Three things to watch for in Euro 2012

It’s day one of the Euro 2012 championship, the world’s most prestigious soccer tournament after the World Cup. Will Spain defend their title, or will a challenger like Germany or the Netherlands usurp the throne? How will Poland and Ukraine perform as the tournament’s first Eastern European hosts? Here are three things to watch for as the month-long tournament unfolds:

1. The favorites: Will the tournament be a repeat of World Cup 2010?

Armando Franca/AP
Germany team players listen to head coach Joachim Loew, center right, during the official training on the eve of the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group B match between Germany and Portugal in Lviv, Ukraine, Friday, June 8.

The European Championship tournament is widely considered second only to the World Cup in terms of talent and prestige. While the finals round of the Euro competition is smaller – 16 teams compared to the World Cup’s 32 – the concentration of top-flight teams, of which Europe has so many, means the quality of matches is higher.  
Indeed, an initial glance at the favorites indicates the European finals could be the World Cup 2010 in microcosm. Most pundits expect a repeat performance from the reigning World Cup champion Spain, which also won the last European championship in 2008. But the challengers look familiar as well: both Germany and the Netherlands, Spain’s opponents in the WC 2010 semi-finals and finals respectively, look set to challenge for the Euro 2012 title.
The Germans and the Dutch are not the only World Cup 2010 also-rans who have a shot at Euro 2012 greatness. The English and Portuguese, who fell to Germany and Spain respectively in the WC knockout rounds in 2010, both look to challenge. And France looks to be on the rebound from its moribund World Cup performance two years ago.

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