Euro 2012: Day 9 Predictions

Due to a lack of time on my hands today I will have to keep this very brief but my predictions for the last day of Group A are as follows…

Russia Vs. Greece:

Everyone is expecting Greece to start slowly and Russia to take full advantage of the defensive frailties which have been so evident in the early stages of both of today’s opponents matches so far in the tournament.

I think this match will live up to people’s expectations and I expect Russia to win Group A courtesy of a 3-1 win over the Greeks this evening.

Poland Vs. Czech Republic:

In Group A’s real crunch match I am expecting co-hosts Poland to delight the entire nation with a 2-1 win over the Czechs which will take them through to the last eight of the tournament.

The reason I’m going for a Poland win is that I think they have shown that they can be really dangerous on the counter-attack and because in Robert Lewandowski they possess the genuine goalscorer which the Czechs appear to lack in the absence of Milan Baros’ better days as an international striker.

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Euro 2012: Day 8 Predictions

France Vs Ukraine:

In the opening game France were undoubtedly the side dictating the play against England but they did seem to lack real drive and creative ability in the middle of the park. This is a problem which needs to be sorted very quickly if they are to fulfil their ambitions at this tournament, as the likes of Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema were forced to drop deep on too many occasions which meant that the French struggled to make real inroads into the heart of the English defence in spite of their possessional and territorial superiority.

Shevchenko Ukraine

Andriy Shevchenko re-captured some of the old magic against Sweden and will need to be even more clinical against the French

It is arguable that the Ukranian defence will present greater openings for the French to take advantage of than England afforded them  but still the French must focus on using the ball more effectively and supplying their more dangerous players with greater opportunities to harm the opposition.

France’s opponents on Friday are the co-hosts Ukraine who pulled off one of the results of the first round when they defeated Sweden by two goals to one in Kiev. Inspired by their ageing talisman Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine managed to fight back from a goal behind and in doing so proved that they may well do better than people expected them to.

In addition to Shevchenko it was Ukraine’s young attacking midfielder Andriy Yarmolenko that caught the eye for the co-hosts  in their opening victory. He looked strong, full of energy and technically very sound when crossing from wide positions. If the Ukraine are to push for qualification to the latter stages of the competition then he will surely be key to their hopes and France and England must both be wary of the threat that he poses.

Even though I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the co-hosts in the opening game they did seem constantly troubled by the presence of Sweden’s real world-class talent Zlatan Ibrahimovic and I think they will struggle to keep the French at bay as they possess more than just one major attacking threat. I think France will win this game 3-1 and will put themselves in a very decent position in the group.

England Vs. Sweden:

Whilst England will be fairly pleased with their first performance of the Euros, today’s opponents Sweden will be more than a little irritated with their own progress to date.

Carroll Welbeck

If England do opt for two front-men then Carroll and Welbeck could cause the Swedish back four some real problems

The Swedes performance in the 2-1 loss to the Ukraine was very disappointing and it is of no real surprise that there are rumours circling of division in the camp in the wake of such a disorganised outing against a side who they will feel they should have beaten.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic for long periods of the game seemed the only player in the Sweden side capable of causing any damage at all but even he was a little wasteful at times and at the back their experienced campaigners Olof Mellberg and Andreas Granqvist appeared as if they had under-estimated and were ill-prepared for the threat posed by Andriy Shevchenko in terms of his movement and his aerial ability.

It is this lack of defensive organisation which will excite England the most going into the second game of the tournament as their side is likely to be packed with players capable of causing the Swedish defence a lot of problems in the air.

It sounds as if England are going to opt for two front men in this game with Andy Carroll expected to take the place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain whose likely omission will mean that Ashley Young will switch to a wider role on the left. I for one think that this switch in formation is a sensible one going into the game against Sweden given their apparent weaknesses in defence and if Ashley Young and James Milner can provide decent service from the wings then Danny Welbeck and Carroll should have plenty to feed off of.

I think England will win the game 2-0 and will sit joint top of Group D with France come the end of today.

Euro 2012: Day 7 Predictions

Italy Vs.Croatia:

Both of the sides involved in the first of Thursday’s matches will be very pleased with how they acquitted themselves in their opening fixtures of Euro 2012.

Di Natale Italy

Di Natale’s finish was sublime and he may well start against Croatia

Italy dealt well with Spain’s unusual ‘4-6-0′ formation for the first hour of the game and looked consistently threatening on the break with Balotelli and Cassano both spurning decent opportunities before second half substitute Antonio Di Natale popped up with a delightful finish to give them a surprise lead.

