As we enter the weekend and the start of Euro 2012, our own Cory Forgeron breaks down group play
Key Players: Wojciech Szczesny (GK), Robert Lewandowski (ST)
Expectations: The co-hosts here are in a group that’s really open for the taking. Russia is still probably the favourites, but Poland will have their en tire country behind them, as well as one of the most dangerous strikers in the tournament in Lewandowski.
I think Poland takes the Greece and Czech game, but that matchup v/s the Russians is going to be a HUGE game for this division. I still think that Poland grabs the second spot out of group A.
Key Players: Sotiris Ninis (M), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (D)
Expectations: Greece is honestly one of the weakest teams in this tournament, but hell, everyone said that about them in Euro 2004, and they won the tournament.
This is a team that has to play phenomenal defensively if they want any chance of making it out of the group. Papadopoulos is probably the most physically strong player in this tournament and he’s going to have to use his strength to deal with the large strikers on Russia. I think Greece’s only really chance of victory is the Czech game.
Key Players: Igor Akinfeev (GK), Andrey Arshavin (M/ST), Yuri Zhirkov (D)
Expectations: I think the Russians are the favourites of the group. They have the most balanced squad out of any team in Group A. They have one of the top keepers on the planet in Akinfeev, solid backline, solid midfield, and huge targets up front. Star man Andrey Arshavin has struggled at the club level with Arsenal, but was simply unbelievable at the last Euro tournament. Zhirkov playing wing back is an excellent crosser for the huge target men up front for Russia in Pavlyuchenko and Kerzhakov The Russians should feel confident about winning their group, but again a very tough game v/s hosts Poland.
Key Players: Petr Cech (GK), Tomas Necid (ST)
Expectations: A young squad here for the Czech Republic, with youngster Necid leading their attack and having Tomas Rosicky play his provider, but I don’t think that’s enough to compete with Russian and Poland. If Cech stands on his head like he did this season for club side Chelsea, they may upset teams. I doubt it, though.
Group A Winner: Russia Group A Runner-Up: Poland
Key Players: Wesley Sneijder (M), Robin Van Persie (ST), Klass Jan Huntelaar (ST)
Expectations: Netherlands always has this reputation as the choke artists of international tournaments. They always look to have the strongest squad but struggle to find team chemistry and lose close games. I think they have a very good chance, but with Germany in the group it’s VERY difficult to pick a winner. With creativity in the midfield from Sneijder and Robben, and strikers Van Persie who led club side Arsenal in scoring with 37 goals, and Huntelaar with 47 goals for club side Schalke in Germany, and also lead the scoring in the Euro 2012 qualifiers. That’s 84 goals from their attacking front. Scary good. I see Netherlands beating Denmark and Portugal (grudge match from 06 World Cup) easily, but whoever wins v/s Germany I believe will win the tournament.
Key Players: Christian Eriksen (M) , Daniel Agger (D)
Expectations: A squad who is really overmatched in this group, I don’t see Denmark grabbing any points in this Euro competition. However, keep your eye on Eriksen who is one of the brightest young players in the footballing world today. I wouldn’t be surprised if he grabs a few goals in the blowout loses to Netherlands, Germany, and Portugal.
Key Players: Manuel Neuer (GK), Mario Gomez (ST), Thomas Muller (M/ST)
Expectations: Another scary strong team all around. I believe that the Germans have the strongest side in the tournament from front to back, with the best backline in the tournament by far sitting in front of the best keeper on the planet in Manuel Neuer; it’s going to be very tough to score goals against Germany. Their midfield is very strong, very creative, and experienced, and up front have reigning 2010 World Cup golden boot winner Thomas Muller as well as Mario Gomez, who often is very poor internationally got 41 goals for club side Bayern Munich this season. I think that if Germany plays up to expectations they win this group, just getting the edge over Netherlands in the defensive department.
Key Players: Christiano Ronaldo (M/ST), Fabio Coentrao (D)
Expectations: I’ve always been a doubter of Portugal and every tournament they have proven my claims correct. Since the days of Figo and Pauleta where Portugal was strong squad front to back, Portugal now lacks the real depth to make a serious run in this tournament, but they do have talent. Christiano Ronaldo is an obvious talking point, scoring 55 goals with club side Real Madrid, Ronaldo is often quiet in international play, and if Portugal wants any chance of winning games they need CR7 to be filling the net. With Nani coming off a poor season, Portugal is going to need Raul Meireles who had a strong season with club side Chelsea to control the midfield and try and compete with the likes of Germany and Netherlands midfields. Again, I see the Portuguese picking up a win against Denmark, but I can’t see them finding any success against Germany and the Netherlands.
