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Lineker's Euro 2008 view

Cristiano Ronaldo, Gary Lineker and Fernando Torres

As England fans prepare to watch from the sidelines with Euro 2008 ready to get under way on Saturday, BBC presenter Gary Lineker knows all too well about the disappointment the tournament can bring.

Lineker was part of the England team which qualified for the Euros in 1988 and 1992, only to return home before the knockout stages.

Despite those painful memories, Lineker - second in England's all-time list of goalscorers - is looking forward to Euro 2008.

Here, he gives BBC Sport his thoughts on the forthcoming tournament and explains why international football is more important than the Champions League.


Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger have said the Champions League is more interesting than international football. Do you agree?

They are club managers so they are bound to say that. They do not care about international football; their interest is their club. They are only bothered about their players not getting injured in international football.

England fans watch the penalty shoot-out against Portugal at Euro 2004 on big screens
England games can help to bring the country together
But the one thing that can really draw a nation together is a tournament like the World Cup and the European Championship.

That is when you get these moments of national togetherness that are so rare. Football can achieve something that few other sports can.

The Champions League is a great tournament, but it can never, ever bring about that national togetherness and that is why international football is so important.

It is easy to forget how important England's success in the 1990 World Cup was for boosting football and generating interest. The crowds went up in domestic football after that tournament.

International football will always be vital and that is why there was a sense of national mourning when England did not qualify for this tournament.

The World Cup and the Euros will always be bigger than the Champions League... until it gets to the point when the clubs are so strong that they feel able to say that there is not going to be international football anymore - and if that happens then we really are in trouble.


Given England did not qualify for Euro 2008 what is the future for the English national team?

It is not the same without us in it and it is not great for English football. With the quality of our players there is no way we should not have been in it.

But England have underperformed for a long time and have not shown their true potential and this time they have paid the price.

Hopefully England can turn things round and reach the World Cup in 2010. It is not hard to qualify for the World Cup unless you really mess it up.

Former England coach Steve McClaren
Steve McClaren lost his job after England failed to qualify
You worry a bit about the production of young talent, but I think the academies are starting to get it right. Even so I think it will be another six to 10 years before we really see the benefit.

Some pessimists think England will never win a major tournament again, but it's been a long time since England have won a major tournament so it is not that brave a statement to make.

I will always live in hope, though we might have to wait until we host a World Cup as that gives us a better opportunity.

If Greece won Euro 2004, how can you say England cannot win it? We've been close at the World Cup in 1990, which shows it can be done.

All you need is to get it right at the right time. You need to get the tactical discipline, the players and the team spirit.

We have got the players and the quality to do it, though we do shoot ourselves in the foot as our domestic season is so tough and we play 100mph football compared to everyone else.


Who will be the player of the tournament?

For me it has to be Cristiano Ronaldo. He is such a brilliant talent and quite wonderful to watch.

I thought he played well in the World Cup 2006 so he has nothing to prove.

He has been sensational in the last two years and has just got better and better.

Maybe he overdid the tricks before but his overall football education has shown him when to do the tricks and when not to do them, when to give the ball and and when not to.

He has got such all-round talent. You could not ask more from a front player. He works his socks off, he is strong, quick, has unbelievable control, is brilliant in the air and scores goals.

By and large he is a wide player, so to score so many goals shows just what an extraordinary talent he is.


Who will win Euro 2008?

It is open, but I am going for those perennial underachievers in Spain.

Spain's Xavi and Sergio Ramos
Lineker believes Spain can end their long wait for a trophy
They have a bit more strength in depth than in the past. They have got a good spine in Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Fernando Torres and David Villa and they look very strong up front.

Torres is a much better player than I thought he was. He is still young and it usually takes people a while to acclimatise to the Premier League, but he has done it straight away which suggests he is a really class act.

He has shown he can finish and is maturing and learning fast. His pace helps him - he is really quick.

Spain also have this experience of players going abroad - their national team has never had that before.

In Spain the feeling is that team chokes, but they have done well in sports like golf and motor racing where they have shown they have the bottle.


Given Austria are 92nd in the Fifa rankings and Switzerland are 44th, should host nations in major tournaments be made to qualify?

Without a host nation taking part, the tournament would be absurd. The World Cup tournament without Germany in 2006 would have been unthinkable - it was just such a special event.

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Archive: Sweden 2-1 Englands - Euro 92

The same was true of Euro 96. It is impossible to imagine that tournament without England being present.

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BBC Sport's John Sinnott

Perhaps what you might have to look at in the future is the issue of joint host nations as that uses up two spots up. It would be better if they could use just one country.

It is unfortunate these particular two countries are a bit weak. They will probably be knocked out in the group stages, but they will still add a bit of colour to the tournament. Two weak teams out of 16 is not too bad.

Gary Lineker was speaking to BBC Sport's John Sinnott


see also
Lineker hopes for England revival
06 Jun 08 |  Internationals
Van Persie expects Holland impact
06 Jun 08 |  Netherlands
De Boer queries Dutch commitment
04 Jun 08 |  Netherlands
Greece's rise and fall
05 Jun 08 |  Greece
Who will win Euro 2008?
29 May 08 |  Euro 2008
Euro 2008: Who will you support?
27 May 08 |  Euro 2008


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