Absolutely Fabulous... The Euros so far

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The Euros have been such a pleasure so far that Absolute Radio's lead commentator Jim Proudfoot couldn't wait to tell Vaishali Bhardwaj all about it...

Group A
started their Euro 2012 campaign in the best possible way as they trounced the Czech Republic 4-1 with displays of quick, expansive and smooth counter-attacking football.

Key to Russia's successful approach has been their front-line. Aleksandr Kerzhakov has not been in great form so far but either side of him, Alan Dzagoev and Andrei Arshavin – who looks like a player reborn – have certainly been impressive.

Russia's counter-attacking approach may have looked slick at times but the team's 1-1 draw against Poland showed that it can be stifled by packing the midfield with men. Dick Advocaat's men, though, will still remain favourites to qualify as winners of Group A.

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic have resurrected their chance of staying in the competition after they followed up a heavy loss to Russia with a 2-1 win over an admittedly poor Greece side.

Michal Bilek's men made a huge improvement for their second match as they pressed well, netted the fastest-ever two-goal lead in European Championship history through Wolfsburg pair Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar, and generally defended better too – although that perhaps excludes their usually reliable goalkeeper Petr Cech, who has let in five goals so far this tournament.

The Czechs sit second in Group A and to progress to the next round they will need to beat Poland. Indeed, there will be many questions facing coach Franciszek Smuda ahead of Poland's final group game, ranging from which goalkeeper to choose between in Przemyslaw Tyton and Wojciech Szczesny to which formation to go for.

The team have shown that they possess character and spirit and the co-hosts still have every chance of qualifying for their first-ever European Championship quarter-final.

The same cannot be said for rock-bottom Greece though. The 2004 champions have seen their current campaign marred by injuries and poor defensive displays. After a horrific start to the tournament, the equation is now very simple for Fernando Santos's men: beat Russia in their final game and they qualify. Lose, and they will be eliminated.

Group B
It was always going to be tough getting out of the so-called 'Group of Death' – but for one team it has been rather simple. Germany have shown why they are favourites, alongside holders Spain, to win Euro 2012 after convincingly beating both Portugal and the Netherlands to seize top spot in Group B.

In a tournament where some of the star forwards have so far failed to find their finishing touch, Germany have had no such problem. Mario Gomez has been the focal point of his team's success after netting three times in two games to repay Joachim Low's faith for starting him ahead of Miroslav Klose. Germany have not only been deadly up front but have looked fluid and creative in midfield while their defence, which may have been a cause for concern before the tournament, has performed well.

One forward who cannot say the same as Gomez about his performances thus far though is Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid ace is yet to score in the Championships and what has been most noticeable has been his listless and unhappy body language, particularly in his team's 3-2 win over Denmark.

Ronaldo surprisingly missed two one-on-one chances in that game, leading to sarcastic Danish chants around the stadium of "Messi! Messi!". Perhaps it is the weight of expectation of captaining his country or perhaps it is just fatigue after a successful but long season with Madrid.

Whatever the reason for Ronaldo's record of five goals in 15 games at major finals since Euro 2004, second-placed Portugal will look to their star man to help inspire the side to qualification in their final group game against the Netherlands.

Surprisingly, Bert van Marwijk's side are still in the tournament even though they have lost against both Denmark and Germany. The Netherlands have an undoubtedly talented squad but with weak defensive performances and powerless attacking displays thus far, the Oranje sit bottom of Group B.

But there is still hope. Van Marwijk is expected to make changes to his team against Portugal and if they can beat Paolo Bento's side by more than one goal and if Germany defeat Denmark, they will go through.

Group C
There was much chatter pre-Euros about whether Spain had the motivation to win a third consecutive major tournament, a feat that no other country has managed to achieve. But the truth is: they have. The successful Spanish side simply hate losing and with talent right across the squad even with the absences of key players such as Carles Puyol and David Villa, Vicente del Bosque's men are still the team to beat this tournament.

They may have drawn their opening game 1-1 against Italy, but La Roja sit top of Group C after thrashing – and ultimately eliminating – the Republic of Ireland 4-0. Del Bosque decided to start Fernando Torres up front against Giovanni Trapattoni's side after being criticised for his use of Cesc Fabregas as a 'false No.9' against the Azzurri, though the striker-less formation worked to a certain extent.