Unfortunately for Italy the lead wasn’t theirs for long as Spain hit back quickly through Cesc Fabregas’ equaliser but ultimately the Italians will be fairly pleased with the draw and with how they dealt with Spain’s unexpected formation and typically constant threat in and around the box.

Croatia will also be in good spirits heading into the Italy clash as they were at their clinical best against an Irish side who are often very difficult to break down. Croatia manager Slaven Bilic set his team up in a positive fashion and knowing that Ireland would play on the back foot seemed to grasp the fact that his team would need to make the most of any opportunities that came their way and his players

Mandzukic Croatia

Mandzukic was the two goal hero Croatia in their opener

delivered.

The game between these two sides is arguably the most pivotal of the entire group stage as many believe it will decide who qualifies from the group along with tournament favourites Spain. However, if Croatia win and Spain fail to beat Ireland in the second of Thursday’s matches then Croatia will already be through as group winners.

Italy will be pleased with their point against Spain and will back themselves to beat Ireland so a draw on Thursday wouldn’t be an awful result and I think that is what the outcome will be, I’m going for a 1-1 draw.

Spain Vs. Ireland:

Ireland and their fans may well just be happy to be in the Euros as many are suggesting but they will still be feeling a little flat after a disappointing defeat in their opening game of the tournament.

McClean Euro 2012

The Ireland manager has been put under great media pressure to start James McClean against Spain

Spain on the other hand certainly have more lofty ambitions about the tournament as a whole and though they may view Italy as their greatest challengers in Group C I think they too will be left a little underwhelmed by their opening day performance and result.

Time will tell of course whether Spain’s point against the Italians was actually a very good point in the context of the group but with the players that Spain have at their disposal they would surely have hoped they could start building some momentum with a win right from the off. The second round of group fixtures though provides Spain with the perfect opportunity to kick-start the defence of their European crown against an Irish side who looked a little lacklustre at this level in the opening round of fixtures.

Fabregas Spain

Fabregas was probably the most advanced player in Spain’s surprise ‘4-6-0’ formation

The reason Ireland’s performance was so disappointing was that not only did they try and play defensive minded football as everyone had expected them to, but their display at times crept beyond this and into the realms of negativity and damage limitation. Within the context of major tournament football they simply appeared a little shell-shocked.

Sadly for Ireland I simply can’t see how they are going to drastically improve on Sunday’s showing and avoid being eliminated from the tournament on Thursday and I expect Spain to win comfortably. I’m going for the reigning champions to win 3-0 but if they play with an ‘out-and-out striker’ then they could even win by more.

Euro 2012: Day 6 Predictions

Denmark Vs. Portugal:

The two teams involved in the first game of the second round round of fixtures in Group B will go into the match with very contrasting emotions following their first results of the group stages.

Ronaldo Euro 2012

Ronaldo will be hoping to fire Portugal to their first points of Euro 2012

Denmark head into the match riding the crest of a wave having sent shockwaves through the tournament with a surprise 1-0 win against a much fancied Dutch side. I had predicted a very open game between Denmark and Holland with the Dutch coming out on top in spite of my accompanying prediction that the Dutch might be end up falling at the first hurdle and being eliminated in the opening round of the Euros.

On one hand I may be proved correct in that Holland are now right up against it in their bid to progress to the latter stages of the competition but on the other I got things very wrong indeed. The game did indeed begin in fairly open and fluent fashion with Holland on top but after Denmark took the lead against the run of play it became a story of Danish doggedness and Dutch frustration and stuttering.

They may have lost out in nearly all of the statistic categories but Denmark deserved their win for their clinically finished goal from Michael Krohn-Delhi and the admirable determination and execution of their defensive plans.

In stark contrast to the jubilation amongst the Danish fans, the Portugese players and fans will be left deflated following their 1-0 loss to Germany and the reason for their upset isn’t really down to a poor performance but more out of frustration that they couldn’t finish off a decent night’s work.

Of course, Germany are a very good side and Portugal were the underdogs going into the match so one might think a narrow defeat wasn’t a poor result but in truth Germany seemed a little lacking and Portugal for the most part completely negated any threat that their opponents posed. Also, after Germany managed to break the deadlock Portugal came back strongly with a much more offensive approach and in the end probably should have got themselves a point with Silvestre Varela wasting the best of their late opportunities.

So, there were several things for Portugal to be pleased with in their opening game but ultimately they were on the wrong end of the result and perhaps they are left ruing the fact that they left it so late to try and cause the German defence some problems.

In tomorrow’s game I think Portugal will try to play more offensively and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nelson Oliveira start in place of Helder Postiga in the wake of an impressive cameo against Germany. I think Portugal will win the game 2-0 and take themselves level on points with Denmark and in doing so they could blow the group wide open.

