Since Spain claimed the Euro 2008 title, soccer coverage in America has grown by leaps and bounds. The UEFA Champions League is now being broadcast on a major broadcast network, and Premier League television rights are coveted by ESPN and Fox with NBC Sports waiting in the wings for those rights to come back up for bid.
Some make the case that the Euros are the most competitive tournament in the world, more so than the World Cup because nobody has to worry about seeing the North Korea, Honduras or New Zealand's of the world.
Deepen you involvement in this year's Euros by grabbing a fantasy Euro 2012 squad on the official UEFA website (http://en.euro2012fantasy.uefa.com). No rooting interest? No idea who is who past the big boys in the competition? Relax, we're here to help by pointing out over-valued players, under-valued players and some things to consider when picking your squad.
1.) Consider the groups. Spanish players are already a bit over-priced because, well, because they're Spain. Add to that the fact that their group includes Ireland, Italy and Croatia, and it could be a rough go for high-priced Spainish players.
2.) You need a keeper. Iker Casillas is arguably the best in the world, but his 7.0 price tag makes it tough to justify, especially with one of his key defenders, Carles Puyol, out of the tournament. Remember, the host countries always fare well in the Euros, and Poland's Wojciech Szczesny (from Arsenal) will save you 2.0.
3.) Check the injury news. The UEFA site will let you buy injured players without ever noting that the player is indeed hurt. Comb through Rotowire before you put your team together so you don't end up with a dead spot on your squad.
Who we like:
Manuel Neuer, Germany. If you want the best keeper in the tournament, you'll want Bayern Munich's Neuer. Germany's defense is suffocating as usual, plus the Germans have a nice draw in the group phase. 7.0 is more than reasonable for Neuer.
Wojciech Szczesny, Poland. Szczesny won't know what to do with a capable defense playing in front of him after a bumbling Arsenal defense made him look bad at times in the EPL. He also packs a lot of value at 5.0 for one of the host countries.
Tomas Sorensen, Denmark. The Stoke keeper provides more value at 4.5. Sorensen can save you some cash to spend elsewhere. The only concern is how far the Danes will advance in the tournament. Also consider that Sorensen is a nice, inexpensive number two if you grab Neuer or Casillas.
Patrice Evra, France. The French have a new, younger look and an "us against the world" mentality after the debacle in South Africa 2010. Evra can also pop in a goal or two, and he isn't all that expensive at 6.0.
Fabio Coentrao, Portugal. Ask Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola what they think of the Real Madrid defender, who wreaked havoc on Barca this season. Fabio holds a ton of pop for just 6.5. Make sure you have an attacking defender, and Coentrao is the best in the bunch, especially at that price.
Yuri Zhirkov, Russia. I love offense from my fantasy defenders, and Zhirkov, the ex-Chelsea left back, will give that to the Russians who are a lot more attack-minded then you may think. At 6.0, his price tag won't hold you back from grabbing a stud goal-scorer as you build your side.
Ashley Young, England. There's a glut of high-priced players in the midfield, but I'm not sold on any of them being more valuable than Ashley Young at 8.5. All year long he fed Wayne Rooney. That familiarity and continuity should mean big things for England and for your fantasy squad.
Mario Gotze, Germany. In my opinion, the most under-valued player in UEFA's game. Gotze is arguably one of the most offensively talented midfielders in Germany's history, and at 7.5, he's 2.5 cheaper than teammate Mesut Ozil. A young player always emerges in the Euros. This summer, it's going to be Borussia Dortmund's Gotze.
Riccardo Montolivo, Italy. The Azzurri are transitioning into a younger midfield, and Fiorentina's Montolivo is ready for the big stage. The talented playmaker is a wizard on the ball, cut from the Andrea Pirlo mold; and he's priced right at 7.0.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden. You can dump a gigantic amount of money on a forward, but looking at the prices, Ibrahimovic's relatively low price tag of 8.0 stands out compared to what others are going for. He had a resurgent season for Milan, scoring 28 times in 32 games. His short life expectancy in the tournament may be the only reason he's so inexpensive.
Mario Balotelli, Italy. When the scrutiny is turned up and the spotlight is bright, Balotelli thrives. The Italians lacked offensive punch when last we saw them against the USA Balotelli will come to their rescue and at 8.5, he's a gamble that could pay off huge.
Arjen Robben, Netherlands. You have to spend something, and if you've made it to forward with some room under the cap, Robben's 9.0 is more than reasonable. He'll see plenty of the ball, and with so much firepower around him the Dutch are set for a long run. Any doubts? Look no further than his incredible two-goal performance against England in February.