The end of another competitive season of European club football signals the beginning of the premier European Championship for nations. Since its inception in 1960, the UEFA European Football Championship has — every 4 years — been one of the most highly anticipated and watched tournaments on the globe. This year promises to be as exciting and entertaining as the previous tournaments. The full roster of players is impressive but unfortunately there are several players who will not be on display due to injuries.
Here’s the injury report as of press time:
Czech striker Milan Baros is currently struggling with a thigh injury and is a major doubt for the opening match and indeed the whole tournament. Fortunately, the captain, Tomas Rosicky, has returned to training and should be available for the opener after missing the last two friendly matches.
No major injury worries.
It may be the case of host’s luck as Poland has a near full strength squad with only backup keeper Lukasz Fabianski missing the tournament due to a shoulder injury incurred at the team’s training camp.
The Russians have a formidable attack and midfield but defense will be their main area of concern as right back Roman Shishkin and fellow defender Berezutski are both out with a gastrointestinal and hip problem respectively.
Summary: Group A has not been hit too hard and there will be almost no attacking players lost to injury. Russia certainly seems to be the team most affected by injuries. Berezutski, in particular, will be missed for his versatility as he can play across the defense and even as a wide midfielder. Czech will also miss one of their main goal scoring threats in Milan Baros.
Veteran keeper Thomas Sorensen has been ruled out of the squad due to a back injury. In a group as difficult as this one, this injury could have a very negative impact on the team. Not only is Sorensen their best keeper but at age 35 he is one of the most experienced players in the squad and often cited as a leader in the group.
They are one of the favorites for the tournament and can name a full strength squad with no major casualties. The returning fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger may be a boost to the Germans after he missed last Thursday’s friendly match against Israel due to a calf injury. The talented and experienced midfielder was one of the better performers in Euro 2008 and Germany will hope to see a repeat of this, in Poland-Ukraine.
The World Cup finalists go into the tournament with some of the best attacking players in world football. It is their defense that seems to be the weakest part of a strong XI especially now with doubts surrounding the participation of defender Joris Mathijsen, as he continues to suffer from a hamstring problem. The 32 year old, with 79 caps, has been at the heart of the Dutch defense for years now and his absence will be felt.
Portugal will need to be at their best to come out of this group and fortunately they do not have any major injury problems. Midfielder Carlos Martins had to be replaced by Hugo Viana, after the former suffered a leg injury ruling him out of the tournament.
Summary: Portugal will be happy to have all their stars fit and ready. Germany will hope that Schweinsteiger can be fit in time, with signs looking positive. Denmark is the team most negatively impacted by injury with the loss of experienced keeper Sorenson. The Danes would have liked to have him especially in a group like this, in which their defense is likely to be tested. Holland will also not be pleased to lose an experienced defender in the form Joris Mathijsen.
Croatian center-back Dejan Lovren is out of the 23 man squad due an ankle problem. He had been impressive over the last few months and coach Slaven Bilic seemed disappointed to have to leave him out of the squad. “Doctors told us that there would not be much chance of him being able to play, so I had to axe him.” Ivica Olic adds to the injury list after picking up a knock in a friendly match against Norway. It was hoped that he would play a role in Croatia’s Euro 2012 campaign, but medical tests have confirmed a muscle tear ruling him out of the tournament.
Never mind missing players, the participation of the Italian team in this competition has been put into question with the recent match fixing scandal taking place in Italy. The controversy surrounding the team will not help their players but at least injuries have been kind to them. They have no major injury scares going into the tournament other than Andrea Barzagli being ruled out due to a calf injury.
Republic of Ireland
The luck of the Irish certainly seems to be evident with Ireland receiving a double boost as experienced keeper Shay Given and defender Josh O’Shea both shook off injuries to make it into the 23 man squad. Keith Fahey misses Euro 2012 due to a groin injury.
The world and European champions are renowned for having a wealth of talent. The depth of the team will certainly be tested this time with all-time top goalscorer David Villa and captain Carles Puyol both out due to injury. Right back Andoni Iraola will also be missing due to injury. On a more positive note, Cesc Fabregas has shaken off a hamstring injury and midfield maestro Xavi has also recently come back from injury to give the midfield a boost.
Summary: Spain and Croatia are the teams most affected by injuries in this group. They’ve lost quality and experience in the form of Villa and Puyol. Villa in particular may prove to be a significant loss. They should manage to get through their group but in the latter stages their injury problems may have an influence on the results. Croatia has similarly been dealt a blow to both defense and attack with the loss Lovren and Olic to injury. With both being key players for Croatia this may potentially hinder their chances of advancing from a competitive group. The Irish may just be the dark horse in this group with a highly successful coach and a team bolstered by the return of two veteran players.
It seems to be the consensus amongst fans, pundits and the bookies that England has a small chance of European glory this year. Their prospects would not have been helped by a relatively long list of injuries. In midfield Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry have all been lost to injury with Scott Parker being labeled as “doubtful” and then their defense took a blow as Gary Cahill was forced out of the squad. Plus, England goalkeeper John Ruddy was ruled out due to a broken finger. These injuries, fitness concerns and Wayne Rooney’s ban for the first two matches adds further question marks to a team already in jeopardy.
The French will be without defender Younes Kaboul and Loic Remy as both players withdrew from the squad recently. In midfield, Yann M’Vila and Blaise Matuidi are both doubts. The midfield duo are both struggling from injuries but coach Laurent Blanc seems optimistic about their chances of playing in France’s opener against England. The coach had this to say on the matter, “They’re significant injuries and it’ll be very tight for the first match but there’s still a chance of a pleasant surprise.” Bacary Sagna will also be missing the tournament after having to undergo surgery for a straight broken fibula.
The Blågult, as they are known in Sweden, can celebrate the return of striker Johan Elmander from injury as well as the return of Sebastian Larsson, who underwent surgery a few weeks ago. The two major absences due to injury come in the form of veteran defender Daniel Majstorovic, due to ruptured knee ligaments and promising striker John Guidetti, who is currently suffering from a virus. Majstorović has been a stalwart for Sweden and his service will be missed at this tournament.
The co-host seems to have less luck than their Polish counterparts. The team is currently going through a goalkeeping crisis. First choice keeper Olexandr Shovkovskiy has been ruled out due a shoulder injury. Fellow keeper Andrei Dikan is also out of the squad due to multiple facial bones fractures, craniocerebral trauma and a brain concussion with not only his short term but long term future in doubt. As if that were not enough, yet another keeper will be missing the Euros with Olexandr Reba suspended from football until January 14, 2012 for using a banned diuretic. This has obviously left a big gap in goal.
Summary: Group B may be named the group of death but Group D is certainly the group of injury with every team suffering at least one major casualty. England will certainly miss the trio of Lampard, Barry and Wilshere in midfield and Cahill in defense. France will be hoping that M’Vila and Matuidi will be able to return in time to boost their midfield against a weakened England. In this “group of injury,” no team comes off worse than Ukraine. With three of their keepers out, they have a problem in a position that requires stability. Sweden probably come out best with a triumphant return for striker Elmander, who can look forward to taking part in what will most likely be his final European Championship.