Euro 2012 will go a long way to giving us a real look into the contenders for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil. Minus the other South American giants (Argentina and Uruguay), The Mexicans, and miracle of miracles the USA the only hope to steal Brazil’s party of the century is going to come out of these 16 European countries. The final 4 in particular are my picks for the favorites heading across the “pond” to the mystique and beauty of the Amazon. Click thru for our game-by-game breakdown of Euro 2012.
By many folks estimates the weakest of the groups. Poland has the luxury of playing its games at its capital home stadium and home base. Russia and Czech Republic are two images of a young up-and-coming team and a group of wily veterans. Greece come in as bottom-feeders who scored the least amount of goals of any qualifying group winner.
Opening Match = Poland vs Greece –
Dortmund (Back-to-Back German league champs) trio for Poland along with the most intriguing GK of this group, Arsenal’s Szczęsny showcase the strong base of the team. The BD trio led by Captain Błaszczykowski, leading goal-scorer Lewandowski and offensive minded right-back Piszczek are a fearsome group mingled in with midfield play-maker Obraniak. Greece is no match for anyone in this year’s groups, an aging captain in Karagounis is merely left praying youngsters show up. Poland 2 Greece 0, goals by Captain B and Lew with solid shut out by Big Woj.
New School vs Old School = Russia vs Czech Republic –
The Russians are a vibrant and young group led by coaching nomad, Dick Advocaat. All eyes will be on Captain Arshavin (1 of 3 teammates that play outside of mother Russia) and his ability to either fulfill his hype or become an “old man”. The solid forwards, Kerzhakov and former Tott’s Hotspur Pavlyuchenko, will steal more of the spotlight, as they’ll be set up frequently by decisive mids like youngster Dzagoev, old horse Zyryanov, and skillful Izmailov. The Czechs are a star-studded group led by legendary Mr. Čech, Arsenal’s Rosický, and old salty forward Baroš. But the next generation of fwd Necid & goal-scoring defender Kadlec are poised to take over. Its a team that many will see names and fall for them as a pliable team to move on. Don’t be fooled the Czechs aren’t the same dominate team. But its hard to bet against Cech, 1-1 draw, goals by Rosicky and Pavy.
Greece vs Czech Republic –
Cech gets his shutout and wily veterans Baros and Rosicky show off. Greece’s defensive mindset isn’t backed by its usual players from 2004’s epic euro title. Czechs easily control most of the games tempo. 3 -1 Czech – goals by Baros, Rosicky and Bordeaux’s Plašil.
Poland vs Russia –
Going to be a young GK clinic with Arsenal’s WS not wanting to look less impressive then CSKA Moscow’s stalwart Akinfeev. Both these young fellas have veteran defenses and solid midfields in front of them to make this the best game so far in group A. I see another frustrating draw, 2-2.
Russia vs Greece –
After two draws the mighty Russians finally get their points as they dismantle the aging Greeks. Wouldn’t be shocked if future star Alan Dzagoev has his moment to shine and nets 2 in a 4-0 beating.
Poland vs Czech Republic –
Stuck on 4 points its going to be intriguing as both teams have the best 2 GK’s and solid offensive weapons. I think the Czech’s age up-front finally shows and Poland’s home-field advantage sneaks them past the old guard favorites. 2-1 Poland.
MVP of the Group: Mid Błaszczykowski of Poland.
Poland wins the Group with 7 pts.
Russia moves on with 5pts.
The Group of “Death” has a wealth of superstar talent. Portugal is lead by the world’s second best player (sorry, Messi ‘aint going to be usurped of the big ball). Germany has the most depth in the world. The Dutch have the most lethal attack in the world. Denmark have a young nucleus that could pave the way for another epic Red & White take over of Europe.
The Dutch vs the Danish –
Simply put the Netherlands are the most solid offensive team in the entire tourney. They score goals. The Danish will not be visible or win any games in this incredible offensive group. Dutch show their muscles with a 4 – 1 victory. Statement made.
Germany vs CR…I mean Portugal –
I know Nani is also on Portugal and that the team is good, but the Germans have had one of the strongest units for the past 50 years or so. Seriously when have they sucked? Özil with his German buddies clown the prince and his perplexed Portugueses. Mario Gómez overpowers the small defense to knock in 2 goals. Germany 3 – Portugal 1. Ronnie has to hope Veloso, Moutinho, & Micael grow up real quick for World Cup BRAZIL!
Danish vs Portugal –
Ronaldo finally will get to work with his quality play-makers Moutinho and on the outside Nani. Chelsea’s Meireles should easily hamstring Denmark’s only play-maker Christian Poulse. Poor goal-scorer Bendtner is going to have to wait for his 2 Ajax boys (Christian Eriksen & Lasse Schøne) to grow up. Ronnie, Nani and subbed in Quaresma all score in a 3-1 win.