Group B Winner: Germany Group B Runner-Up: Netherlands
Key Players: Andres Iniesta (M), David Silva (M), Iker Casillas (GK)
Expectations: Spain has high expectations of winning the triple, coming off succession Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 wins, being the first team in history to do so. Now, with all-time leading scorer David Villa out of the tournament with a broken leg, it’s going to be a HUGE challenge for Spain to win this tournament. Spain has probably the best midfield in the tournament, but it’s their backline and forwards that are a problem. No Carlos Puyol controlling the backline, there’s a huge lack of experience there. Puyol also is a dangerious threat on set pieces and is a very clutch player. Attacking as mentioned, with Villa out Spain will look at Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente are their only legit strikers and these guys are hardly proven. Llorente doesn’t have big match experience, and Torres is about as hot and cold as any athlete in the world today. I honestly think Spain is going to struggle, but they still should make it out of their group.
Key Players: Gianluigi Buffon (GK), Daniele De Rossi (M), Sebastian Giovinco (M/ST)
Expectations: Italy learned their lesson from the last world cup and brought their attacking youth to the tournament. Italy was pathetic in the 2010 World Cup, and that’s because they left the likes of Giovinco and Balotelli home. This year it will be an even mix of experienced and proven players like keeper Buffon and the midfield general in De Rossi, but the youth Italy brought with them will surly make Euro 2012 much more successful than their last international tournament. I actually really like Italy to do well in this tournament, but it all depends on if they can score goals or not. The defence has always been there, but if they can’t fill the net, they will struggle.
Key Players: Shay Given (GK), Robbie Keane (ST), Aiden McGeady (M)
Expectations: I really like Ireland, they are the kind of team that grinds out games and can counter attack fairly well with the gifted winger McGeady’s pace advantage over most. Shay Given is one of the most underrated keepers in the world today and if Given stands on his head and Ireland gets some offense out of McGeady, Keane, and Duff there’s always the chance they could upset some teams, but I think the likes of Spain and Italy are too much for the Ireland squad.
Key Players: Luka Modric (M), Darijo Srna (M)
Expectations: Croatia is a team that’s always in the games and rarely gets blown out, but they got a very unkind group with the likes of Spain and Italy. I think Croatia can upset Italy perhaps because that will be a low scoring game, but Croatia is going to need some magic from Modric and Srna in the midfield to create some offense to give them any chance of making it out of this group, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up.
Group C Winner: Italy Group C Runner-Up: Spain
Key Players: Andrii Yarmolenko (M), Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (M)
Expectations: I think Ukraine got the far worse group than co-host Poland did, and it’s going to be a rough tournament for Ukraine. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ukraine doesn’t pick up a single point in their group, but then again England is there and you never know what happens with England steps on the field. Ukraine is going to need to be strong defensively to try and grind out victories, but it’s going to be a rough tournament for them.
Key Players: Sebastian Larsson (M), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (ST)
Expectations: I think Sweden has a chance to upset England for the runner-up spot in Group D. They’re going to need Ibrahimovic to continue to form, who netted 35 goals for club side Milan this season. They also have a set piece specialist in Larsson and with big targets like Ibrah and Olaf Mellberg; Sweden could prove to be deadly on set pieces. I think Sweden gets full points against Ukraine, struggles vs France, but the England game is up for grabs.
Key Players: Hugo Lloris (GK), Karim Benzema (ST), Franck Ribery (M)
Expectations: France is one of the strongest teams in this tournament I think they are the outright best team in Group D. France has one of the strongest squads front to back, with the magnificent Lloris in goal, a very good backline with the likes of Evra controlling things, very strong midfield with Ribery and Nasri, and Benzema up front netting Les Bleus goals, I think the French are in for a very successful tournament and have a good chance of winning it all, and for sure winning Group D outright.
Key Players: Ashley Young (M), Scott Parker (M), Joe Hart (GK)
Expectations: What to say about England. From Rooney being an idiot and getting suspended in friendly and probably doing England in here for this tournament, England is going to need to look at Ashley Young to control games and dominate to have any chance of getting out of this group. Injuries have plagued England, starting with their backline. Gary Cahill is out after he bumped his jaw in friendlies and now it looks like Lescott will now be a starter. Terry played like an idiot for club side Chelsea last campaign and with his captaincy ripped away from him there’s no idea how he will act mentally during this tournament. In the midfield, Lampard is out due to injuries so alongside Young, England needs the constant disappointment Steven Gerrard to finally prove himself on an international level to help get England out of this group. I’m not sure where England is going to get their goals from, but if you’re an England fan you’ve got to hold a grudge against Wayne Rooney and his stupidity. England could make it out of this group, but they won’t make it far in this tournament.
Group D Winner: France Group D Runner-Up: Sweden
Follow on Twitter @C4geronz