And the winner is ...

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

A quick review of the 2004 European Championship.

Greece won.

That should tell you everything you need to know about this tournament.

There is no sure thing. You can try to handicap this event, but it's the kind of tournament that can just as easily make you look like a genius as a goof.

Greece's victory four years ago was about as long a shot as you can get. The only other time such a long shot came close was in 1992 in Sweden when Denmark, which didn't qualify but was in the tournament because Yugoslavia was removed, won the final against a strong German side.

Check out the soccer experts. They'll reluctantly pick a winner, but are just as quick to give you many reasons why their pick might not win.

Jason deVos is the former captain of Canada's national team and played many years in England. Since his retirement at the end of the English Championship League season, he has been working as a soccer analyst for CBC television.

He likes Italy to win.

But he also likes France, which is in Italy's group along with Romania and the Netherlands.

"That's the Group of Death. The truth is, France could wind up winning it or it could go home without winning a game. That's how tough that group is," deVos said.

Craig Forrest is a former Canadian international goalkeeper and played in England's Premier Division. He's a television analyst on Sportsnet Soccer Central. Sportsnet and TSN will share coverage of this year's Euro '08 tournament.

"It's one of those tournaments where it's very difficult to handicap, which is great," Forrest said. "(The Italians) are World Cup winners, you've always got to think they've got a chance. France is always strong. Germany looks great. Portugal, Spain, those are great teams. Then you have (the Greeks), the holders, who are actually playing quite well recently."

Does he have a favourite?

"Not someone I would want to lay my hat on," Forrest said.

But if you had to pick one, just one ...

"Okay, I'd like to see Spain do well," he said. "They've been unlucky at times, but we've been saying that for a long time."

Spain is one of the perennial favourites and one of the teams that fails to live up to expectations.

"Who can really say what happens to them," Forrest said. "But they have a lot of talent. Their domestic league is arguably one of the best in the world. They have a lot of Spanish players playing."

Spain has one of the most dynamic scoring duos in well-known Fernando Torres and not-so-well-known but highly coveted David Villa.

"One of these years, Spain will come out and prove they are one of the best teams in the world," deVos said.

Forrest's broadcasting partner on Sportsnet Soccer Central, Gerry Dobson, knows who he likes.

"I'll pick Germany," Dobson said.

Being a pre-tournament favourite is not usual for the Germans. They often qualify ugly and get stronger as the tournament progresses.

"They are never especially pretty but very efficient, like machines," deVos said. "They keep grinding out results. There's a joke over here in England that football's a game of 90 minutes, then Germany wins on penalties."

Dobson picked Portugal as his long shot.

Alf De Blasis, production manager and host of TLN's Italian soccer program, likes the Italians. But ...

"I saw Spain play Italy in an exhibition game and Spain won 1-0," De Blasis said. "I like what I saw from them. They have tremendous young talent."

Winning often has as much to do with timing and injuries as how good a team is. When the Greeks won four years ago, no one expected them to even qualify for the second round. Yet they used a stifling style of play to keep games close and took the few offensive chances they had to win.

Many times in a tournament of this calibre, simply moving on to the next round is difficult. In 2004 in Portugal, Italy, Germany, Spain and Croatia failed to make it out of their group. France, England and Denmark were all in the tournament yet the semifinals were made up of Greece, Portugal, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

Being at home in a tournament like this usually means a sure ticket to move on. But there isn't much love being spread about for co-hosts Switzerland and Austria.

To move on, Switzerland would have to finish ahead of favoured Portugal or the Czech Republic. Austria would have to finish ahead of Germany or Croatia.

On the other hand, many experts believe that if a darkhorse will walk away with the title this time around, it's going to be Croatia.

"People talk about England being such a failure, but you have to give credit to the Croatians (who eliminated England from qualifying for the tournament," deVos said. "They are tough. They didn't just fluke their way along. They are dangerous. They could go a long way in the tournament."\


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