Goal.com conducts a brief check-up on how the preparations are progressing for the 16 nations contesting this summer's continental championship in Poland and UkraineThe 2012 European Championship is now just a matter of months away. Coaches, pundits and fans alike will be hoping that their country's star players and key figures will hit top form for their respective clubs and at the same time avoid serious injuries in the build-up to the summer extravaganza.
As the 16 finalists intensify their preparations ahead of the tournament, Goal.com takes a look at each national team's state of health: key players' form and fitness, morale, recent results ('Last Five'), on and off field issues, as well as any potential disruptions over the next three months. And with the help of our experts around the globe, we rank them accordingly from 1 to 16, with number 1 being the team with the most settled squad, in the best shape and condition, and 16 the team with the most problems.
Please note that the ranking is based strictly on the criteria above and is not an indication of a team's favourites' tag or where they are expected to finish in the finals.
||Rep of Ireland | Group C||
Last Five: W W W D D
Any Ireland fan could make a stab at the final squad list even at this stage and be reasonably assured of being 95 per cent right. There will be no surprises for Giovanni Trapattoni, whose men have now gone 12 games without defeat. Sunderland winger James McClean and Reading's Simon Cox are the only outsiders who could, at this stage, elbow their way into contention after both players impressed off the bench in the 1-1 draw against Czech Republic.
As it stands, it is about finding form and avoiding injuries for the Ireland party. There will be some concern that Shane Long is not a starter for West Brom but, more worryingly and importantly, Richard Dunne remains sidelined with a shoulder injury. Elsewhere, first-teamers Sean St Ledger and Keith Andrews have secured regular football at Leicester City and WBA respectively. Up front, Kevin Doyle is back among the goals for Wolves and Robbie Keane is about to embark on his first full season in MLS. Ireland's final friendly games are about fine-tuning and not radically altering the strategy.
||Sweden | Group D
Last Five: W L L W W
Under the tutelage of Erik Hamren, Sweden enjoyed a thoroughly successful qualifying campaign for Euro 2012, losing only in away fixtures against the Netherlands and Hungary. With no real injury concerns to speak of, the former Rosenborg coach is able to call on the experience of first-team regulars such as Johan Elmander, Kim Kallstrom and Olof Mellberg. Skipper Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have no problem providing goals, while Sebastian Larsson should add extra attacking arsenal from midfield, as evidenced by his two goals in the 3-1 friendly win in Croatia.
The most interesting story emanating from the Blagult camp is the meteoric rise of Manchester City-owned striker John Guidetti, who has been scoring for fun in the Eredivisie with Feyenoord on loan. Reports of a move to Europe's elite have already begun to emerge, so the 19-year-old should definitely be included as one to watch as the tournament in Poland and Ukraine draws closer.
||Spain | Group C||Last Five: W W L D W|
Spain will be the team to beat in Poland and Ukraine, but it hasn't all been plain sailing for La Roja since victory in South Africa. Friendly defeats against Italy, Portugal, Argentina and England have raised eyebrows, while Del Bosque faces a selection headache in both defence and attack. The fragile fitness of Carles Puyol is a worry, especially as his Barcelona colleague Gerard Pique has suffered several injuries and a dip in form in 2011-12, while Raul Albiol hardly ever plays at Real Madrid and Carlos Marchena is no longer good enough, athough Sergio Ramos can easily be moved across from full-back.
In attack, the Salamanca-born coach is sweating on the fitness of striker David Villa, who is still sidelined with a broken leg, while Chelsea's Fernando Torres is out of form and was dropped from the recent squad list. On the plus side, Roberto Soldado staked his claim for a place in the first XI with a hat-trick against Venezuela in the 5-0 friendly triumph as the world and European champions showed they have no shortage of goalscoring options. This is due in part to their wealth of attacking talent in midfield: Xavi and Andres Iniesta will be there to provide and score; Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata and David Silva will also be pushing for a starting spot, while Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso will help offer defensive cover.
||Germany | Group B||
Last Five: W W D W L
While Germany were a resounding success in 2011, Joachim Low has a few niggling issues ahead of Euro 2012. The possibility of Bayern Munich - with the club providing as many as eight national team starters - crashing out of the Champions League after the round of 16 is entirely realistic. But more worrying is the large number of injuries to key players at present.
