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Spain

By transforming international football with its tika-taka passing style, top-ranked Spain has been the team to beat for the past four years. The defending world and European champions are classy and stylish, but aren’t unbeatable. The Spanish are without leading striker David Villa and defender Carles Puyol because of injury, and there also are fears their Barcelona and Real Madrid stars are tired. Spain is looking to become the first country to retain its European title.

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Germany

A young team which lit up the 2010 World Cup with its fearless attacking play has blossomed into a force set to be Spain’s biggest threat at Euro 2012. The Germans score goals for fun and cruised through their qualifying run with 10 straight wins. Question marks remain, however, over whether Germany’s eight-strong Bayern Munich contingent recovered from losing the Champions League final in dramatic style to Chelsea.

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Netherlands

The Dutch challenge England for the tag as Europe’s biggest underachievers, but also rival Spain and Germany as the most talented team at Euros. Defensively, they look suspect, but they seem unstoppable going forward, led by the lethal Van Persie. Staying true to their expansive, offensive style will be key; they retreated into their shell in the 2010 World Cup final in 2010 and deservedly lost.

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France

The French head into Euro 2012 on the back of an unbeaten run of 21 games and coach Laurent Blanc looks to have unified the squad after its infamous mutiny at the World Cup in South Africa. Much will depend on the influence forwards Franck Ribery and Benzema can have and, like the Dutch, France’s defense appears to be its weak link.

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Italy

The Azzurri won the World Cup in 2006 amid the fallout from a match-fixing scandal back home. Could history repeat itself six years later at these Euros? Whether the Italian league crisis unites the squad remains to be seen. Italy has arguably the best defense in the competition and in strikers Antonio Cassano and Balotelli, the Italians have two mercurial players who could light up the tournament.

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