Hello all! First and foremost, I'm not dead. Second of all, Euro 2012 kicks off today in Warsaw when hosts Poland battle '04 Euro Champs Greece. This is exciting news in the world of FIFA, as we have a huge international competition during the summer treat, something that happens only every other year. The ramifications of the UEFA International Competition can be tremendous, as seen in Greece's failure to qualify (some said due to exhaustion and over-exertion from Euro '04), or Spain's jump from also-ran to World Champion following their run in '08, which spurred them towards glory in the South Africa. Euro is never short of sub-plots and drama, either; be it the deep seeded racial/historical tension when Germany takes the pitch against France, or more pure footballing magic like Turkey's mesmerizing "Cardiac Kids" from the '08 campaign, there is always a ton to look forward to.
While Euro is an incredibly loaded tourney, you can find your comprehensive previews all over the place. SBNation has a lovely one on the front page of their soccer site. What will follow, instead, is a very NUFC-centric look at the tournament. Players and targets involved (or snubbed), a bit of analysis, and whom to keep an eye on. Follow the jump for more Euro 2012 magic.
Whereas newly crowned Champions League runner-ups Bayren Munich boasts 12 players, and powerhouses like Real Madrid and Barcelona can claim eight players, Newcastle submits a mere three. Obviously, this static isn't worth reading into too much for a number of reasons. The first is the simple demographics of the tournament. Countries like England are loaded with players, and getting caps from the domestic league is a rare and admirable feat indeed. On the flip side, the Ukraine, while talented, doesn't have near the depth as some of the majors, so seeing an Alpha Dog of the domestic league (Ukrainian Premier), Dynamo Kiev, posting 10 players makes a lot of sense comparatively. Also worth considering is that many of Newcastle's primary players and superstars are not Europeans, but rather South Americans (Jonas and Colocinni) or Africans (Tiote, Ba, Cisse); some of our best European players are relatively young (Fergie, Foster, Santon, S. Taylor).
That said, we did submit three players into the fray this year, two for heavily-lauded France, and one for runner up in South Africa 2010 Netherlands. For France, both Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Afra made the final squad, and both have performed admirably in the lead up to the tournament. Both Cabaye and HBA have entered into an amazingly talented French side, featuring superstars like Gael Clichy, Franck Ribery, and Karim Benzema. To have two members of the Toon Army featuring prominently (even starting, potentially) on such an amazingly talented side speaks wonders to how incredible those two pickups have been for us. Barring injury, the experience will hopefully help develop Cabaye into a superstar, and push HBA to new levels creativity and offensive prowess given how much the talented French side is going to allow him to flex.
In the low country, Newcastle #1 (even though he is actually #26) Tim Krul finds himself riding the pine behind Dutch primary keeper Martin Stekelenburg. The fight for the #12 (or backup) spot apparently to Swansea keeper Michel Vorm, as he will wear #12 for the tournament, and Krul will be forced into #22 (quick aside: the numbers don't really matter). Should Stekelenburg go down, Bert van Marwijk would have interesting decision on his hands choosing between the Flying Dutchman and Swans's #1. Obviously at CHN we vouch for Timmy, but it'll be interesting to see regardless. Krul had a wonderful game in a friendly against Brazil last summer, but hasn't really been able to grow as the Dutch keeper thanks to the fortitude of Stekelenburg in the net.
Old Boys (4)
As is common with Newcastle (and all English teams), our Old Boys are mostly confined to the United Kingdom and Ireland. This year, Newcastle will have four prominent old boys in the tournament. Two will be on the pitch for Ireland: Winger Damien Duff and Goalkeeper Shay Given. Given's plaudits need not be discussed, as the Irish Keep is an absolute legend at SJP, and spent the vast majority of his career as Magpie (and, many times, as the Premier League's best keeper). Duff's career at Newcastle was a bit more volatile, with his arrival being incredibly high profile (just like Michael Owen), and his career in the black and white being mostly a wash (... just like Michael Owen). Regardless, we always love to see the old boys do well, and with a last name like Murphy, I'm inclined to hope Duff and Given spur the Irish to success.
We also will have two Old Boys trying for their spot on the Three Lions: Andy Carroll and Scott Parker. Parker used to wear the armband for Newcastle before moving to West Ham, en route to where he is currently working wonders at Tottenham. Always a solid midfielder, Parker's true talents and solidity are just beginning to be truly recognized by the English media and fans, and he is expected to perform well this summer. AC is a player who is still fresh on the brain, but it's worth watching his performance for the National Team, especially after his more recent weight loss and form for Liverpool. While it's easy to be spiteful towards Carroll, I do like to see old boys do well, even if it's bittersweet, and hope that the ol' greaseball can head a few home for England this campaign.
While we have a ton of targets this off-season, it may be worth keeping your eyes on the following:
Mathieu Debuchy- France: Definitely one of Newcastle's primary targets, and France's no-question starter at RB
Marvin Martin - France: The young midfielder probably won't get much playing time, but if he does keep an eye on any chemistry he may have with Cabaye, as the youngster could potentially move to Tyneside.
Olvier Giroud - France: Also likely to be buried on the depth chart, but worth checking out when he comes in.
Luuk De Jong - Netherlands: Obviously very high on Newcastle's wishlist, expect De Jong to feature prominently on the stacked Dutch side.
Ibrahim Afellay - Netherlands: I'm doubtful the striker will leave Barcelona, but definitely worth watching.
Obviously, there are countless others to keep an eye on, but the above will help give you a true Newcastle fan's perspective on one of the most incredible tournaments FIFA has to offer.
Check out this incredible calender to plan your viewing parties, and Howay the International Lads!