Real Madrid last season would have garnered significantly more column inches and the France striker will test even the most hardened defences in Poland and Ukraine.
Player to watch: Christian Eriksen (Denmark) - Yes, he already played in the 2010 World Cup and, having been linked with Manchester City and Arsenal, he's hardly an unknown quantity but expect the 20-year-old to justify the hype at this summer's tournament. After helping Ajax to their first title in seven years and with over 20 international caps already to his name, expect the intelligent and technically-gifted attacking midfielder to impress for Denmark in a tough Group B.
Flop of the tournament: Steven Gerrard (England) - It took Rafael Benitez half a season to realise he couldn't accommodate Steven Gerrard in the centre of his midfield but for almost a decade four successive England managers have attempted to shoe-horn the Liverpool midfielder in the middle of the park. Roy Hodgson's options have been limited by unfortunate injuries but warm-up games against Norway and Belgium suggest he will ask Gerrard to play as one of two defensive midfielders; listlessly spraying diagonal balls into touch as England gently limp out at the quarter-final stage once again.
Winner: Germany - After the backbone of Germany's Under-21 side fell short in South Africa, the European Championship represents the opportunity for Joachim Low's golden generation to assert their dominance. Possessing a potent front-six, a spine of players successful at youth level as well as at Bayern Munich, along with the advantage of having their knock-out matches in Poland; making it effectively a home tournament for the Germans, gives them a significant advantage.
Runner-up: France - Laurent Blanc's side are undeniably the form team coming into Euro 2012, with a 21-match unbeaten run meaning the once dark horses are now regarded as genuine contenders for a third European Championship. A team built on the foundations of a robust midfield; in Yann M'Vila and Alou Diarra, and spearheaded by the flair of Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema have all the ingredients to reach July's final.
Surprise package: Poland - The United States, during last summer's Gold Cup, became the first major finals host nation to get past the first knockout stage since Germany in 2006, and in Poland, the European Championship has a contender to match that feat. Unlike their co-hosts Ukraine, Franciszek Smuda's side kick-off the tournament in a group which lends itself to the Pole's chances. Their pillars of strength come in the form of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and striker Robert Lewandowski.
Underachiever: Italy - While the Calciopoli scandal galvanised Italy to the 2006 World Cup, this year's allegations, which involves members of Cesare Prandelli's squad, is unlikely to have the same affect. Not least because while the class of '06 had quality to accompany their motivation, six years on, the chosen few expose the lack of emerging Italian talent rather than reasons for inspiration. Hopes predictably lie at headline-maker Mario Balotelli's feet.
Top scorer: Karim Benzema (France) - While Robin van Persie and Mario Gomez scrap for places spearheading their side's attack, the deficit of attackers in Blanc's French 23 means Benzema is relied upon to provide goals. With an ability to score from anywhere, an endless supply line from Samir Nasri and Ribery, and two goals in the final warm-up game against Estonia, the Real Madrid forward has a strong case.
Player to watch: Robert Lewandowski (Poland) - A striker that often arrives on cue for his club, will be required to be as equally clinical come the group phase. Very much in the goal poaching mould, Lewandowski will rely on service from a midfield that while it's short on household names, is high on knowledge of the 23-year-old's traits in the penalty area, with his link-up with team-mate Jakub Blaszcykowski likely to be crucial.
Flop of the tournament: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) - The Portuguese's sole flag bearer has the pressure of not only living up to the standards of Lionel Messi on the biggest stage, but shouldering the reasonability of his nations' hopes in Poland and Ukraine. Often accused on shying away when it matters for club and country, expect a summer of discontent for the 27-year-old.
Winner: Germany - The Germans have improved systematically since the abysmal days of Euro 2004, when they were eliminated in the group stages. Since then, they've finished third in the 2006 World Cup, second in Euro 2008 and third, again, in the 2010 World Cup. The team boasts key players like Mesut Ozil and the Bayern Munich set of Manuel Neuer, Holger Badstuber, Philip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos provide the same strong club-community feeling for the Germans that Spain and Barcelona share. Good omen.
Runner-up: Netherlands - The sheen of invincibility of the Spanish armada continues to wear off. Netherlands, meanwhile, are, in many ways like the Spain of the pre-Messi/Barcelona era - talented but prone to self-doubt. The likes of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart and Robin van Persie, complemented by the sought after talents of Luuk de Jong and Kevin Strootman, should be enough to see off all but the Germans.
Surprise package: France - The embarrassing Raymond Domenech-phase seems over and under Laurent Blanc the French seem to have once again found the golden touch that led them to the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship. The likes of Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery, backed by Samir Nasri, are starting to following in Zinedine Zidane's footsteps and the confidence gained from a 21-match unbeaten run should not be underestimated.
Underachiever: Portugal - This was a close call, with Italy and, to some extent, England also in the mix. The Portuguese have everything to make at least the semi-finals - a forward in superb form in Cristiano Ronaldo and a strong defence that will give no quarter - in Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao and Ricardo Costa. Unfortunately, where they could be found lacking is in the middle of the park - with the exception of Nani and maybe Ricardo Quaresma, is there enough creativity to unlock defences?
