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2012 UEFA European Football Championship

ImageThe NBA Finals, the NHL Finals, the halfway point of the MLB season and NFL camps starting up has every sports fan in America locked to their televisions every night.  For the rest of the world there is only one important sporting event happening over the next few weeks and it’s Euro 2012.  Outside of the World Cup, this is the most important tournament the world’s most popular sport has to offer.  I can’t explain why soccer hasn’t taken off in America, but all I know is that while have I have been watching the qualifying matches and worldwide news coverage I have been mesmerized.  This will be the 14th ever Eurocup and in the first 13 of them, 9 different countries have taken home the trophy.  It is truly anyone’s to win.  Of course you have your perennial favorites like Spain and Germany, but every tournament has had their dark horse’s that seem to squeak by the big dogs.  The Eurocup is a 16 team tournament that is played every four years and starting in 2016 will become a 24 team event.  Here’s a look at how the Sports Debaters feel the tournament will play out through the group stage.

GROUP A

ImageRUSSIA: After making it to the Euro 2008 semifinals, Russia looks poised to make it through what is considered the weakest of the 4 groups.  Captain Andrey Arshavin, who helped lead Russia in ’08, will be the key contributor for a team looking to bring home their first ever Eurocup to Russia (The USSR won in 1960).  Russia is considered one of the more up-tempo teams in the tournament consistently applying pressure on their opponents.  Look for Aleksandr Kerzhakov to lead the attack as Russia’s lone striker and with the sub-par teams in this group you can expect him to score often.  Group Result – Win group and advance

ImageGREECE:  The surprise winners of Eurocup ’04 are looking to regain the respect they garnered almost a decade ago.  Unlike Russia, Greece is a more defensive oriented team that rely on their midfielders to stay back a lot.  Greece’s 21-year old phenom Giannis Fetfatzidis looks to expand upon his 1.7 shots on goal average that he accumulated during the Euro qualifiers.  To many, Giannis has been dubbed Greece’s Messi.     Now I doubt he is as good as Messi, but to even be named with a legend like that means that he is someone to be feared.  Group Result – Finish second in group and advance

ImageCZECH REPUBLIC:  The Czech Republic is lucky that they have Poland in their group, because it should mean at least one win in the group round.  The Czech Republic had a hard time making it through the qualifiers and almost missed their bid to the tournament, but I feel that they were not playing up to their fullest potential.  Tomas Rosicky is a phenomenal midfielder that has been plagued with injuries over the past year.  If Rosicky can get his health to 100% and Petr Cech can perform like one of the best goalies in the world, which he is, then CR has a chance to maybe steal one from Russia or Greece.  Group Result – Won’t advance through the group round

ImagePOLAND:  I am sure that the world appreciates Poland being the co-host of Euro 2012, but if it wasn’t for their automatic bid for being so, then they probably would be spectators like their fans.  Up until Euro ’08, Poland had never even qualified for the tournament and in ’08 they didn’t make it past the group stage which is exactly what will happen this year.  Poland striker, Robert Lewandowski, will provide a spark for Poland but Coach Franciszek Smuda and his team of young unknowns will find themselves glad they don’t have to travel home…because they are already going to be there.  Group Result – Won’t advance through the group round

GROUP B

ImageNETHERLANDS:  Although most people are picking Germany to win what is known as the “group of death,” I feel that the Netherlands is going to come out on top.  The Euro ’88 Champions are ready to bring the trophy back home with what might be their best team ever.  Led by Arsenal superstar, Robin van Persie, and team captain at midfield, Mark Van Bommel, the Netherlands are a team that everyone fears playing.  They have arguably the best offense out of any team in the tournament alongside Spain.  After making it to the 2010 World Cup Finals and eventually losing to Spain, the Netherlands are looking to win it all and their chance is better than ever.  Group Result – Win group and advance

 

ImageGERMANY:  Many people are picking Germany to win it all this year.  After losing in the Euro ’08 Finals to Spain, Germany will look to win their first Eurocup since 1996.  Lead by Miroslav Klose, Germany has absolutely no weaknesses in any position.  Captain and defensive superstar, Phillip Lahm, shuts down anyone that approaches him while Real Madrid’s young and talented Mesut Ozil is nearly untouchable in the open field.  Bayern Munich’s Mario Gomez might get the start over Klose, but if not look for him to make a big impact off the bench.  Look for Germany to attack hard a defend strong as they try to prove to the world that they are superior to Spain’s talents.  Group Result – Finish second in group and advance