Bastian Schweinsteiger has barely played since early November, and is set to remain sidelined for a couple more weeks. Lukas Podolski only returned to action last weekend following a lengthy absence, while Mario Gotze has not featured since early December, with a comeback still a couple of weeks away. Per Mertesacker, meanwhile, is expected to miss the rest of the club season before returning to action in time for the summer tournament. Germany have no shortage of depth and Low’s men typically find their best form ahead of big tournaments, but Wednesday's surprise 2-1 loss at home to France would suggest that some of the back-up players may not be ready yet to cover for their big guns on the big stage.
||Netherlands | Group B
||Last Five: W L D L W
Although Oranje coach Bert van Marwijk has a number of world-class players at his disposal for Euro 2012, the former Borussia Dortmund boss still has a few reasons to be worried. Stars such as Wesley Sneijder, Ibrahim Afellay and Arjen Robben have all been struggling with injuries in the 2011-12 campaign, while Dirk Kuyt, Nigel de Jong and Eljero Elia have mainly been warming the bench at club level.
Nevertheless, other key figures such as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie have been on fire all season at Schalke and Arsenal respectively, and will be hopeful of carrying their superb form into this summer’s tournament. Furthermore, experienced midfielder Mark van Bommel, who disappointed in the first half of the season, has shown that things can move in the right direction again in no time with a string of fine displays in recent weeks for AC Milan. The Robben-inspired 3-2 win at Wembley against England snapped a run of three matches without a win, and Van Marwijk will be hoping that his players, particularly Sneijder and Robben, can quickly rediscover their consistency from 2010.
||Portugal | Group B
Last Five: W L D W D
As it stands right now, Portugal coach Paulo Bento has little cause for concern as none of his key players are currently battling injury. The only exception is Danny, who will miss the showpiece event with a knee ligament injury, but the Zenit St Petersburg star was not even a starter in the team.
In midfield, Joao Moutinho is on a fine run of form after a disappointing start to the season, but the likes of Raul Meireles, Fabio Coentrao and Joao Pereira have displayed inconsistency in recent months. In attack, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani have looked sharp in 2011-12 - the former having scored an incredible 37 goals for Real Madrid thus far - and much of Portugal’s hopes in Poland and Ukraine will rely on the duo continuing on the same path until the end of the season. Putting together a decent run of results will be a worry for Bento, however, as his men have failed to string together back-to-back wins in their last five attempts.
||Denmark | Group B||
Last Five: W W W W L
Morale has been boosted in the Danish camp following Morten Olsen's decision to remain as the national team coach until 2014. The 62-year-old had planned to step down after Euro 2012, but his U-turn, citing a promising future ahead for Danish football as his reason, could just spur on his players to pull off an(other) upset in the continental championship.
Exciting youngster Christian Eriksen will be expected to provide the creative spark. The 20-year-old has been chalking up assist after assist while also finding the back of the net more regularly than in previous seasons at Ajax. His goalscoring instincts will be vital as Denmark do not possess the most lethal of attacks. Nicklas Bendtner's loan move to Sunderland from Arsenal has not yielded the desired effect Olsen was hoping for, and the coach even had to reprimand his star striker for "poor judgement" after the 24-year-old was recently fined for speeding on the road. Denmark's other only reliable source of goals upfront is Dennis Rommedahl, but at 33 years of age and having returned to the less-competitive Danish league with Brondby, there are question marks over the ex-PSV man. Wedensday's 2-0 reverse at home to Russia ended a streak of five successive wins, but Olsen will be hoping it was nothing more than a minor bump in the road.
||Greece | Group A||
Last Five: W W D L D
Greece go into the finals on the back of an unbeaten qualification campaign, but their form of late has been less than convincing. Fernando Santos' side were defeated for the first time under his leadership in November's friendly against Romania, while the 1-1 draw against 10-man Belgium prolonged their winless streak to three games.