BIG ASS GAME – Netherlands vs Germany –
Both teams are solid through and through with only Germany’s amazing GK Manuel Neuer having a real advantage over his counterpart. But it’s hard for me to see anyone stopping Robin van Persie this tourney. Then again nationally he doesn’t even lead his team in goal-scoring, Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is the top dawg. MarioGomez and old man Klose just can’t keep up. Dutch pour it on Neuer, who’s still pissed about losing the Champion League to freaking CHELSEA (I would be), 5-4 victory OVER the Germans. Boom Dutch make first major blow of Euros.
Dutch vs Portugal
Dutch sense of urgency is no longer on as they face the great one. Then again its not like the Oranje are big fans of the Portuguese. Wouldn’t shock me to see Netherland’s young future showcase. Barca’s Afellay, PSV’s diaper dandy Strootman, and lets give Sneijder some credit (he aint 30 folks). Wesley is easily one of the world’s finest players already and this game he’ll get to show it to Real’s “replacement” for him and fellow countrymen Robben. That’s right I really think both Arjen and Wesley have a grudge against CR, Real and Jose Mourinho. There is a reason why Inter Milan and Bayern Munich have kicked ass internationally rather then domestically, the grudge is directed at Spain. The Dutch sweep the group with a 3-2 victory over Portugal (packing their bags!).
Germany vs Denmark
Germany re-establishes just who the hell they are. 5 – 2 victory over the Danish. Schweinsteiger, Müller, Toni Kroos, & Miroslav Klose all see the net, but it’s Captain (Defender) Philipp Lahm‘s rocket that sees the Germans into the quarters. Bendtner finally gets his goals, against a solid GK, which should showcase that he’s better then being just on-loan to freaking Sunderland.
Group of Death MVP: Robin van Persie of Netherlands
Dutch win the group with 9pts.
Germans move on with 6 pts.
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Defending champions, Spain draw a very win-able group. The Italians are just looking to bounce back after a harsh World Cup and recent scandals that plague the country. Ireland is led by legendary Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni. Croatia are a highly underrated squad waiting to figure out what they can truly be in this year’s Euros.
Spain vs Italy
The Spanish on-the-ball skills are highlighted against the aging legs of Italy. Spain take it slow and steady allowing Fernando Torres to slip in for a brace of goals. Italy’s offense revolves around Andrea Pirlo‘s passing & De Rossi‘s fire. The issue is the talented strikers of Balotelli & Cassano are going to have real difficulties breaking past Spain’s talented Defensive Mids, Xabi Alonso & Sergio Busquets. 4 – 2 Spainish victory. The loss of David Villa and Carles Puyol not yet felt by the Spanish.
Ireland vs Croatia
The loss of tailsman forward Ivica Olić will haunt the Croatian attack and create the first real shocker. Dark horse pick Ireland are a feisty group with veteran goalie Shay Given having a solid vet led defense (John O’Shea & Richard Dunne). The real fun of the Irish is a ballsy midfield led by play-maker Aiden McGeady, veteran wing enforcer Damien Duff, creative Stephen Hunt, and future stud James McClean. MLS is highlighted with Los Angeles’ Robbie Keane nets the game winner. 1-0 shocker.
Italy vs Croatia
The Croatians finally show-up with underrated midfielder Ivan Rakitić shining over more hyped Niko Kranjčar & Captain Darijo Srna, but its Luka Modrić who nets the game’s 1st goal. Ivan slots in the impressive second goal giving a veteran Italian squad real fear. GK Gianluigi Buffon has no answer early on, but luckily the end of the 1st half sees a bit of brilliance from Milan tandem Antonio Cassano and Riccardo Montolivo. Pirlo nets an early free kick that gives the old magician one more highlight. Nearing final whistle the feisty sub Antonio Di Natale shows why age is of no concern as he completes a magical year by giving his country hope! 3-2 Italy wins.
Spain vs Ireland.
Ireland can’t figure out how to touch the ball against the mighty Spanish. Clinics are fun for only a little while. Pedro Rodríguez shows that Spain may not have to worry about the missing David Villa as the young Barca striker nets 2 in a 3-1 victory. Ireland’s Keane is a perfect poacher against teams that allow for counters.
Italy vs Ireland
Both teams share point totals and history lessons. Italy lacks a real tall offensive weapon,but Mario Balotelli hopes to be it. The Irish defense knows Man City’s cry-baby well and have a lustful time doubling the kiddo at every chance. The Irish keep Il Trap’s glorious legacy a float as they shock everyone and advance with a 2-1 victory. Balotelli nets but so does Keane and the late winner goes to late sub McClean.
Spain vs Croatia –
A meaningless game sees Spain’s second unit shine over a sad Croat team waiting for its savoir to appear (Raki might be the kid next Euros!!). Javi Martínez, Santi Cazorla, Jesús Navas, and Chelsea’s Juan Mata all get to showcase in midfield. Spain win 3-0.
MVP of Group C – Spanish striker Pedro has a pair of braces to highlight his future stardom.
Spain wins out with 9pts.
Ireland shockingly moves with 6 pts.
