Prediction: Spain to be squeezed out of Group D
Group D is a mismash of teams from the peripheries of the continent, Russia from the east, Greece in the south, Spain in the west and Sweden in the north; and each will take a distinctive style into the tournament. Spain will be attacking and reliant on abrasive defenders to secure wins; Russia will counter-attack from deep wherever possible; Sweden will be solid throughout the team and will be generally defensive; while Greece will be trying (unsuccessfully) to rediscover the form and luck of 2004.
The easy prediction here is to go with Spain and Russia; they have the players better respected by an English audience.
But Sweden are more consistently successful at World Cup level than either of them; Sweden have finished runners-up (once), third (twice) and fourth (once) in World Cups - and reached the Euro 1992 semi-finals. By comparison Spain's best World Cup finish was fourth in 1950; although they did win the Euro 1964 tournament held in Spain.
Spain are always expected to do well - and rarely actually do.
In qualifying Sweden were one result away from topping the group ahead of Spain after exchanging wins with the group favourites. So Sweden and Spain are pretty level on recent form.
The first game of the group - Spain vs Russia could well be decisive. Spain are always keen to show their talent and will be keen to demonstrate their attacking verve, Russia will be happy with that and could well beat them on the break. Russia should then beat Greece to qualify. Sweden will be looking for a narrow win against Greece in their opener and will then meet Spain in Innsbruck and if they can get a 0-0 qualification will be out of Spain's hands.
Whilst this might seem a bit of a stretch as predictions go, there are always a couple of shocks in international tournaments - where the players are more evenly spread than at club level - and Spain usually flatter to deceive at international tournaments after good qualification campaigns.
There is little doubt that Spain have the star quality in the group, and from an English perspective the impact of the phenomenal Fernando Torres is hugely anticipated. But these group stages are often edged by teamwork rather than great teams. The Spain team (like the Holland one) is often riven by internal disputes and the more prosaic talents of Sweden and Russia could therefore prevail from Group D.