Okay, folks. Thanks for joining me on such short notice. Let's get started a bit early here.
I know a lot of people are down on Italy for this tournament, but don't you think Prandelli's move to a more possession based and forward style could offset the age on defense?
It could. And with Barzagli out and Bonucci in, it's looking a bit younger. I think another worry though could be Pirlo's lack of mobility. De Rossi and Marchisio will need to do a lot of running to cover for him.
What role do you see Giovinco playing for the Italians?
I see Giovinco coming off the bench for Balotelli/Cassano. I do like Giovinco though. I remember seeing him at the '08 Olympics and being really impressed. Very clever on the ball, and that could offer Prandelli something different if Italy needs a goal late in the game.
Who is your pick to win it all?
I'm going to be very boring here. I think Germany will take it, edging out Spain. These two teams aren't perfect, but the other contenders seem more flawed. The Netherlands' defense is very suspect with a lack of speed in the back. France are beginning to pile up some injuries. They'll be hoping that M'Vila makes it back. Russia could surprise, as could Croatia if the latter can sort out their defensive issues.
With so many tournaments where is euro on the prestige list?
I'd say the Euros rank just behind the World Cup, and ahead of Copa America. The qualifying process is pretty grueling, and there are very few weak teams. Some will say that's the reason it should be No. 1, but personally I rate the World Cup higher.
It has been a down couple of years for us Italians. Can you give me a young player or two to get excited about this tournament?
You mean younger than Balotelli? He's only 21. If he can keep his head - big "if" I know - he could really put his stamp on the tournament, especially given the midfield that is playing behind him.Fabio Borini is another forward - he's just 21 also - with a lot of potential.
Lines are open, folks, so lay those questions on me.
What is your prediction for group D?
I think France and Sweden will emerge. England just have too many problems, and more recently, too many injuries. Say what you will about Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry, but that's a lot of experience that has been lost. Ukraine just hasn't impressed me. The bout of food poisoning the team is battling doesn't help either.That leaves Sweden and France...
I think Sweden looks much more potent now that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been moved into an attacking midfield role. He sees much more of the ball and has proved adept at setting guys up in the team's warmup matches.
France are kind of all over the place, but you can't discount the quality of players like Nasri and Ribery, although I'm not convinced about the team's defense.That said, I think they'll progress.
Who are the young stars on Germany's squad we should be looking out for?
I think the toughest part will be getting some of them on the field. The front midfield three looks set to consist of Podolski, Ozil, and Mueller. That leaves guys like Mario Goetze, Andrew Schurrle, and Toni Kroos on the bench, although Kroos could see some time at holding mid. All of these guys are budding stars and it's a real luxury for Germany to be able to bring these guys on as subs.
That said, I think Ozil and Mueller remain the guys to look out for. Ozil is absolutely lethal on the counter, as the last World Cup showed. It will be interesting to see if teams allow Germany that much space though.
How do you see the Dutch sorting out their embarrassment of riches at the attacking positions?
That depends on what Bert van Marwijk does with Nigel de Jong. If he sits him, he could play Rafael van der Vaart alongside Mark van Bommel. That would make more room for everyone. If de Jong plays, then there are going to be some unhappy attacking players.
Do you think Portugal can advance out of the group stage? I think this is finally the year Cristiano can get it done on the international level.
I don't see it, but it's certainly possible for Portugal to advance. They really don't have a forward capable of taking the pressure off Ronaldo, and there are questions in the back as well. I think in that group, other teams are goign to clamp down on Ronaldo and dare someone else to beat them.
Which host nation has a better chance of making a run in the tournament?
I would say Poland for sure. They've been defending pretty well, and the group is relatively weak. Huge pressure on them tomorrow however. Greece will be very tough to breakdown. We all know what happened in 2004.
Does Denmark have any hope of securing any points?
They are certainly capable. Morten Olsen has excelled over the years at getting the most out of average talent...
The Danes will need Dennis Rommedahl and Michael Krohn-Dehli to tee up Nicklas Bendtner with regularity. The backline has quality with Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer, but hasn't looked so hot of late.
Is this a Euro 2012 chat only or can I ask what the status is on Fabian Johnson and the opening World Cup Qualifier tomorrow?
Of course you can, but alas, I don't have any good intel on that.
Do you think England will, essentially, be out of it by the time Rooney gets back?
I suspect they will, especially with the injury list they have. Lots of experience has been lost.
Can Croatia led by Modric get passed the Italians to get into the Quarters?
Croatia could, but they'll need to sort out their defense. The team looked very shaky against Norway, I thought, especially the left back Strinic. Now granted, Corluka didn't play in that game but the two center backs, Simunic and Schildenfeld didn't look that great either.
Can Ireland advance to the knock-out stage?
They can, but I don't think they will. Granted, Ireland has a history of playing its best soccer against the best teams. They have progressed out of the group stage three out of the four major tournaments they've appeared in. They also have a top manager in Giovanni Trapattoni. I just think the group they are in is too difficult.
I thought Strootman's already taken Nigel de Jong's place in the 11. Am I mistaken?
That's a good shout,as Strootman is the compromise guy. But the Dutch were torn apart by Germany in a friendly with Strootman partnering van Bommel, and I think van Marwijk may have to be more defensive in such a tough group.
How much do you think the absence of Villa and Puyol will hurt Spain? Pique doesn't look the same without Puyol, and no one knows what to expect from Torres.
It will be big, but not enough to stop them from going deep in the tournament. Spain still has a ton of talent. That said, I think David Silva and Sergio Ramos are going to have to step up big-time for Spain to repeat.
Do you know who will be announcing the games at the different venues ?
All of the games will be broadcast live on ESPN.
Les Bleus are on fire and haven't lost in 21 straight and have defeated Germany, Brazil, and England during this stretch. Ribery has been put back on the left side (same side he plays at for Bayern) and has looked lethal in the past few weeks. How do you feel about their chances?
I like France. The injury bug has started to bite however. We'll see if/when M'Vila recovers.
Can Robben bounce back from this Champs League mess to push the Oranje?
Yes. He's a strong character and has had setbacks before like the World Cup final. I think he'll be fine.
What will keep Italy from winning it all?
With Criscito out and Barzagli injured, the backline depth isn't what it once was. Italy has also showed a penchant for not turning midfield dominance into goals. That will need to change.
Give me one sleeper you can see getting to the finals? My money would be on Russia...
That's a good shout. People might not consider France a "sleeper" per se, but they do seem to be flying under the radar a bit.
Sorry Jeff in MA, that I didn't answer your question. I only know that Ian Darke and Steve McManaman will be doing the opener. That is the extent of my knowledge.
Who is more important the the Dutch's success: Robben, RVP, or Sjneider?
Hmmm. I would go with Sneijder. Someone has to get RVP the ball and Sneijder is the primary guy to do it.
Hodgson can't realistically think the lolloping Andy Carroll can be a quality finisher for the Three Lions in Rooney's absence, can he?
That is one option, although I suspect a more likely outcome is putting Wellbeck up high with Young underneath.
Best game of the weekend is Italy vs. Spain, right?
No doubt. I can't wait.
Who do you think will be the breakout player from the tournament, a la Thomas Mueller from WC 2012?
That's a tough one. Don't sleep on Croatia forward Nikica Jelavic. At 26, he might be too old to be a breakout guy, but he had a great end of season with Everton.
Okay guys, I think that will do. Thanks to everyone (especially Matt in DC) for your questions. Enjoy the rest of the tournament.