The RTE panel fills us in on who they will be backing to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy come July 1 in the first of a two-part series.
Spain. They mightn’t have all their star players and are missing one or two but all you have to do is look at what they have in reserve. Their passing of the ball is fantastic and they create so many chances.
“They’re the reigning world champions and you can’t really look past them. ”
“I’m looking at Holland and Germany. Obviously Spain are champions but they might be a bit tired. Their club sides have had big match after big match in major tournaments.
“David Villa might not be available and he certainly won’t be match fit because he hasn’t played. And he’s a big player for them.
“I’d be inclined to go with Holland, who have outstanding players in Van Persie and Sneijder. They could be the team to win it.”
There are four or five teams that you can rule out and the rest are in with a chance. I don’t think Ireland can win, I’ll be honest about that. I don’t think the host nations can do it either. Then, the winners could come from anywhere else.
“Croatia have the players. There have been surprises in the past. Croatia have great players, who are tough men, who play for their country and who work very hard.
“I’ve been listening to Liam all through the season and his judgement has been proved to be correct.
“His judgement in terms of qualifying and with regard to James McClean being selected has been spot on so I would take what he says seriously. He’s a very good analyst and is really up-to-date with information.
“He doesn’t say things like that lightly.”
“There is so little between Germany and Spain but my own tip would be the Germans. They were beaten finalists four years ago and beaten semi-finalists two years ago. On both occasions Spain knocked them out but only by a single goal.
“I loved watching them the most in the last World Cup. Along with all the cliched things we say about Germany, you can add flair, style and attacking creativity to that. They look like the full package and have something which Spain don’t have – this enormous hunger to win a tournament that they haven’t in a long, long time.
“The current Spain squad have a history of winning trophies. But you’re only talking about a 1-2% difference at that level.”
“The bookies’ favourites are there for obvious reasons. If there was going to be one outside bet I’d lean towards the French. They’ve had an awful time in recent years but were quite impressive during the qualifying campaign and have come under the radar a little bit.
“I think Blanc has done a really good job there and they’ve got some excellent young players. Karim Benzema is one of the in-form strikers in world football.”