Like I said in my Euro2012 preview, things are about to get crazy. After an exhilarating first 2 weeks in the group stage of Euro2012, there have been some easy predictions as well as a ton of upsets. From the demise of favorites like Russia and the Dutch to the surprising successes of England and the Czech Republic, Euro2012 has not disappointed in fanfare. With four amazing matchups ahead in the quarterfinals of Euro2012, the soccer fans of the world have a lot to look forward to starting Thursday. Here are my reviews of the remaining teams and the predictions of who will move on to the semifinals. Feel free to debate what I predict because I love a good debate.
Even though I originally picked both of these teams to finish 3rd in their respective groups, they have made it to the quarterfinals exceeding not only mine, but most peoples expectations. Both of these teams lost their first matchup in the group stage and seemed to have one foot on the plane home before making remarkable turnarounds. The Czech’s got blasted in their first game 4-1 by Russia and they didn’t seem to have a chance in hell of recovering. Even without superstar midfielder, Tomas Rosicky, because of an Achilles injury, CR was able to handle Poland in their final game of the group stage, that they went on to win 1-0 and clinch first place in Group A. Through the first three games, including the Russia embarrassment, the Czech’s have shown their ability to control the ball with precision passing and solid ball handling. Portugal took a very similar path to that of the Czech Republic, but they did it in a much tougher group. After a hard fought battle with Euro2012 favorite, Germany, that resulted in a 1-0 loss, Portugal turned around their performance with an exciting back and forth 3-2 victory over Denmark and an impressive 2-1 win over the Dutch. The big question for Portugal going into the Cup was the quality of play that captain, Cristiano Ronaldo, would provide for his team. Without question, Ronaldo was one of the two best players, Messi being the other, in all of Europe during the regular season where he led Real Madrid to the top of La Liga. Unfortunately for Portugal, Ronaldo has found it hard to bring his regular season skills to the international level for the past decade. Well something has changed and Cristiano has found his missing skills and translated them to Euro2012. In the pivotal 3rd game of the group stage against the favored Dutch, Ronaldo had his best ever international match and single-handily brought Portugal to the quarterfinals. With Rosicky still a question mark for the CR and Ronaldo at top form, I find it hard to bet against Portugal in this matchup.
Prediction: Portugal wins 2 – 0
Germany was an obvious choice to make it to the quarters and unlike a lot of my other picks, I chose Greece finishing 2nd in their group correctly. This makes for an extremely intriguing matchup because the two teams play totally different styles of soccer. Germany is one of the clear front runners for Euro2012 and they sure looked the part through the group stage. Winning all three of their games and doing it with ease makes Germany a formidable matchup for anyone. Germany lost to Spain in the Euro2008 finals and now they are poised to make a run for the trophy. Veteran, Lukas Podolski, is playing as well as ever and Mario Gomez seems untouchable. Going into the Cup, there was a lot of speculation about whether Germany head coach, Joachim Low, should start veteran Lazio striker, Miroslav Klose, or sharp shooting Bayern Munich forward, Mario Gomez. Based on Gomez’s 3 group stage goals, I would say Low made the right decision. Even though Germany is a heavy favorite going into their quarterfinal matchup with the Euro2006 champions, Greece, they should not take this game lightly. Helped in part by the rule change stating that head-to-head matchups would trump goal differential, Greece’s victory over Russia proved to be the deciding factor in their progression to the quarters. Without any stand out superstar players, Greece portrays the exact definition of true team play. Giannis Fetfatzidis is an exciting young midfielder, but without the supporting cast around him Greece would not have beaten Russia. Greece arguably has the best overall team defense left in the competition and if Germany messes around too much they might be the next powerhouse team defeated. I think Greece will keep it close for majority of the contest but when push comes to shove Germany will prevail in the late minutes.
Prediciton: Germany wins 2-0
In my mind, this is the best quarterfinal matchup. Spain is going for history by trying to become the first ever team to win Eurocup, World cup and Eurocup consecutively. They are by far the most exciting team to watch on the field with unbelievable midfield play from Andres Iniesta and Xavi completely controlling the tempo of every game. Even with Barcelona stud, David Villa, out for the Cup, Spain still has the best attack the game has to offer. On top of an offense led by Chelsea’s Torres, Spain has a shut down defense that every team fears facing. Defensive midfielder Xabi Alonso does it all, from passing to defending to even being able to find the back of the net, Alonso is definitely one of the classiest players in the world. After easily winning Group C, Spain looks at a more than formidable French team that clearly underachieved in their group stage. The French could have won their group and avoided playing the defending champions but came up with a lackluster performance against an already eliminated Swedish team. Now France must face a team they were more than likely going to run into in the semifinals if they did prevail over Sweden one round earlier. Led by Real Madrid forward, Karim Benzema, the French have a solid attack accompanied by a brick wall defense. Philippe Mexes and Patrice Evra shutdown anyone and anything that comes their way and even Spain’s offense will struggle with it. With all that being said, the way the French came out flat against an undermanned Sweden and with Spain being the absolute epitome of classy soccer, I am going to have to go with the defending champions to pull out the win in this epic battle.
Prediction: Spain wins 1-0
Scones vs Cannolis. Earl Grey Tea vs Limoncello. The Queen vs Presidente della Repubblica Italiana. This game has a lot riding on it and all of the world will be watching. England has already exceeded everyone’s expectations, including my British friends, by making it through the Group stage. Now I know I picked them to make it through to the quarters, but I was definitely making that my upset pick. Who would have thought that they would win the group with France and Sweden in it? Even without captain and superstar, Wayne Rooney, England was able to tie France and beat Sweden in the first two games of the group stage. Rooney returned for the third game of the group stage and he didn’t wait long to make his presence felt as he had the lone goal in a 1-0 win over the surprisingly feisty Ukraine. Without Rooney, England would not stand a chance against the dirty and talented Italian club but with him present they definitely have a chance. Italy lives and dies with their attack. Always a good defensive team, Italy relies on their young hot headed phenom, Mario Balotelli, and the AC Milan attack starter, Antonio Cassano, to lead an above average attack. Giorgio Chiellini is one of the world’s best defenders and Gianluigi Buffon will go down as one of the greatest goalies of all time. Even with those credentials, Italy still has a lot of holes to fill on their team. With one of the oldest teams in the entire Cup, this might be the last Eurocup for a lot of Italy’s players. Italy is good but I just feel that England has some great momentum on their side.
Prediction: England wins 2-1
My predictions are in and I challenge you to debate any of them. I may have only had 6 out of the 8 quarterfinal teams picked correctly, but I feel pretty solid about my choices leading to the semis.