The nucleus of the squad is shaping up well, although dangerman Sotiris Ninis damaged his cruciate ligaments in September during a qualifier against Israel, but nonetheless is expected to make a comeback in March. Santos will also have trouble deciding who his best partnership will be in attack, as despite Theofanis Gekas and Konstantinos Mitroglou's prolific form in front of goal this season, their lack of star quality may hinder them. The disastrous form of first-choice goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas will also play on the coach's mind, with the shot-stopper's unconvincing displays at Palermo forcing the Serie A outfit to snap up a replacement after just half a season in Sicily. Starlets Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Giannis Fetfadzidis (billed as the ‘Greek Lionel Messi’) have made big steps during 2011-12 and could be the tournament’s surprise performers if given the opportunity to shine.
||Italy | Group C||
Last Five: D W W L L
A fairly convincing qualifying period has given Cesare Prandelli the backing of many to lead Italy to a much improved showing after their nightmare defence of the World Cup in South Africa two years ago. However, since completing an unbeaten preliminary campaign, the wheels have come off as the Azzurri have been hit by long-term injury and health problems to first-choice front pair Giuseppe Rossi and Antonio Cassano.
Manchester City's Mario Balotelli is being seen as their wildcard now, but it's uncertain whether the temperamental 21-year-old will be given a chance to show his coach that he has matured enough to compete in a major senior international championship. Meanwhile, there has been no rope thrown to Serie A's perennial capocannoniere Antonio Di Natale, leaving the strikers' positions a much-discussed topic. Elsewhere there is a sense of stability about the midfield, and also the defence to a lesser extent, but back-to-back 1-0 defeats have raised concerns for Prandelli, who must now consider scrapping his 4-3-1-2 formation with the very real possibility of Rossi and Cassano missing the tournament. With just a little over three months to go and limited opportunities to experiment, it could be too late for the ex-Fiorentina boss.
||Czech Republic | Group A||
Last Five: L W W W D
Unlike several of the Euro 2012 finalists, Czech Republic have plenty of reasons to be optimistic ahead of the tournament. Goalkeeper Petr Cech is finally looking like his old self at Chelsea, while defenders Michal Kadlec, Zdenech Pospech and Roman Hubnik have been thriving in the Bundesliga. Furthermore, midfielder Petr Jiracek has established himself as a key player at Wolfsburg and is seeing plenty of action, unlike Jan Polak, who is warming the bench for Wolves.
In addition, Jaroslav Plasil, Tomas Hubschman and Vaclav Pillar have been undisputed starters in the centre of the pitch for their teams, while Tomas Rosicky is fit again and has ample time to hit form before the finals. The prospects are not so rosy in attack, however. Tomas Necid is still finding his feet after seven months on the sidelines with a knee injury, while Tomas Pekhart and veteran Milan Baros have failed to impress this campaign, although the latter did score the opener in the 1-1 draw against Ireland. That stalemate ended a run of three straight wins for the Czechs, which was the first time they had put together successive victories since mid-2010.
||France | Group D
Last Five: W D W D W
While results on the field have generally been impressive under Laurent Blanc, it's his relationship off the park with the FFF that is causing the most grief to France. Blanc wants a long-term contract in place before the finals, but the FFF and president Noel Le Graet in particular want to see success at Euro 2012 before giving their general the deal he craves. This has led to Blanc indicating that he could walk away from the national set-up after the competition, regardless of his success or failure.
Inevitably, there is something of an air of uncertainty over the French side as the tournament looms, despite the fact that les Bleus have not lost in their last 18 matches. During Blanc's reign, France have become more defensively dependable, but there remain concerns over their offensive cohesiveness. However, the 2-1 win in Germany will provide a huge morale boost as Olivier Giroud deputised admirably for the injured Karim Benzema by scoring one and setting up another. Franck Ribery did pick up a knock, but was quickly withdrawn before any further damage was done and it's unlikely to interfere with his preparations. Expectations remain relatively low, with Blanc saying that if France were even to win one group stage game, they would have enjoyed a successful Euro 2012. While this is to underplay their abilities somewhat, it might just work in catching their opponents off-guard.
||Croatia | Group C||Last Five: L W W D L|
Croatia had to rely on a play-off victory over Turkey to book their place at Euro 2012 after finishing runners-up to Greece in their relatively modest group. The Balkan nation will be delighted to have no major injury concerns at the moment and head coach, Slaven Bilic, will be hoping things stay that way going into the summer.