Germany Vs. Holland:

When the draw was made for the Euros this game looked like the pick of the group matches. Not only does it see two of the pre-tournament favourites face-off at an early stage but it also renews one of European football’s most famous and most heated rivalries.

Holland Germany Rivalry

The Dutch-German rivalry is one of the biggest in international football but hopefully their won’t be any incidents as unsavoury as this…

Gone are the days of Frank Rijkaard spitting in Rudi Voller’s mullet but the memories of such moments and the memories of some fine games of football still live on and how Germany would love to be the team that defeats the Dutch and in doing so effectively knock them out of the tournament in the very first round.

In the opening games of Group B both Germany and Holland were under-par but the important difference between their respective opening results were that Germany took home three points against a decent Portugese side and Holland failed to take anything from their match against a Denmark side who many thought would end up propping up the rest of the teams in the ‘Group of Death’.

Both sides will head into this one with a point to prove, Germany in terms of upping their performance level and Holland in terms of the desperate need to get at very least one point on the board and I think it will be a 1-1 draw. Hopefully this game will prove to be as much of a spectacle as previous encounters between these two great footballing nations.

Euro 2012: Day 5 Predictions

Greece Vs. Czech Republic:

In the opening round of fixtures Greece didn’t come firing out of the blocks against co-hosts Poland but they grew into the game and seemed to be inspired by the injustice of Sokratis Papastathpolous’ first half dismissal.

Greece EURO 2012

The Greek fans will have been delighted with the spirit their side showed in coming back against Poland

So, having looked a very ordinary side for the opening half hour or so Greece will have been delighted with their turnaround in fortunes which was in no small part down to the contributions of substitute Dimitris Salpingidis whose equalising goal and tidy and efficient use of the ball in the attacking third has probably earned him the right to start today’s game.

They may have improved as the game went on but Greece didn’t seem to possess a huge amount of quality and much the same can be said of the Czechs who were soundly beaten by four goals to one by Group A favourites Russia.

There were times in their heavy defeat in the opening round of games when they were causing a few problems on the break but ultimately Russia showed far too much cunning and conviction for a limited Czech side to cope with.

If the Czechs can bottle up the period of their game against Russia when they seemed useful on the break and find some greater defensive stability then they have a chance of getting a point and I think they will do so in a 1-1 draw.

Poland Vs. Russia:

Having totally dominated the opening stages of their first match in Group A, Poland will have been very disappointed with the way they seemed to flounder against the ten men of Greece in the second half of their opener. Russia on the other hand underlined their ‘dark horse’ status in the competition with an utterly clinical display which saw them outscore all other teams in the first round of fixtures.

Lewandowski Poland

Poland begun well with Lewandowski proving to be a real threat and they will need to replicate their opening half hour against the Russians

Admittedly, Greece did put up much more of a fight than the Czechs managed but Russia will still be far happier than today’s opponents Poland with their opening results.

The challenge of facing up to the co-hosts will probably prove to be a lot tougher for the Russians than their first game of the tournament and I can see Poland giving them a very good game if they produce the same intensity that they managed at the start of the Greece game for a longer period of time in this outing.

Having said that I still think Russia will win  the game 2-1 which will see them almost certain to top the group and will have co-hosts Poland on the verge of a first round elimination.

Euro 2012: Day 3 Predictions

Italy Vs. Spain:

Spain and Italy could hardly be going into this tournament having had more contrasting preparations for the tournament.

Spain Italy football

Spain will be big favourites to defeat Italy and are the favourites with the bookies to win the tournament

Spain have won both of the last two major tournaments and are heading into the Euros with a strong, familiar and for the most-part experienced squad and as such are very much being targeted by the rest of the field as ‘the team to beat’ to.

Italy on the other hand have disappointed on their two most recent outings in major tournament football, have a younger and more inexperienced look to their squad than usual and their domestic leagues have once again been embroiled in a wide-scale match-fixing scandal.

On the plus side  though for Italy, the last time their nation was under scrutiny amidst match-fixing issues they went to the World Cup in Germany 2006 and they came home as champions of the world. Also, as much as Spain may possess a squad packed with talent, class and depth they are missing a couple of the key players from their recent triumphs, Carles Puyol and David Villa, both of whom have failed to recover form injuries in time for the defence of Spain’s crown.

