Hatem Ben Arfa lines up for France

Mick Lowes has long been the voice of the Magpies on BBC Radio Newcastle, and every fortnight he writes an exclusive blog for nufc.co.uk. Here he looks ahead to what promises to be an exciting European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine, and assesses the roles of the three United players who are on duty for their countries...

It's always nice to see one or two familiar faces from the club you support representing their countries at a major tournament, and this summer will hopefully see three United players in action at Euro 2012.

Tim Krul started for Holland in a recent warm-up game and for me, there's very little to separate the three goalkeepers in the Dutch squad so we could well see him involved.

Then we obviously have Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa in the final 23 for France, and Ben Arfa in particular encapsulates what Newcastle were all about last season - a team that are really going places.

He has emerged over the last nine months, as have the football club, and both the individual and the team have been putting in performances week in, week out and have reaped the rewards.

This is a guy who was very highly thought of at junior level in France, but won his last cap back in 2008 prior to the recent friendly with Iceland. He was in the wilderness, but through playing for Newcastle United, he is suddenly a player that everyone is talking about.

That sends out a fantastic message to players in general that you can reinvent yourself at a club like this. There must have been some dark days for Hatem after his injury back in October 2010 and even at the start of this season, when he wasn't being accommodated in the system that Alan Pardew was playing.

But now he must be thinking what a good decision it was to join the Club. He must be on top of the world right now and I can see Ben Arfa being a star at the Euros because he's making up for lost time and he should be fresher than a lot of other players because he's only really played half a season.

Looking at the tournament on the whole, nobody has ever retained the European Championship title, so it is a competition that does have an air of unpredictability about it.

We've had instances of teams coming from absolutely nowhere to win it in the shape of Greece in 2004 and Denmark in 1992, but as always, you have to look at the favourites first.

France are unbeaten in 21 matches and Germany have a squad that is brimming with talent. Italy are going through another crisis domestically, but the last time that happened they came together as a nation and ultimately won a World Cup out of adversity.

But I think it's a really difficult one to call, and if you throw the logistics of all the travelling into the equation and the effect that has on preparation, it could turn out to be a very open competition.

In my last blog I touched upon the belief that Chelsea's name was on the Champions League trophy as the rounds went by, and when you factor in the way that Manchester City won the title on the last day, last season was a campaign full of unexpected eyebrow raisers.

So by that logic, many people are saying why not round it all off with England winning Euro 2012? But for me, as much as we'd like them to go all the way, I think it's highly unlikely.

The only way I can see it happening is if Andy Carroll has an absolute stormer, and I'm sure the whole of Tyneside would like to see that happen. He holds the key in many ways, but I still think the winner will come from one of France, Germany and Spain.

England will only win it if it is fated because the squad is lacking in world-class talent, and if the favourites play to the best of their abilities, then I can't see them getting anywhere near the final or even the semis.

But if it descends into a messy competition and a tournament full of surprises, which it could do quite easily, then you never know what will happen and England might have a chance.

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