Friday, 8 June 2012

Euro 2012: predictions and previews


Group A
Czech RepublicGreece, Russia
Bartosz Rainka, "Borussia Dortmund's striker is in his top form. There is a very successful Bundesliga season behind him (22 goals). During a friendly game against Andorra last Saturday he scored a wonderful overhead kick, one of the best goals ever for the national team. Poland are lucky enough to play in an rather easy group in comparison to others. This means Lewandowski has the chance of scoring few goals even if Poland doesn't qualify for the second round. Who knows, maybe this will turn out to be enough to become the top scorer of the tournament."
Group B
Luca Stacul, "It's time for Germany to win something. The "Loew generation" started to play great football in 2006 and never stopped, but has not achieved anything yet. Even if the German team is the youngest in the tournament, Loew's XI has gained a lot of experience during the last four to six years and finally seems ready. New talents like Mario Goetze, Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle ready to help the 'veterans'.Obviously there's no easy start for the Germans, but the "Group of Death" should force them to push themselves from the first match, which could be a positive factor in a shorter tournament like the Euros. The German problem is obviously Spain, but the world champions don't seem as hungry as they were before. Moreover, at the moment the quick, counter-attacking of Germany seems more dangerous than the possession game played by the Spaniards."

Cedric Roquette, "Germany and Spain are currently quoted as the best teams of the moment and they probably deserve it. But I think that Spain may be both tired and already satisfied with what they have won, and Germany's fabled ability to win tournaments has been hit by several big disappointments in recent years and their defence may be not good enough. Netherlands is a balanced team, full of talent in every department. We saw them as a very efficient team in the World Cup and have only improved since. Netherlands probably have their best team since 1988. It will be their year."
Tom Adams, "I expect Portugal to struggle and, though he is obviously the second best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo has been unable to replicate his prolific club form for his country, rather like Lionel Messi in fact. Portugal could well finish bottom of their group and it would be no surprise to see Ronaldo heading home early."
Group C
Luca Stacul, "The expectations in Italy are not as high as they have been in the past. Spain, Germany and Holland seem on another level and all the latest controversies have not been a boost for the fans at all. But there's still the sensation that this team has something to give because of the talent we missed in the last World Cup (two names: Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli). It feels like a 'make or break' tournament , totally unpredictable. The first match against Spain will be 90% the key for the whole Azzurri's campaign."
Republic of Ireland
Se├ín Fay, "You could give yourself palpitations if you compared Ireland player for player with, say, second opponents Spain, but the world champions may not fancy playing awkward Ireland either.  As Mark Twain once wrote:  "The best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some antagonist who doesn't do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn't prepared for him." Ireland will happily play the role of Euro 2012's unfamiliar swordsman in Poland, and rest assured the team will arrive in Poznan on Sunday ready for a fight.  With the players fit and ready, I guess the only thing left to say is: En garde!"
Igor Zelenitsyn, "They are not as strong as they were in the past when they didn't lose to anybody for years, but we need to understand that it was an exceptional period for Spain. It's hard to imagine that somebody can repeat what they did in the nearest future. Spain still have the best midfield among the European teams and that is the key to any big success. They are still able to deprive any opponent from possession and if you don't have the ball you don't score. Everybody knows what to do if they want to beat them but few teams are able to successfully park the bus. Other contenders like Germany and Netherlands are strong in attack, first and foremost, but I don't think that they have enough power to outplay Spain in the midfield."
Group D
Tony Mabert, "Few people in England can understand how or why their team enter this tournament as officially the sixth best team in world football and the fourth best in Europe. Expectations of the team's fortunes in a major championship must be at their lowest for three decades or more.  After an awful World Cup and not even reaching the last Euros, the acceptance that England simply aren't very good is beginning to sink in. But, with two wins out of two from new boss Roy Hodgson (what other country would lose their manager just months before a major finals?), there is at least the hope that England can build something new in Poland and Ukraine that will restore some pride in the national team."
Max Rinke, "Since France was runners-up in 2006 Les Bleus have hardly been big achievers. At the last Euros in Austria and Switzerland and in South Africa two years ago, when they caused such an incredible scandal, they fell short in the preliminary rounds with only one point to their name. But with Laurent Blanc on the sideline things have changed. It's about football and fun again. "Bad Boys" Frank Ribery and Patrice Evra are back in the line-up, every player seems perfectly integrated - no more  cliques like in 2010. If players like Florent Malouda, Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema and Ribery play with unity they can beat any team. The squad is ready to go, will play hard during the tournament and go deep into the knockout-rounds."

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