In spite of their high-profile injury absences Spain still have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal and I expect them to win 2-1 in the opening game of Group C. Just as an aside to my score prediction, I think it will be intriguing as it always is to watch Mario Balotelli and to see whether he looks like producing the sublime or the ridiculous at the Euros, both of which we know he is all too capable of…

If Balotelli and fellow front-man Di Natale can link well with each other then don’t write off Italy’s chances of getting themselves a draw but I think Spain will be a little too good for them on the day.

Croatia Vs. Ireland:

The second match on the opening day for Group C sees Ireland return to the big time and although they have a very tough looking group draw they will head into the tournament with great enthusiasm and the hope that they can spring a few surprises.

Giovanni Trapattoni Slaven Bilic

The opening game for Ireland and Croatia will depend much on the respective strategies of their two managers

Their opening game pits them against Croatia who have at times really impressed in tournament football since returning as an independent nation in the early nineties and who possess a few of European football’s most sought after and most in-form players.

The two names that spring to mind immediately with Croatia in terms of their biggest assets are Luka Modric, who is on the radar of several European super-clubs, and Nikica Jelavic who has proved an instant hit in the Premier League with Everton. If Modric is at his superb best then it is likely that Jelavic and his fellow forwards will have plenty of scraps to feed on and if they do then Ireland could be in for a torrid evening.

Ireland are likely to set up in typical fashion as their manager Giovanni Trapattoni is very sure of his first XI and how he thinks they can be most successfully deployed. The manager tends to side with defensive responsibilities and his Ireland side are expected to soak up pressure and to try and produce match-winning chances on the break with the likes of skipper Robbie Keane ready to pounce at the top end of the field as and when chances might come his way.

It is essential that Ireland try and keep Modric under wraps as he has the potential to pull the strings and eventually pull Ireland apart with his clever running and eye for a killer pass. I think Ireland will give a decent account of themselves in this game but I expect Croatia to triumph either 2-0 or 2-1.

 

Euro 2012: Day 2 Predictions

Denmark Vs. Holland:

Both sides will head into their opening game with real optimism having both qualified for the Euros in very convincing fashion. Holland will be the favourites courtesy of their wealth of high profile and world class performers as well as being buoyed by their run all the way to the final of the World Cup in 2010 but they will have to be on their guard to avoid dropping points to a very decent Denmark side.

Holland Denmark

Holland overcame Denmark at the World Cup in 2010 and will be expected to do so again at the Euros

The favourites to win the opening game of Group B are blessed with an attacking contingent that is the envy of most sides in international football and they will be heavily reliant upon the threat that this unit provides as their defence is by comparison a little weak.

Denmark will have to be willing to attack Holland if they are to avoid defeat as it will be very difficult indeed to keep the Dutch’s attacking threat at bay for the whole of the ninety minutes. Their attacking burden may have to be shouldered by the promising Christian Eriksen whose pace and craft has caught the eye of many.

I think this is a game which looks like it will contain a few goals as Holland’s ambitions are based upon their lethal attacking options and because Denmark will seek to exploit any weaknesses that their opponents may have in their rear-guard. I am going for Holland to win 3-1 but I expect Denmark to carry a decent threat throughout and to cause a few scares.

Germany Vs. Portugal:

In arguably the most anticipated match of the tournament so far we are likely to find out a little more about how far Germany’s youthful squad have come since the World Cup in 2010 and whether Cristiano Ronaldo will be supported strongly by his Portugese team mates in their quest to prove not only that they aren’t a ‘one man team’ but also that they have the ability to exceed expectations and qualify from the ‘Group of Death’.

Germany Portugal

Ronaldo is undoubtedly the key man for Portugal but most fancy Germany to limit his threat and dominate against the Portugese

I think Germany are undoubtedly one of the stand-out teams in the tournament and I think their blend of youth, in the form of players like Mats Hummels, Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze, and experience, in the form of players such as Philip Lahm, Bastien Schweinsteiger, Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose, looks set to provide the platform for a genuine crack at winning the competition.

Portugal on the other hand are being almost written off by many and they will be determined to prove that they do have a chance not only of progressing to the latter stages of the competition but also that they should be considered contenders to win the tournament. I think it would be grossly unfair to label the Portugese a ‘one man team’ as they have plenty of world class performers such as Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Joao Moutinho, Danny and Nani, however, their will undoubtedly be a great reliance upon Ronaldo to weigh in with a heavy goals contribution if they are to prove to be a serious threat.

Germany will have to be at their best to ensure victory in a game which most people fancy them to win and I think they’ll get the result. I am going for a 2-1 win for the favourites in a closely contested match but I am not totally writing off Portugal who possess a great threat to some of the more fancied sides in Group B. Expect to see Germany control the possession of the ball and Portugal to have real menace on the counter-attack.