The lowly co-hosts Ukraine had a slew of talent withdrawn due to injury or suspension. The final farewell to Andriy Shevchenko is not a happy moment. It’ll be magical to see if he can at least net 4 more goals between Euro’s and the World Cup to hit the magical 50 goals in his international career. Sweden are a team of solid vets who can’t get around being second pegs to superstar captain Zlatan Ibrahimović. The real tragic events of this group are that Wayne Rooney is out for the first two games and England face France first. Lets get to who are the final quarter finalists.
France vs England
The French cleaned house after the meltdown at this past World Cup. Coach Laurent Blanc had to rebuild and revitalize a down unit. GK Captain Hugo Lloris is the heart of the club and a presence in net. Defensive wings Gaël Clichy & Patrice Evra allow for a very strong counter-attack. Nasri & Ribéry will get a lot of the early praise, but don’t be shocked to see Newcastle teammates Cabaye & Hatem Ben Arfa steal the show, given the chance. A loaded midfield masks a one-man attack up-front with Karim Benzema. The English team appears like a sponge, filled with holes and lacking the ability to hold its own water. Without Gary Cahill, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry & Wayne Rooney the English are out-matched by the pesky French. English youngsters Theo Walcott & Danny Welbeck save face with goals each. Benzema wrecks havoc on a UK defense lacking vocal leader Rio Ferdinand. 3-2 French victory over England.
Ukraine vs Sweden
The Swedes expose Ukraine’s lack of defense and 4th string goalie! Kim Källström & midfield partner Anders Svensson feed the captain all day. Zlatan Ibrahimović finishes with a hat trick, but the Ukraines rejoice in a solo goal by Schevy!!
Ukraine vs France
The real striking ability of Benzema is highlighted as he nets his own hat trick against the lowly hosts. Ribery nets as well in a true drubbing 4-1.
Sweden vs. England
Still no Rooney allows for the Swedish defense of Olof Mellberg, Andreas Granqvist and Behrang Safari to keep the English at bay. But the speed of Walcott and the tenacious attitude of Jermain Defoe lead to a late 2-1 victory keeping the three lions hopes alive.
England vs. Ukraine.
The return of Wayne Rooney outshines a final goal for the tourney by Shevy. Rooney grabs a brace, with Walcott netting and Liverpool tandem Steven Gerrard & Stewart Downing scoring as well. 5-1 English mugging of the host nation.
France vs Sweden
The French battle for redemption while the Swedish battle for recognition and give an epic Euro group closing game. Benzema’s brace is in response to Ibra’s colorful brace. The game is finally concluded with a late winner from winger Florent Malouda. 3 – 2 France victory. The French and British complete the task of moving on.
Group D MVP – Karim Benzema’s goal-scoring is to much to pass up.
France wins Group with 9pts
England moves on with 6 pts
Poland (Group A winner) draws Germany (Group B Runner-up)
The German offense is to much as Mario Gomez and Klose each net once and Bastian Schweinsteiger pulls off a hell of a free kick goal. Poland gets one from play-maker Obraniak. 3-1 Germans oust the hosts.
Winner Group B – The Dutch take on Group A Runners Up Russia.
Russia’s defense can’t stop the Oranje attack. Dirk Kuyt even gets in the goal scoring fun as a late sub. 5-2 Dutch victory.
Spain (Group C Champs) take on England (Group D Runner Up)
No match as the gritty English can’t stop the speed and flare of Pedro. Walcott continues to impress netting the only UK goal. Spain 3 – England 1.
France (Group D Victors) vs Dark Horse Ireland (Group C Runner Up)
The Irish luck runs out against a smart-tactical French side. Hatem Ben Arfa shines brightly with a goal and assisting on Benzema’s lone goal. French 2 – 0 Ireland.
SEMI-FINALS: Final Four
The might of a stout and well coached German side have to handle the flare and precision of the Spanish. The Dutch juggernaut offense deals with a solid GK and his feisty defense.
Germany vs Spain
Plain and simple the Spanish have owned the match up the last few times (World Cup, Euros 2008). The Spanish finally feel the loss of David Villa as Neuer shows why he is one of the world’s best Goalies. Germany fights out a tough 2-1 victory over the deflating Spanish.
Netherlands vs France
The Dutch time of possession dominance is tested as the French midfield spreads out the Oranje. Defensive lapses from Laurent Koscielny and Philippe Mexès allow for the key Dutch goals from Van Persie. The Dutch 2 – 0 France. Benzema is held in check all game by beast John Heitinga and captain Mark van Bommel a defensive midfield tank. Its not a pretty game and harps back to the Dutch lack of composure against the Spanish in the World Cup. Nonetheless they escape another defeat to move on to glory.
Final – The New European Champions
Toni Kroos causes fits for Bommell and allows for sub Muller to sneak thru on runs for the Germans. Robin Van Persie keeps things in check as he nets a brace. A final game winner comes from the captain Philip Lahm who’s second Euro rocket brings to life the German Giants.
German 3 – 2 The Dutch.
Here’s to World Cup 2014 in Brazil.