We are less than 24 hours away from the kick off from the Euros, arguable the best football tournament in the world! You might say...better than the World Cup! I would argue yes, because unlike the World Cup you will not see any Brazil v North Korea games! Arguably the "worst" group stage game might be Poland v Greece and that involves a host and former champion! So let us look at each group and who I see winning the entire tourney.
Poland - Co Host nation who has not enjoyed international football success since the 1980s when the likes of Boniek and co won the bronze at the 1982 World Cup (beating Les Bleus in the 3rd place game...). Since then Polska has fallen on hard times. Much has to do with the fact some of their best players play for...Germany! Think how different if the likes of Podolski and Klose played for their native Poland. Polska will draw from the home crowd and their top notch goalkeepers. Best case scenario: advance to knock out stage. Probable scenario: In a quietly difficult group I fear the host will finish last.
Greece - I am still amazed when we call the Greeks, former European Cup champions, but they are! Greece has been quiet since then, but quietly showing up for tournaments. The Greeks finished top of their qualifying group, ahead of Croatia. They are not the same side that won the Euros, playing defensive football, but do not look for Barcelona like passing either. It will be interesting to see if the Greeks can get off to a good start against Co-Host Poland. Best case scenario: advance to knock out stage. Probable scenario: Get result against Poland but finish 3rd.
|Ready for duty for Mother Russia|
Best case scenario: another run to the semi finals. Probable scenario: Get to 1/4 finals.
Czech Republic - The last hurrah? Cech, Rosicky and Baros are making their last stand! And they all have it in their boots for one more run...The first game will be key facing off against cold war rival - Russia. The winner will determine who finishes first of the group. Cech being a newly crowned Champions League winner will go a long way for his confidence. Best case scenario: a run to the semi finals. Probable scenario: Get to 1/4 finals.
The group of Death!
Germany - World Cup semi finalist and European cup finalist from 4 years ago, they head into this tournament as the odds of favorite. With the likes of Ozil, Mueller, Khedira, Podoloski, Gotze, Klose to name a few, Die Mannschaft will be loaded for bear. Germany is always expected to do well at international tournaments and this one is no exception. However they are in the group of death and have to start the tournament against Portugal. The defense is a bit shaky and I am not sure who will provide wide play other than Lahm. Also, does Klose have another tournament in his boots? I certainty do not trust Gomez up front. Best case scenario: Champions. Probable scenario: At least a 1/2 final...
Holland - The World Cup runner up has no easy task in this group. At least they get the "easy" game to start facing the Danes. Oranje will head into the tournament with a very similar look as 2 years ago. The one variable will be RVP. Will he bring with him his scoring boots from Arsenal? If he does, the Dutch can ride him to go deep in the tournament. I look for Van Bommel and De Jong to continue to figuratively and literally destroy everything in the midfield. Robben will look to have a bounce back from a disappointing Champions League finals, and I do think RVP will have a solid tournament. Best case scenario: Champions. Probable scenario: At least a 1/2 final.
Denmark - Take about a tough draw. The Danes are always a quiet team at tournaments, they even won one of these! But you can always expect the Danes to have a solid organization and play, to give someone trouble and to get to the knock out stages before falling to a bigger nation. The likes of Bendtner and Aggar will have a large mountain to climb if they are to emerge from this group. I do not think they will be embarrassed, could easily draw all three games and even take out a Portugal, but I cannot see the scenario where they take the second spot in the group. Best case scenario: find a way to 1/4 finals. Probable scenario: 3rd place in the group.
|I think I see a striker over there!|
Spain - Spain is attempting the impossible, win three straight major titles. Can they do it? Had they not suffered some tough injuries I would say maybe, but now I am not sure. The biggest is Puyol. The crazy haired center back will be dearly missed. Not only for his talent but his leadership. Ramos will most likely slot in the center shouldering the central defending with Pique. On paper there should not be too much of a drop off, but at this level of competition I think it will coming back to haunt Spain. The other concern is up front. With Villa out, Spain will look to Torres to rekindle his winning touch or leverage Llorente who was a beast for Bilbao this season. But neither striker is Villa, a crafty striker who is perfect in the ticky ticka passing of Spain. Without Villa teams have discovered the way to beat Spain - let them have possession, park the bus and look to hit on the counter. If they cannot spring a striker behind you, you are safe. Torres is not the striker he was a few years back, so that threat is not there. Granted this is easier said than done. But there are chinks in the armor. Best case scenario: Repeat as Champions. Probable scenario - 1/2 finals.