And with the out-of-sorts Chelsea man bagging a brace and as looking as sharp as ever, Del Bosque may now stick with Torres for their last game against second-placed Croatia.

Spain will only need to draw that game to qualify. But intriguingly, the manner of the draw would dictate the fate of Cesare Prandelli's Italy in the competition. With a number of different scenarios, the essence is that La Roja could do what Sweden and Denmark did to Italy in Euro 2004 – knock them out.

But why are Italy in this position? After playing very well in their 1-1 draw against Spain, they failed to be as incisive up front against Croatia and have ultimately been punished for it. Prandelli has no doubt improved the team since taking over as coach and Italy certainly look better than they did at the 2010 World Cup. But they are still not quite there.

Perhaps that is down to the former Fiorentina coach's choice to go with the as yet unrewarded partnership of Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano in attack ahead of Antonio Di Natale. Or perhaps it is down to the emergence of Croatia, who beat Ireland 3-1 in their opening match and who remained positive enough to come from a goal down to grab a point against the Azzurri.

One team who certainly have not looked good enough though is Ireland. They conceded seven goals this tournament after having come into the Championships on a 14-match unbeaten run with Trapattoni blaming "fear" and "tension" for his side's exit. The Italian has called on his team to bow out of Euro 2012 with a positive result against Italy but that will be made all the more difficult considering the Azzurri's predicament.

Group D
After their disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign, many have wondered just how far France can go in this year's European Championships. Laurent Blanc has no doubt steadied the ship since the events of South Africa and has succeeded in bringing youth and instilling confidence back into Les Bleus. And so far Blanc's team have shown potential at Euro 2012.

France opened up their campaign with a 1-1 draw against England in which Blanc's side had no less than 21 shots on goal to England's five. With France's frailties particularly evident in central defence and at left-back, the match left some asking if misfiring would ultimately prove them costly.

And while it seemed to be a familiar story of France creating chances but failing to put them away in the first half against the Ukraine, they responded to criticism about their finishing by scoring two goals in four minutes to beat the co-hosts 2-0 – and win their first match in an international tournament for six years.

Les Bleus are now unbeaten in 22 games and will need a single point against the already-eliminated Sweden to progress to the quarter finals.
England can join France there if they can clinch a point against Ukraine but they will need to be cautious. Ukraine took a surprise early lead in Group D after beating Sweden in their first group game. Andriy Shevchenko bagged a brace in the clash in Kyiv before going on to terrorise France's defence in Ukraine's second group match in Donetsk.

With that in mind, England will have to improve on their wobbly defensive performance against Sweden if they are to ensure survival in the competition. However, the key positive that England can take into their final group game has been their ability to react positively in sticky situations, and in particular, the way they responded when going 2-1 down against Erik Hamren's men.

Hodgson's decision to bring on Theo Walcott in that clash proved vital and with Wayne Rooney back from suspension for the Ukraine game, England should be able to find the goods to join France in the next phase of Euro 2012.

Listen to live Euro 2012 commentary on Absolute Radio with Jim Proudfoot from all of England's games plus two quarter finals, one semi final and the final on 105.8 FM, 1215AM, DAB, online, mobile and digital TV. You can also catch up on all of the analysis and banter with Ian Wright every day from 5pm throughout the tournament

More about the writers:
Vaishali Bhardwaj is a freelance sports journalist whose work in European football saw her nominated for the Football Media award at the 2012 Asian Football Awards. Vaishali can be found writing for FourFourTwo as well as several other publications. She also works within broadcasting and presents the weekly football Round-Up Show on Break London Radio and hosts World Football Minute, the weekly news bulletins on Beyond the Pitch's Prime Time Football Show with former England international, Warren Barton.

Jim Proudfoot is Absolute Radio's lead commentator on Rock 'N' Roll Football. Jim is an award winning football commentator, who has worked on national radio and television since the late 1990s and celebrated his 20th Anniversary in the industry in January 2011. He is also a die-hard Torquay fan.