Bueno! Spain fave to take Euro 2008

MORRIS DALLA COSTA

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

So it is with great trepidation that we pick the winner of Euro 2008.

Spain. No, Italy. No, France. Germany, maybe Germany. Come to think of it, Portugal.

It's going to be one of those tournaments in which nothing should be surprising. The winner could come from the established powers in the soccer world or it could come the nations with lesser pedigrees.

Mind you, with 11 of the top 15 ranked nations playing, lesser is a relative term.

With Greece's victory in Portugal four years ago, the shock value of one of those so-called weaker nations winning has been reduced significantly.

This tournament is going to be a crapshoot.

But when the final is played June 29, it will be Spain's coming out party.

In the most delicate of terms, Spain has been the most consistent of underachievers in international tournaments.

In less delicate terms, they choke when it comes to the big stage.

But even a blind squirrel finds the occasional nut. This is the tournament that Spain finds it.

It is difficult to pick against the likes of Italy, Germany, France and others, especially since Spain has a history of imploding before exploding in the most crucial of times. There is a different sense this time. Going into most major tournaments, the Spanish newspapers are filled with tales of discontent, internal battles and warring egos.

But most Spanish media are focused on the battle between Real Madrid and their tampering with Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

It is Portugal which will have its focus messed with going into the tournament, as Ronaldo will be constantly battered with questions about his future.

Meanwhile, Spain is going about its business of preparing for Euro. Not even the exclusion of Raul, one of Spain's most popular players, caused the kind of stir it normally would.

Spain's coach Luis Aragones, a man who is no stranger to inflated ego, has had a running battle with Raul over the years. There is a belief that Raul's inclusion in previous teams has caused great conflict, with the focus more on the player than the end result.

This is simply too good a team to go quietly or quickly in this tournament. The Spanish may not win, but they won't go quietly.

Their potential strike force is among the best in the world, and the Spanish midfield, collectively, is the best in the tournament.

It will be a crushing trip for whomever makes it to the final from Group C and D. The eight teams on that side of the draw include the Netherlands, Italy, France, Romania, Sweden, Spain, Russia and Greece.

Italy, who would be the next choice as favourite, would have to get out of its group with the Netherlands, France and Romania, then likely have to face Sweden or Greece and Spain to make the final.

There is no easy route.


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