Italy - Injuries and controversy, what else is new for the Italians heading into a tournament! However will both be too much to over come for the Azzurri? After a terrible World Cup, the Italians will be looking to redeem themselves at the Euros. Unfortunately the injuries to the likes of Rossi will prove difficult to overcome. Much of the success of Italy will depend on the mercurial Balotelli. Which player shows up? The world class striker or the world class jackass? I have a feeling it will be the former, he had a terrible end to the club season with Manchester City and will want to show on the biggest stage what he is capable of. Best case scenario: 1/2 finals. Probable scenario: will battle with Croatia to get out of group.
Croatia - They're back! Back to a major tournament after missing the last World Cup. Look for Modric and company to rally around their manager Bilic and his swan song as he announced he would leave after the tournament regardless of the out come. The Croats have the fortunate of starting the tournament against Ireland, if they can get the full 3 points they will be in a strong position as they take on Italy in the second game. I could see a situation where Croatia gets the full 3pts, faces an Italian team that lost against Spain, draws in that game and heads into the final game just needing a draw against Spain who might already be through. Best case scenario: 1/2 finals. Probable scenario: sneak past Italy to 1/4 finals.
|I can't wait to get back to real footy with Golden Balls and Landycakes|
France - Ah Les Bleus, last two tournaments I started out and wrote out scenarios on paper and each time I found a way of getting France to the finals...shocking. This time is no different. But unlike the last two times I think that they might actually have a shot. Why? Blanc not Domenech! But the reality is the following, France just need to WIN one game and then we can figure out the rest. They are riding a decent run over the past 2 years, with victories over the likes of England, Germany and Brazil. But they also struggled against Albania and Luxembourg over that same time span. So which France will show up? Best case scenario: 1/2 final. Probable scenario: Get a win and find a way out of the group stages to the 1/4 final.
|At least we don't have to cohabit this summer|
Sweden - The Swedes will do their usual, play solid football, get out of the groups and then fade away! This team is much more dangerous than what little coverage they are getting. With the likes of Ibra and Elmander they could cause some teams (see France) problems up front with their size and power. They have a veteran midfield and defense led by the likes of Kallstrom and Mellberg. The Vikings are not to be overlooked and starting off against Ukraine could prove the spring board needed to get to the next round. Best case scenario: 1/4 finals. Probable scenario: 1/4 finals.
Ukraine - When this pair of co-hosts was selected it was one of the weaker host pairings, even Japan - South Korea was stronger and we know the officials made sure South Korea had a good showing! Unfortunately for Poland and Ukraine, I do not think that is in the cards this time around. Ukraine is also heading into this with their best player in the twilight of his career - Shevchenko. However he and fellow Ukrainian grey beard Tymoshchuk can still provide some danger on the pitch. Playing on their home soil might also be the inspiration needed for a result. Unfortunately I just do not see how they get out of this group. Best case scenario - 1/4 finals. Probable scenario: 3rd place or 4th place.
Here are the Frog's predictions:
- Holland over Russia - Van Basten comes out of stands to show 1988 volley
- Spain over Sweden - Spain find a way to get past Ibra
- Germany over Czech Rep - No golden goal like 1996 but same result
- Croatia over France - This time there is no Thuram and a miracle brace like 1998
- Holland over Spain - revenge for World Cup 2010 this time Robben doesn't gag away his chances.
- Germany over Croatia - last meeting at major tourney was the end of a German generation now the same for Croatia
- Holland over Germany....Oranje find a way to defeat their hated rivals. RVP scores in the first minute and then Holland decided to toy with Germany...oh wait we already have seen this scenario. But this time Van Bommel and De Jong pummel Ozil and company into submission. Jup Oranje!!!!
|This is for 1974 and that WWII thingy...|