Croatia would love nothing more than for star duo Luka Modric and Darijo Srna to be wrapped in cotton wool heading into the tournament but with both players crucial members of their respective club sides, there is always the worry of potential burnout. The real dilemma for Bilic is who will lead the line in the finals, with Ivica Olic and Mario Mandzukic looking to be winning the battle at the moment - keeping the prolific Eduardo out of the side - although things could change in the coming months. One aspect that needs to change is to rediscover their winning form. Croatia recorded seven victories in 10 games between late 2010 and late 2011, but have since won twice in their last five.
||Ukraine | Group D
||Last Five: W W D W W
Oleg Blokhin’s side have real competition for places in attack with one seat booked on the team bus already for Andriy Shevchenko in what will be his last international tournament. The Dynamo Kiev forward scored on his return from injury last week in a club friendly in Israel and will hope to continue that form. ‘Sheva’ should be joined in the summer by club compatriot Andriy Yarmolenko - the Ukrainian league’s joint top scorer this season with 11 goals in 19 appearances. Andriy Voronin has been enjoying his best season for some time at Dynamo Moscow and it doesn't appear that finding the net will be an issue for Ukraine. They have netted 13 times in their last five outings, winning four of them and drawing one and they could be one of the form sides heading into the finals. But having played only friendly matches for 18 months, that form is somewhat misleading.
Defence, however, could be a real concern for Blokhin as he will be reliant on the experience of Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, who hasn’t featured as much as he would have liked at Bayern Munich, and Dymtro Chygrynskiy, who has been struggling for fitness since the New Year.
||Poland | Group A||
Last Five: D W L W D
Despite being the less-fancied of the two co-hosts, Poland’s favourable group draw will have given Franciszek Smuda’s side cause for optimism. What’s more, while they have been lacking top-draw players in previous tournaments, the 63-year-old now has a strong roster at his disposal.
Ludovic Obraniak has sprung into form since his move from Lille to Bordeaux, as has Jakub Blaszczykowski, who has found first-team chances more forthcoming in recent weeks at Borussia Dortmund. Lukas Piszczek and Robert Lewandowski are indispensable players for the German champions, while Wojciech Szczesny is a dependable presence in goal at Arsenal and he also starred in the goalless draw against Portugal. Their results in 2011 have improved marginally compared to a disastrous 2010, with only Italy and France beating the Poles in their last 10 games. However, their win ratio still leaves a lot to be desired having claimed victory just four times in their last 12 fixtures over the past 11 months. Add to that, not being able to test themselves in a competitive environment could be a problem, just like for co-hosts Ukraine.
||Russia | Group A||Last Five: D W W D W|
Dick Advocaat has pushed through a difficult spell with Russia since question marks concerning the squad’s attitude arose during the qualifiers; this certainly won’t be a problem during the finals. If the fortunes of key players such as Andrei Arshavin, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov improve following their winter transfers, then Russian Football Union chief Sergei Fursenko's dream of winning Euro 2012 might be more lucid than even he realises. Arshavin may just have found a new lease on life following his loan move back to Zenit as he scored one and made the other in Wednesday's 2-0 win over Denmark. It was Russia's fifth victory in their last seven games and they have not lost in almost 13 months.
The team's spine in defence and midfield is made-up of players who feature every week together at club level, while the likes of Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Igor Semshov have hit top form this season. Russia’s biggest concern, however, is star goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, who is struggling to recover from a knee injury suffered back in August and could, by his own admission, miss out.
||England | Group D||
Last Five: W D W W L
Just 13 weeks away from Euro 2012 and England have no manager and no captain. Add to that, their star striker Wayne Rooney will be suspended for the first two group games, while midfield prodigy Jack Wilshere could miss the tournament as he continues rehabilitation from the ankle surgery he underwent in September.
The biggest worry for the Three Lions remains the question of who will take charge of the national side. Fabio Capello's recent departure from the scene has left Stuart Pearce in temporary control but the man who many want to see in the full-time job, Harry Redknapp, is reluctant to leave his club Tottenham just yet with them flying high in the league. This leadership doubt could also be mirrored on the field as a permanent captain is unlikely to be announced until a new boss is appointed. England's recent form, at least, has been encouraging. Prior to Wednesday's 3-2 home defeat to Netherlands, which was their first loss since late 2010, they had won four out of their last five fixtures. But that excellent streak came during the Capello era, a streak that cannot be guaranteed under new management.