Huffpost UK Sport uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Nick Wilby Headshot

Five Players Set To Light Up Euro 2012

Posted: Updated:

The wait for the 2012 European Championship is finally over and some of the continent's finest players will be preparing to showcase their talents on one of the grandest stages in the world.

The likes of Zinedine Zidane, Marco van Basten and Michel Platini have all secured greatness in championships gone by - but who will shine at this year's tournament? Let's take a look at five players that have the potential to light up this year's tournament.

Arjen Robben

Arjen Robben will be at the forefront of Holland's bid for Euro 2012 glory and the winger will be looking to banish the memory of his missed penalty in last month's Champions League final.

Ultra-talented but equally as fragile, Robben has always been a difficult character and his individualism has been as frustrating as it has been exciting in recent years. After accumulating a total of £71 million in transfer fees by the age of 25, he has now settled at Bayern Munich and he has finally become the player he always threatened to be.

His selfishness for Bayern and Holland is welcomed by the two squads as it succeeds so often and his sustained brilliance has made him one of the most feared players in world football. If Holland are going to go all the way, the superstar's goals, assists and mesmerising trickery could be the key to their success.

Karim Benzema

France will be looking to right the wrongs of their disastrous World Cup in South Africa two years ago and a revitalised Karim Benzema could be the key to their resurgence.

The Real Madrid forward was in fantastic form for club and country last season and it looks as though he could finally be developing into the world class striker that many had predicted.

Laurent Blanc's French side are now unbeaten in twenty-one matches and Benzema is the key to the whole system of the team. With Franck Ribéry and Samir Nasri supporting in attack he spearheads a formation that creates plenty of chances and though he can occasionally be clumsy in front of goal, he is more than capable of leading the line on his own.

Don't be surprised to see Benzema battling it out for the Golden Boot as France look to win back their European Championship crown.

Steven Gerrard

Eight years after captaining his country for the first time Steven Gerrard has finally been given the armband on a permanent basis and the talismanic Scouser will have to be at his sensational best if England are going to have a successful Euro 2012.

The Liverpool legend has never been able to reach the dizzy heights he had hoped for with England and he has saved all of his most memorable performances for the Kop. Though he was arguably England's best player in South Africa two years ago, it was another tournament he failed to shine in and he has admitted himself that some of his performances have been poor.

Now he heads to a tournament as the captain and he'll finally be able to play in his preferred position for England. It is likely he'll be the central figure in a 4-4-1-1 formation and it'll be up to him to orchestrate proceedings, especially in the absence of Wayne Rooney.

Considered by many to be Liverpool's greatest ever player, England fans will be hoping that Gerrard's individual virtuosity can see him lead his national side to glory at a major tournament.

Mesut Özil

Germany head into Euro 2012 as one of the most likely winners and Mesut Özil is being tipped by many pundits to win the player of the tournament award.

It isn't hard to see why the gifted playmaker has so many admirers and Germany undoubtedly have one of the most talented midfielders in the world in their ranks.

Özil had a spectacular season at club level for Real Madrid and managed to acquire more assists than Lionel Messi in a memorable title-winning campaign, while the maestro also topped the assists chart in the Euro 2012 qualifying stages.

The superstar is elusive in possession and impeccable around the box and he looks set to be at the centre of a golden era for German football.

The lavish praise he attracts is thoroughly deserved and if he has a good tournament then it is highly likely Germany will be turning on the style.

Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli is becoming more famous for his off-field exploits than his achievements on the pitch and whatever happens at Euro 2012, the Italian striker is bound to be in the headlines.

The Manchester City forward has flair in abundance but he continues to grab more column inches than goals and his attitude has been heavily criticised in recent months.

Cocky, petulant and unbelievably charismatic, Euro 2012 could be Balotelli's chance to prove that he really is one of the hottest properties in Europe and the Italians will be counting on him keeping his cool when it matters in Ukraine and Poland.

The creativity and verve he showed at times in the Premier League last season would be welcomed with open arms by a changing Italian national side and the tournament could provide the perfect stage for his unquestionable talents.

Get all the latest news and views from Euro 2012 at Bettingpro.com and take a look at their comprehensive online guide to the tournament now.

Around the Web

Dutch Euro 2012 squad face 'monkey chants' in Poland

Euro 2012: Capsule look at the 16 teams

Euro 2012 Sportsday Live

Euro 2012: France coach Laurent Blanc 'surprised' at Rio Ferdinand's omission ...

EURO 2012 Preview: GROUP C - Fan's Take

Euro 2012: Laurent Blanc has reunited France's revolutionary rabble after ...