ImagePORTUGAL:  In any other group, Portugal would be making it through the group stage to the quarterfinals, but unluckily for them, they share a group with Germany and Netherlands.  One of my favorite players, as well as one of the most famous players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo will do everything he can from the wing to help his team win.  Manchester United’s, Nani, fills out what is without question the best wing combination in the game with Ronaldo.  Unfortunately for Portugal they have a huge gap in the striker position with both Hugo Almedia and Helder Postiga being below average for teams in this tournament.  Group Result – Won’t advance through the group round

 

 

Image

DENMARK:  Denmark will play 3 games in the group round and they will lose all of them.  The 3 teams that Denmark have to face are all far better than they are.  Denmark did not even qualify for Euro ’08 but they are celebrating their 20th anniversary of their Euro ’92 Championship.  Their Captain and star defensive player, Daniel Agger, will be able to stop a lot of what comes his way but outside of him Denmark doesn’t have much else.  The playmaking skills of Ajax starlet Christian Eriksen will provide some offense but not near enough to handle the powerhouses in this group.  Group Result – Won’t advance through the group round

GROUP C

ImageSPAIN:  The Euro ’08 and World Cup ’10 Champions are looking to be the first ever team to win Euro-World-Euro consecutively.  Spain has two of the best midfielders in recent memory in Andres Iniesta and Xavi.  They pass, they shoot and they defend better than most people in the game.  Even though Spain’s star forward Fernando Torres has seemed a little off lately and David Villa is out of the tournament with an injury, Spain still has amazing support with Silva, Liorente, Fabregas, Mata and Pedro.  Expect Spain to coast through the group round and don’t expect them to stop there.  Group Result – Win group and advance

ImageITALY:  After their 2006 World Cup Championship, Italy has been eliminated from the Euro ’08 tournament in the quarterfinals and then they were eliminated in World Cup ’10 in the group stage.  I expect Italy to pull themselves out of this downward spiral this year mainly because of the fact that they have much inferior teams Croatia and Ireland in their group.  Manchester City’s, Mario Balotelli, has the potential to get red-carded on a daily basis with his temper, but if Mario can keep his cool then Italy should have no problem winning at least 2 of 3 games in the group stage.  Although 34 years of age, Gianluigi Buffon still is considered a premier goalie and he will help Italy make a run for their first Euro title since 1968.  Group Result – Finish second in group and advance

ImageIRELAND:  They haven’t qualified for a major tournament since the World Cup in 2002, but I feel that they still have a slight step up on Croatia.  Lead by veteran, 31-year-old Robbie Keane, Ireland play a slow-paced game that relies heavily on the long pass.  Seasoned defender John O’Shea commands his corner very well and supplies Ireland with a decently solid defense.  Unfortunately for Ireland, you need a lot more than defense to win and outside of Keane they really don’t have much.  They won’t be able to match up with Italy or Spain.  Group Result – Won’t advance through the group round

 

ImageCROATIA:  Luka Modric is a stud…the rest of Croatia are duds.  Sure they made the quarterfinals in Euro ’08, but that doesn’t mean anything about their team this year.  Croatia runs a very face paced game that can expose Croatia’s back line and make it extremely difficult for them to stop opponents from scoring.  Croatia’s porous defense is the exact reason why I am picking them to finish last in this group.  I can’t wait to see the Croatia vs Spain matchup because I expect Spain to score a minimum of 5 goals.  Group Result – Won’t advance through the group round

 

GROUP D

ImageFRANCE:  The Euro ’00 winners are going to look to bring their young a rejuvenated team another title.  Led by forward Karim Benzema and supported by classy midfielders Samir Nasri and Franck Ribery, France has a nearly unstoppable attack.  They also sport an amazing defense with Patrice Evra and Philippe Mexes shutting down everyone.  France, like Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, have very little weaknesses and will exploit their below average group on both the offensive and defensive ends.  I expect France to make a lot of noise throughout the tournament and I can assure you that no one wants to run into them.  Group Result – Win group and advance

