Question marks dog national teams as Euro draws near

MORRIS DALLA COSTA

, Last Updated: 12:27 PM ET

Two weeks to Euro 2008. Let the insanity begin.

With the nations participating in the tournament having already named their provisional squads, they will complete those teams by the middle of next week at the latest.

Some surprises.

Italy named 24 players, so they have one to cut. The biggest surprise on their list is Antonio Cassano, the talented forward whose most descriptive nickname, among many, is Peter Pan.

Shock was the word used most often in Italy when the decision was announced.

Coach Roberto Donadoni, who was given a two-year contract extension (only good if the Italians get to the semifinals of the tournament or beyond), is playing with fire with Cassano.

Cassano hasn't played with the national team since September 2006.

"I'm not taking any chances with Cassano," Donadoni said. "He is not a youngster anymore and knows what it means to be a member of a group. I know perfectly well what he can give in technical terms."

If Donadoni is going to go out, he's going to go out on his own terms.

Often showing the maturity of Peter Pan, Cassano is likely to fly off the handle and get himself in trouble on the field.

If Cassano shows any sign of disruption before the final team is named, he'll be sent home.

Other omissions of interest include France not naming David Trezequet, who had a good year in Italy.

Spain opted to leave Raul home as well as pass over the next great one, 17-year-old Bojan Krkic, believing the long Spanish domestic league season has worn him out.

Spain will have to answer the biggest question of the tournament -- can the powerful team finally live up to expectations and win a major tournament?

It's the same question that's been haunting the Dutch in recent years.

They have many of the same problems as the Spanish have: Dissention within the ranks and a selfish attitude among some players.

This will be coach Marco van Basten's last kick at the national team. He is leaving the team after Euro.

But he may have already created a double standard on this team as well.

He has had to already deal with a very public slap in the face by midfielder Clarence Seedorf, who won't play for him.

But van Basten made it clear every player has to be fit for their opening game.

Except for Robin van Persie.

The Arsenal FC forward has not played a match since late April, and even though he's with the Dutch squad, he's been training apart from the rest of the squad.

Van Basten has said he will not rush van Persie.

In most sports, this seems like the reasonable thing to do.

But in soccer, it will create resentment, especially if van Persie takes the spot of some other forward in the starting lineup.

Van Basten would love to have already picked his starting team, but with van Persie still hurt, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Arjen Robben and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink only getting to camp today, and goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and midfielder Wesley Sneijder not arriving until Monday, van Basten has his hands tied.

Van der Sar is the key to the Dutch. Never known to be terrific defenders, van der Sar has to have a great tournament.

He is just coming off a win with Manchester United in the Champions League final, saving a penalty shot to secure the win.

But van der Sar has had a long season with United, taking part in a particularly stirring Premier League championship run along with the gruelling European season.

To move right into a European championship tournament is going to be a real test for him, especially playing in a position when one error can send a team home quickly.


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