Putting disappointment behind them – Group BPosted: June 6, 2012
When every international tournament comes around, there always seems to be a dreaded “Group of Death,” containing some of the best teams in the world, resulting in progression being that much more difficult, but also some great games (hopefully) for viewers to enjoy. Euro 2012 offers Spain and Italy in the same group, as well as England and France; but Group B will pit Germany vs Netherlands vs Portugal vs Denmark. Rather tough, I do suppose.
Germany and Netherlands provide two of the favourites to win the entire thing, while also being (both losing) finalists for the last European Championships and World Cup respectively. Portugal have stars such as Pepe, Nani, and Cristiano Ronaldo, and Denmark could be a good pick for ‘dark horses’ of the tournament.
Odds – 3/1
Germany will be desperate for glory having not won an international tournament since 1996. Many of their players have also endured a lot of disappointment in the last four years, with a Euro 2008 loss in the final to Spain, not to mention Bayern Munich’s two Champions League final losses, in 2010 and 2012.
Germany’s last World Cup campaign will have given their supporters plenty of reasons to be hopeful for Euro 2012. The emergence of the likes of Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil, coupled with Bastian Schweinsteiger dominating midfields against the likes of England and Argentina, is only the tip of the iceberg for Germany.
To go with this, they’ve also got Dortmund youngster Mario Gotze, quickly developing into one of the most exciting talents in the Bundesliga. Another German Mario, this time Gómez, has been on fire for Champions League finalists Bayern Munich this year, with 41 goals in 52 appearances for the Bavarians. The legendary striker Miroslav Klose has also found new life at Lazio this season, hitting the back of the net 16 times while helping the Romans to a 4th place finish in Serie A, higher than they’ve been in some time.
Despite their competitive form being perfect (including conceding only 7 goals while qualifying for Euro 2012,) their friendly form has had its downs as well as ups. Recently, they fell to the sword of the Swiss in a somewhat incredible game that ended 5-3 to Switzerland. Last February, France visited Bremen and conquered the home side 2-1. These results show that the Germans aren’t unbeatable at times, although these times have been only in friendly matches of late.
Odds – 13/2
Between them, Germany and the Netherlands dropped a total of three points in qualifying for the finals. Those three missing points came in the Oranje’s final match day loss away to Sweden, when their position at the top of the table had already been secured. Euro ’88 saw the Dutchmen lift the only trophy of their history, and after coming so close to the World Cup two years ago, they’ll be gunning at the chance to do some damage in Poland and Ukraine.
Interestingly, last November, Holland and Germany played in a friendly. The Germans came out on top convincingly, winning the game 3-0. Since then, their form has continued as mixed. Beating England with a last minute goal in Wembley was certainly music to the ears of their fans, but since qualification was secured they also lost to Bulgaria on home soil. More recently though, they destroyed a depleted Northern Ireland side 6-0 without getting out of first gear.
Similar to Germany, the Oranje have an embarrassment of riches to choose from in midfield and attacking positions. Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart, and Ibrahim Afellay will load the rifles for Robin van Persie, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and maybe youngter Luuk de Jong to shoot. Van Persie and Huntelaar scored a combined 81 goals between them in the 2011/2012 season. Scintillating
Some of the finest holding midfielders in the world also don the orange shirt – Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong will no doubt keep things tidy in the centre of the park, with Heitinga, Bouma, and Mathijsen holding the defence strong.
Despite Germany putting them to shame last November, the Netherland’s competitive form has been excellent, with nine wins out of ten games in the qualifying process, making it no wonder why they’re third favourites to win the whole thing.
Odds – 18/1
Knowing they should have done better eight years ago, Portugal enter Euro 2012 eager to make amends after failing last time round. They’re far from favourites for the competition, and could easily bow out at the group stages, but Ronaldo and company will not accept that fate without a good fight.
After finally managing to conquer Barcelona, his priorities turn towards his national team, and Portugal’s bid to become European Champions for the first time ever. Can they succeed? With Ronaldo confident and on form like he has been all season, they’ve always got a chance. The area of their play that will need to outdo themselves should Portugal win the tournament is the defence, however. Yes, Pepe is a good player, but he isn’t without his flaws. Much like his club teammate Fabio Coentrao, he can sometimes lose concentration and his positioning can be misjudged, sometimes resulting in the concession of goals. Jose Bosingwa and Ricardo Carvalho’s absences also mean that Bruno Alves and Joao Pereira make up the rest of the back four.
Portugal are one of those strange teams that can look like one of the best teams in the world one day, and one of the most dire and worst a week later. They reached the finals via the playoff route, where they overcame Bosnia and Herzegovina 6-2 on aggregate. Quite a decent scoreline, yes, but all eight goals were scored in the one game, the second leg. The first leg between the two was a drab affair, in which Portugal didn’t look like they’d make much of an impression in Poland and Ukraine.
They do have a wildcard option all the time though – something badly needed for such a “one man team.” Twenty year old Benfica striker Nélson Oliveira has already played his way into the national team, earning three caps to date. Should Ronaldo fail to deliver, while Hugo Almeida and Helder Postiga remain uninspiring, head coach Paulo Bento could call upon the lively, tall forward to give something different to the team.
One of the major talking points that will follow Portugal and Group B opponents Denmark this European Championships is that the two teams were both in the same qualifying group. It was the Danes who finished top of the group, three points ahead of their Portugese counterparts. In both games between the two, the home team prevailed, Portugal winning 3-1 in Porto, while Denmark beat them 2-1 in Copenhagen.
Odds – 80/1
The surprise 1992 winners of this very competition (after winning only two games at the finals, might I add) return to the European Championships after failing to qualify for the 2008 edition of the tournament. Denmark have decent balance in their squad, with captain Daniel Agger and Roma star Simon Kjaer in the centre of their defence. Christian Eriksen has the potential to be one of the highlights of the entire tournament, even if Denmark fail to progress from the group stages. Up top, Nicklas Bendtner and Dennis Rommedahl, with assistance from Michael Krohn-Dehli, will have the duty of providing the goals.
But as far as their decent balance goes, the overall quality of the squad just can’t match that of their Group B counterparts. It of course isn’t an impossibility for them to advance from the group stages, but it would be a surprise for sure. Along with Ireland probably, they’ll be the “just maybe”s of Euro 2012.
One thing going in Denmark’s favour is that they are quite gifted at beginning attacking moves from deep and moving forward as a unit. Fullbacks Jacobsen and Poulsen help with this, but in a recent friendly versus Australia, Daniel Agger was the one to rip open his opponents’ defence with his run that resulted in him winning a penalty. The whole move was a fantastic team effort, showing that Denmark do have that burst when they need it. The real task though will be executing these moves against Mark van Bommel, Nigel de Jong, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Sami Khedira.
Balls Out In Public group prediction: