With fans on the look out for young stars of the future to emerge could it be the older generation who have the greatest impact on Euro 2012?
Euro 2012 is almost upon us, excitement is high and the expectant European public are on the lookout for new young stars of the future to emerge, however many people will have overlooked the potential influence of veterans having one last go at the big time. I will now take a look at five such men who could yet shape the destination of the trophy.
1. Andriy Shevchenko - Ukraine
From his time at AC Milan, Chelsea and Dynamo Kiev Andriy Shevchenko is an instantly recognizable name to most European football fans. Now 35 Shevchenko is having one last go at a major international tournament, this time the cards are different however; half of the tournament is being played in his backyard, Ukraine. The legend has been capped over 100 times by his country scoring almost a goal every two matches and if Ukraine are to make inroads in this competition it may just be the old veteran captain who leads his nation to overachievement. He has spoken out about his dream of taking Ukraine far in this year's European championship and the stage is certainly set for him to turn back the clock one last time.
2. Mark van Bommel - Netherlands
The Dutch icon and captain Mark van Bommel is another heading off to Poland and the Ukraine in a few weeks time to have one last go at international glory. He was a member of the side which lost to Spain in the World Cup final two years ago and will be desperate to get an international honour before his career comes to an end. Next season he will be returning to PSV Eindhoven, a club he played for from 1999-2005 to try and repay the faith they showed in him earlier in his distinguished career but it will undoubtedly be the chance of leading Netherlands to European glory a full twelve years after he made his international debut which will be at the forefront of van Bommel's mind. At the age of35 these championships will be his final chance to win a major international honour.
3. Gianluigi Buffon - Italy
Goalkeeping hero Gianluigi Buffon turned 34 in January and the man with over 100 international caps and the Italian captains armband will be expected to lead Italy to the latter stages of this tournament. A lot has changed since the Italian's 2006 World Cup triumph, only Buffon, Chiellini, De Rossi and Pirlo have fifty or more international caps in the squad and so these players will be called on for their experience on the big stage. Something of an outsider this year Italy could be one to watch, by the time the next European Championships come around again Buffon will be 38 and so will almost certainly not feature in that tournament. This is his last chance to add a European Championship winner medal to his World Cup winners accolade he earned in 2006.
4. Giorgos Karagounis - Greece
Karagounis was a vital member of the Greek side which shocked Europe by winning the 2004 European Championships in Portugal. That year Greece were drawn in a group including hosts Portugal and Spain. To beat Portugal in the tournament opener and then to draw against Spain and beat France and Czech Republic to make the final was an amazing accomplishment. To then beat Portugal in Portugal in the final was the kind of thing dreams are made of. The scorer in that amazing final was Angelos Charisteas but one story which is often forgotten is that of Karagounis. He scored in the tournament opener against Portugal but heartbreak struck as he was forced to miss the final through suspension. While nowadays he is not considered a definite starter Karagounis will be desperate to make some kind of mark on this tournament after his personal mix of agony and delight at Euro 2004. The veteran of over 100 internationals will captain Greece in Poland and Ukraine in a few weeks time and while few expect them to make any inroads this year being drawn in a group alongside Poland, Russia and Czech Republic makes anything possible.
5. Xavi - Spain
Another instantly recognizable name to any self-respectable football fan Spanish icon Xavi will be hungry to complete the incredible feat of not only retaining the European championship but also having a World Cup win sandwiched in the middle. He is another member of the "over 100 caps" club and it will be players like Xavi who will have to turn up in the absence of injured legend Carlos Puyol if Spain are to once again triumph. Xavi is 32 now and by the time the next major international tournament comes along he will be 34, this may well be his last chance to win another major international title so the motivation will certainly exist. One of the best passers and most comfortable players on the ball of our generation Xavi will be desperate to see the European trophy remain the property of Spain.