Change your browser!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Euro 2012: Who Will Be There or There About's?

With the 2012 European Championships just around the corner, it's that time again where sixteen European nations rate their chances of international football glory. In this article, I'm going to rate the chances of the potential winners, potential shockers and England.

Potential Winners
The runners-up of the last World Cup, Holland have one of the most exciting squads in World Football and after the pain of recent years in tournaments the Dutch will be looking to turn their fortunes around and bag the European Championships and hit top form heading into the World Cup in two years time.

The only things standing in Holland's way is a tough group going up against not only Germany but a solid Denmark and a potentially tricky Portugal that and the Holland squad's tendency to implode if it's not going right. However, it seemed that wasn't an issue in the last World Cup and with Robin Van Persie having a superb season with Arsenal scoring over thirty goals, if he could carry that form into the Euros alongside players like Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and the young protégé Afellay, Holland could be in for the win. Even back-up players like Huntelaar and Van Der Vaart add to Holland's already stunning attack.

Alongside one of the most formidable forward lines they also have a defensive rock with Nigel De Jong and Mark Van Bommell being a very solid defensive midfield partnership who wont allow teams to play.

Holland are my personal pick for the tournament due to their squad's seemingly endless talents however, they could be upstaged by several other nations who could too be destined for European success.

Germany always seem to have a chance at any major tournament, in the last ten years they've finished in the top three in four of the last five tournaments. Their amazingly talented young squad sparkled at the World Cup, going out in the semi-finals to eventual winners Spain. With an almost identical squad to the one that played so well two years ago, you have to admit that Germany are up there with Holland as favourites to win the tournament also.

The reliability of Klose who loves scoring in major tournaments as much as Robin Van Persie loves scoring alongside the talented Mesut Ozil and then another youngster who looks promising in Mario Gotze, Germany too have the squad to win the Euros.

Much like the Dutch, the tough group may hurt Germany although it will more than likely be settled in their second game against Holland who may finish in the top of the group and Germany must be favourites with the Netherlands to qualify but this team has come up short in recent tournaments towards the end and that could happen again depending on their draw in the knock-out round.

However, Germany will be thrilling to watch with the attacking likes of Klose, Gomez, Gotze, Ozil, Podolski etc. and then the defensive quality of Hummels and Boateng with Neuer behind them in goal, Germany will not only get goals, they'll be hard to beat also.

The current World & European Champions Spain are a completely different side than the one that used to be the underachievers of tournament football. Their football is beautiful to watch but is it starting to wear thin?

With most of the squad made up of Barcelona and Real Madrid players, two teams who embrace the football philosophy of Spain themselves both beaten in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, you have to worry that they may come up short in this tournament too.

Spain's main advantage in the last two tournaments have been their two in-form strikers David Villa and Fernando Torres who have gone into the tournaments in stunning form domestically. With David Villa out injured and questionable form from Torres for Chelsea this season could harm they're goalscoring as seen when they lost to England in a friendly late last year.

However, with Torres unhappy at Chelsea and needing to prove himself, it could be that his form does hit a good run during the tournament and Fernando Llorente also looking to prove himself as he may be getting a move to the Premiership or at least away from Athletic Bilbao.

One thing's for sure is that Spain have the quality to be in the last four, whether they can go all the way against teams like Holland and Germany is questionable.

Potential Shockers
The French have been very disappointing in the last two tournaments. Two points over the last two tournaments and bottom of the group stages both times France have failed to sparkle like they did in 1998, 2000 and even 2006.

However under Laurent Blanc they've rebooted and are favourites to take Group D, with strikers like Karim Benzema who's been in fine form for Real Madrid, Olivier Giroud who's been in fine form for Montpellier, two strikers who have just won the domestic titles of the countries they play in. Behind them, Ribery and Nasri can always be threats and the great seasons of Hatem Ben Arfa and Cabaye at Newcastle is also a good sign for France and they also have the defensive midfield qualities of Yann M'Vila if he is fit.

Their only weakness if their tendency to also self-destruct in major tournaments as the last two have shown. They also have a bit of a shaky defence with Mexes and Rami, however, Laurent Koscielny could easily be picked ahead of either after his great season at Arsenal which inspired them to third place.

Out of the two co-hosts, I feel Poland have the better chance of going further. Home advantage and some names like goalkeeper Woijciech Szczesny who is mainly reliable and a hot-prospect in Robert Lewandowski of Borussia Dortmund could see them get to a Quarter Final at least and if lucky could shock a few better teams.

The Italians were poor at the last World Cup, crashing out at the group stage despite being holders, however, being Italy they always have a chance at going far. The problem seems to be their old squad, although most of it comes from the Unbeatable Juventus team, most of it is over thirty and even a few of their eldest players are Free Agents after being released by their clubs. Depending on how well they can contain Croatia and even Ireland they might be able to get out of the group, but the age of their squad which couldn't get out of the group stages two years ago really hinders them.

EDIT: After looking at the squad it seems I have seen the wrong Italian squad and some of the players referenced aren't in the actual squad, meaning comments on age are inaccurate. Even so, Italy I believe may struggle to get out of Group C.

What of Portugal also? They almost did it eight years ago in their own back yard but were beaten by a defensive Greece but with Cristiano Ronaldo there is the potential not only for flair but for goals. Alongside him is Manchester United's Nani who has the potential to be deadly and gives Ronaldo a quality not too distant from the one he regularly receives at club level with Madrid, that makes him second best only to Lionel Messi as the World's Best Footballer.

The only issue for Portugal is their group, with Holland and Germany expected to go through and their other opponent being Denmark, a nation who pipped them to automatic qualification in the Qualifiers it could be that Portugal finish bottom of their group as easy as they could win it. The factor of their success is not just keeping their opponents out but making sure Ronaldo has a much better tournament than two years ago where he was very lacklustre.

Finally, England. This seems to be the first major tournament of my lifetime where England are entering without a delusional patriotic view that we shall win it, a view I share. England wont win it. There's simply too many teams better than them, all of which (except probably most of the shockers) have been mentioned before. Wayne Rooney and perhaps Joe Hart and Ashley Cole are the best players England have (but even Cole is ageing) and Rooney is probably the only player who could walk into a Barcelona or Real Madrid team seeing as Hart is not better than Casillas and maybe on the same level of Valdes and Cole's age may hinder him.

So with Rooney suspended for two games, it becomes incredibly hard to attack teams and get the same passing rhythm going that Rooney can conduct so easily for club and country. Roy Hodgson is a very good international manager and he will ensure England are hard to beat and the defensive Greece model maybe our best hope for our two Rooney-less games against France and Sweden to try and get success.

Personally, a Quarter-Final place is a good triumph for England and with the probability of Spain or Italy to follow or if not one of those a tricky Croatian and should they get through pumped Ireland side in their way of a semi-final place, England probably will be back on the plane at the same time as usual. Even if they did manage to beat Spain in a friendly last year.

However, the one to watch is definitely Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. If he is selected it will be good to see if he cuts it on the international stage as well as he has breaking into the Arsenal team this season. It could be he features more than thought with England's midfield troubles, losing Lampard and Barry and now potentially Parker at any time, it will be nice to see if 'The Ox' as he is known can be one of the young stars of the tournament even if England can't win it.

No comments:

Post a Comment