Image ENGLAND:  England’s path to the quarterfinals will not be an easy one.  England’s star player, Wayne Rooney, will miss the first two games of the group stage and Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard will both be absent from the tournament.  A lot of analysts are picking Sweden to make it through over England, but I feel that with the extremely talented midfielders that they have in Theo Walcott, Steven Gerrard and Ashley Young, England has just enough to survive until Rooney comes back and dominates.  Manchester City’s Joe Hart should shut down pretty much everything that comes at him throughout the tourney.  Group Result –  Finish second in group and advance

ImageSWEDEN:  Still looking for their first ever Euro Championship, Sweden will have a lot of work to do to make this their year.  Sweden does have one of the best shooters in the world in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and will look to use him more often than not.  They have an extremely organized team and seem to do all of the technical stuff really well.  Sebastian Larsson seems to be involved in every goal that Sweden has, whether it is him scoring or just playing one of his masterful passes.  Sweden is definitely not skilled enough to take down France, but with Rooney out they may have a shot at taking down England.  Group Result –  Won’t advance through the group round

ImageUKRAINE:  Like Poland, the Ukraine are very lucky to be the co-hosts of Euro ’12 because they wouldn’t be playing in it otherwise.  Andriy Shevchenko is the greatest Ukranian player of all time and he could possibly be hanging up his boots after Euro 2012.  Outside of ‘Sheva’ the Ukraine really does not have much else.  They play a very traditional by-the-book style of soccer which prevents them from being blown out, but they do not score very often.  The Ukraine hasn’t qualified for the last two Eurocup’s and they can expect to be viewing from their couches before the tourney goes on too much longer.  Group Result – Won’t advance through the group round

Now that you have read our predictions for Euro 2012, all that’s left to do is watch starting Friday, June 8th.  If you are not a soccer fan and yet you made it through this whole article then that means you have a slight interest, so I suggest you listen to me and watch some of the games because your mind will be blown like mine has.

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7 responses

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    August 8, 2014 at 9:05 AM

  2. Steve, England will definitely have a hard time and if they were in Group B they would have no chance to make it out of the group stage. Germany is a great team but I have to go with the Netherlands to win it all this year. Russia has a very good team and they absolutely manhandled the Czech Republic today, but we will wait until they have a formidable opponent to truly judge them.

    June 8, 2012 at 6:32 PM

  3. Steven Berke

    Not a bad article for a yank!

    Hard to argue with any of your predictions. England may scrape through the group but no-one here is expecting much more than that. The manager has chosen to leave behind some of our best players in Ferdinand, Richards and Carrick. Add to that Rooney’s suspension and the injuries to Lampard, Barry and Cahill and it doesn’t look good.

    Hate to say it but fancy the Germans to go all the way. France and Holland also look very strong and of course Spain will be in the mix.

    Russia are the dark horse of the tournament and could see them making the final.

    My money goes on the Germans to win and Benzema top scorer.

    June 8, 2012 at 4:41 PM

  4. Paul Horowitz

    Love the Dutch!!!!

    June 8, 2012 at 11:14 AM

  5. Los

    As a soccer fan, I appreciate this blog. Good predictions. I agree 100% that the Netherlands are going to win it all.

    June 8, 2012 at 7:52 AM

  6. I agree with you that this tournament will be extremely exciting. However, the problem with soccer is that 1 or 2 goals every hour and a half leave the American public, who loves the touchdown, homerun and three pointer, wanting more action. There is little appreciation for the intricate skill involved in soccer. Soccer suffers the same fate as hockey in America, but has even less scoring. Maybe the Eurocup will turn the American public onto the sport, but I’m afraid if all previous World Cups, in which the U.S. actually has a team, haven’t been able to do so, well this probably won’t either…

    June 7, 2012 at 10:55 PM

    • Yes – what this country wants are a few minor adjustments to soccer rules to “Americanize” them. Maybe like allowing tackling anywhere within 10 yards of the Center line, or clothlining anyone who is within the penalty box area, or even letting defenders link arms to set up a wall play. Who knows – once there are a few more concussions and broken bones, it might get some more air time.

      June 8, 2012 at 3:40 PM

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