In the coming of the world’s next great soccer tournament, the Euro 2012 tournament will provide a very unique perspective on where European soccer stands on the international stage. The soccer world is changing; each continent is fighting for their place on the world scene. There is no doubt the most attractive football still lies in Europe, but with each superpower’s identity changing, will Europe show their true colors on the international stage?
Group A: Poland, Czech Republic, Greece, Russia
The World Beaters
This is the group surrounded by the most confusion. Each country possesses world-class talent. The Arsenal winger, Andrei Arshavin will be under the microscope, facing a lot of criticism from doubters as he has been under pressure as of late. His form has fallen off since his explosion onto the English football scene. His performances have lacked consistency, and the Russians will need his best if they want to secure their place into the next round.
Poland (one of the co-hosts) and Czech Republic both have the talent to stun anyone, but their form is truly the greatest question. Their main concerns will be the inconsistencies stemming from young talent and lack of experience in high pressure situations, a topic that will be heavily discussed and debated throughout the Euro Cup.
Greece, champions of the tournament in 2004, and my personal favorite as a team, aren’t expected to win, however, they have the ability to win against anyone. Their counter-attacking scheme has and will always frustrate any opponent. If anyone on the team begins to find scoring form, they will provide the same hope created in 2004.
Group Winner: Russia
Group B: Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Denmark
Group of Death
It is as simple as the theme surrounded by this impossible group. Netherlands, coming off impressive form in the World Cup two years ago; have dominated qualifications and are minor favorites to hold the cup at the end of the summer. Their three-headed monster Van Persie, Robben, and Sneijder, all are in form and will be feared.
Portugal, spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, will always be a team that will standout. However, their continuing lack of consistency, ever since the Euro Cup in 2004, has become a focal point for questions for Paulo Bento’s side. Ronaldo could truly make a case for his second World Player of the Year if he can dominate this tournament as he has done in Spain for the past two years. The fans as well as the country are ready for this team to produce; only time will tell.
Germany ran through qualifying and even swept aside Netherlands earlier this year with a convincing 3-0 victory. Their fluid style of play spawning from Mesut Ozil, Bastain Schweinsteiger, and Mario Gomez will impose their style and hopefully push through into the future rounds.
The Danes definitely got the short end of the stick here. Nikolas Bendtner will lead his team on the field, but what can we possible see here from this side? Every opponent they face will be above their head and they may be able to sneak a win and change the shape of the group. However, I do not see them moving forward.
Group Winner: Netherlands
Group C: Spain, Ireland, Italy, Croatia
Shoot for Silver
Three teams will compete for second place in this group because honestly, who are we kidding, Spain is undoubtedly taking this group. Spain has sputtered into this tournament, but no one can really doubt their free flowing possession style. They are the heavy favorite and I would bet on on Spain to advance into the next round.
Ireland and Croatia both seek international glory, but do not necessarily have the tools to make a splash on to the world scene. Robbie Keane now playing in America and will lead Ireland, but a lack of premier training will only lead one to believe his form has fallen. Croatia is on the rise, but will not have enough to support the rising star in Luka Modric.
Italy a great team, there is no doubt. But for all their talent they truly lack the winning edge they have had with the ending of the old regime. The era of ageless players, like Pirlo and Del Piero, is coming to end as is the realm of Italian football. They may be able to prove me wrong, and they usually do.
Group Winner: Spain
Group D: France, England, Ukraine, Sweden
Culling the Herd
Unity will be the biggest question in this group; France was embarrassed in the World Cup two years ago. A new look squad will enter into the Euro’s hoping that an inspiring showing will let them forget about recent exploits, but what is there possibly to say, when the most prolific players in France’s history can not give their blessing.
England has been impressive as of late, but this team has no style. They will always overpower the weak, and be stunned when the moment for glory arrives. The fact that Rooney is not a true starter on this team really calls into question what they can do going forward and it is unlikely that Capello will leave his talismanic front man out of the squad.
Sweden and Ukraine (another of the co-hosts) will push their efforts through their singular strikers. I have an upset alert for Sweden to take down England. Ibrahimovic will dominate as usual, but do they have enough pieces to make a statement this year? Most likely not. Ukraine a no-named squad, will hopefully find a result to shake up the group. We can hope, but lez be honest.
Group Winner: Sweden
– Sir Keefer