Chahdi and Meucci return for the grand finale

Chahdi and Meucci return for the grand finale
European Athletics

The senior race at the 2013 SPAR European Athletics Cross Country Championships in Belgrade is up for the taking as no clear favourite has emerged.

It will be the final race on Sunday at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade - and it is one that is impossible to predict.

Such is the strength of the field for the men's senior event over almost 10km that the winner could come from France, Italy, Belgium, Great Britain, Spain, Turkey or beyond. 

The defending champion, Andrea Lalli, from Italy, is not competing but six of the eight men behind him in Budapest last year are here and all will consider their chances as very good.

Lalli won by 10 seconds in 2012 in 30:11 with Frenchman Hassan Chahdi second. His record is impressive at these Championships having finished fourth the previous year in Velenje. Could Belgrade be his time?

Equally, Daniele Meucci will aim to think this is his moment after finishing third just two seconds behind Chahdi in Hungary. He is considered the biggest hope to keep the title in Italy’s possession. 

He has won two medals on the track at European Athletics Championships with 10,000m bronze in Barcelona in 2010 and then silver in Helsinki in 2012.

Meucci was also the best ranked European at the New York Marathon on 3 November in 2:12.03.

Hopefully he has been able to recover in time for Sunday’s race. 

Thomas Farrell of Great Britain, fourth in 2012, returns as does Turkey's Polat Arikan Kemboi who was seventh last year. Javier Guerra was eighth and made it to the top of the podium as part of the Spanish team which took the team title.

He was followed home in the individual race by Belgium's Bashir Abdi who has shown good recent form winning the international cross country circuit in Roeselare this winter. 

Spain also have a past winner of these Championships in their squad in the shape of Alemayehu Bezabeh who triumphed in Dublin in 2009.

Two weeks ago in Liverpool, Andy Vernon, 27, won the British trials and arrives in Serbia in fine form. 

He too is a multiple medallist at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships, having finished second in the junior race in 2005 before taking team gold and individual bronze in the under-23 event in 2007, then returned the following year to win the team crown once again along with individual silver.

Speaking to Athletics Weekly, Vernon said: "It has been a long time since I won a medal at the Euro Cross and hope that I can do it this year." 

And the winner is? It is impossible to guess. Standby for a thrilling finale.