Top scorer: Miroslav Klose (Germany) - He may be coming off the back of an injury but at 34 Klose knows how to turn it on in the big games. With 63 international goals to his name, the Polish-born striker is only five short of the national record set by Gerd Muller and he'll want to close his international career with a bang. He netted five goals in the 2002 World Cup, finished as top scorer in the 2006 World Cup and was among the goals again in Euro 2008, signs his eye for goal is yet far from diminishing.
Player to Watch: Thomas Muller (Germany) - Muller was voted Best Young Player at the World Cup in South Africa and claimed the Golden Boot. His form continued over to the domestic scene and his goal scoring record at Bayern Munich - 49 goals in 153 appearances speaks for itself. Despite being only 22, Muller already has 27 caps to his name and the experience to light up this summer's finals.
Flop of the tournament: Fernando Torres (Spain) - Torres comes into the tournament on a miserable run of form and lacks so much self-confidence it is difficult to see how, even if he is playing in a more comfortable environment, he can recapture his form from his Atletico Madrid and Liverpool days.
Winner: Spain - Despite missing David Villa, Spain have proven over the last four years that they have the heart required to get past any opposition. Many are tipping Germany, but with the way that Spain dominated them in the midfield at the 2010 World Cup, it just doesn't look likely that they will falter, even without one of their top goal scorers.
Runner-up: Netherlands - Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder have only improved since 2010, and with the likes of Rafael van der Vaart, Klaas-Jan Hunterlaar and Arjen Robben the side can boast some of the world's most in-form players going into the tournament.
Surprise package: Portugal - Should Cristiano Ronaldo have an uncharacteristically brilliant run of form with his international side, and his performances last season for Real Madrid suggest he could be on the cusp of something special, Portugal could well stop either Netherlands or Germany, both favourites to win the tournament, from progressing from the group stage.
Underachiever: Germany - They were shown up by Spain in the World Cup, even if it was via a 1-0 win, and with the group of death facing them it may be an uphill battle for the side from day one.
Top scorer: Robin van Persie (Netherlands) - His current form can't be argued with, and while he may struggle for a starting spot for Netherlands his lethal efforts up front will take him to the top.
Player to watch: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (England)- Though young and inexperienced, his performances for Arsenal this season showed just how much of a game-changer the winger is capable of being. Could be the spark England need to push them further than expected.
Flop of the tournament: Fernando Torres (Spain) - The Spain camp are saying he's back on form after the odd goal in the Premier League and Champions League last season, but this record signing for Chelsea will yet again disappoint. His confidence is clearly shaky and one mistake will be all the striker needs to make to have another poor tournament.
Winner: Germany - Germany have been the most consistent football team in the recent past. They finished third in the 2006 and 2010 World Cup tournaments and were runners-up in Euro 2008. They have a magnificent squad for this campaign and have none of their big players out due to injuries or suspensions. Expect Joachim Low's young team to run riot in Eastern Europe.
Runner-up: Spain - The current World and European champions have a strong squad. It's difficult to point out a weakness for Spain, though they will miss the experience of Carlos Puyol and the country's record goalscorer David Villa. Spain will dominate possession and control the tempo of the games as usual and shouldn't have much trouble reaching the semi-finals. I expect them to be in the final, but since there is every chance that their opponents would be Germany or Netherlands, I do not see Vicente del Bosque's team winning again.
Surprise package: Poland - Co-hosts Poland looked very sharp in their friendly encounters, winning both of the games comfortably. They are in Group A with Euro 2004 winners Greece, 2008 semi-finalists Russia and the unpredictable Czech Republic. Poland will rely heavily on Borussia Dortmund trio Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek, while the superb Wojciech Szczesny will need to be at his best if the co-hosts are to pull off an upset or two.
Underachiever: Portugal - After failing to register a win in their last three matches, Portugal were beaten by Turkey over the weekend; a dent to their preparations. In Group B, which includes tournament favourites Germany and Netherlands, the chances of Cristiano Ronaldo's team making past the group stages look slim. Paulo Bento's side are coming to the tournament on a losing streak and they might leave the tournament in similar fashion.
Top scorer: Karim Benzema (France) - Benzema is coming to the European Championship after having a fantastic season with Real Madrid. With 21 goals and seven assists to his name from 34 league appearances last term he is likely to fight off competition Olivier Giroud, and therefore the 24-year-old will be a hot favourite for the tournament's golden boot.
Player(s) to watch: Andre Schurrle (Germany), Ibrahim Afellay (Netherlands) - Andre Schurrle's biggest strength is his feet. The-21-year-old has fantastic dribbling ability and on his day, he can humiliate defenders. The way he advances on-and-off the ball, his passing, his technique - it all points to a top-class footballer. Meanwhile, Afellay, having been ruled out for the majority of the campaign through injury, upon his return looks fresh and is set to start for Netherlands at the expence Dirk Kuyt. Afellay's understanding with Robin van Perisie could be pivotal.
Flop of the tournament: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) - Cristiano Ronaldo scored 60 goals for Real Madrid last season however, the former Ballon d'Or winner showed he was flappable, missing a host of opportunities for Portugal in recent friendlies, including a penalty against Turkey. Portugal's hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages are heavily dependent on their captain and I expect him to give in to the pressure. This will be a tournament that Ronaldo would like to forget.