Euro 2012: Semi-Finals Predictions

Portgual Vs. Spain:

Though the reigning champions Spain will go into the first semi-final as big favourites to win and progress to a third straight final in major tournament football, their opponents and next-door neighbours Portugal are arguably in better form and will be keen to get one over on their more celebrated neighbours.

Ronaldo Casillas

This international ‘derby-match’ makes for a mouth-watering semi-final clash at the Euros

It isn’t as if ‘getting one over’ on Spain is Portugal’s only huge incentive to take this run further either, they are also hugely driven by their failure to capitalise on their run to the final on home turf in 2004 and to some extent are still embarrassed by their loss to huge underdogs Greece in that final and they are more than keen to try and erase such bitter memories with an incredible rise to prominence at this tournament.

If Portugal were to defeat Spain and then whoever would be lying in wait in the final then the Portugese will have landed the trophy in the most spectacular of fashions having come through the ‘group of death’ defeating Denmark and Holland along the way and then having defeated rivals Spain and then either one of footballing super-powers Germany or Italy in the final.

Typically, to win a major tournament you have to have overcome some serious opposition along but with their quarter-final draw aside, if Portugal were to win the tournament come Sunday evening then they would surely have had one of the more amazing runs ever seen in a European Championships.

Portugal will need to keep their dreams in check though for now, as they must try and do what nobody has done since France in 2006 and find a way to get the better of Spain in the knockout stages of a major competition.

Spain have been on the receiving end of a wave of criticism in this tournament for their perceived negativity in not selecting an ‘out-and-out’ striker  in half of their games but their record stands up against any criticism and scepticism as they have won three out of their four matches and drawn with fellow semi-finalists Italy.

Arguably their most criticised performance was their quarter-final showing against France but the facts are that they won the game 2-0 against very strong opposition and that they hardly ever looked even remotely troubled throughout. People have begun to turn against Spain as they do with many sides that are successful over a long period of time, as success does grate on some and any complaints about Spain’s strategy at this tournament and also the lack of excitement for the neutrals in a couple of their matches is just grown out of bitterness.

It is very hard indeed to justifiably have a pop at Spain and Vicente Del Bosque’s preferred tactics as they have once again found themselves unbeatable up to this point of the tournament. However, if Portugal harbor real hopes of becoming the first team since France to get the better of Spain in a major tournament then they would do well to follow in the footsteps of Croatia who may have ended up losing to Spain but along the way they caused some major concerns for their more celebrated opponents and could really have won the game had they made the most of their chances.

I think Portugal are actually quite well set up to cause Spain some issues and I think that inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo they will draw the game 1-1 in normal time. If this predicted score is to materialise then I will back Portugal to win either in extra-time or on penalties even if just to make this score prediction a little more ballsy.

 

Italy Vs. Germany:

The second of the semi-finals is set to be a very intriguing game indeed and in the wake of Germany’s performance against Greece in the quarter-finals which was full of attacking intent and ambition, their coach Joachim Loew now has some very tough selections to make in his side to face an Italian team who are likely to pose a greater threat and greater defensive resistance than Greece were capable of.

Pirlo Italy

Pirlo’s ‘Panenka’ spot-kick capped a wonderful night’s work against England both for him as an individual and for Italy as a whole

Arguably the toughest of Loew’s decisions regarding his line-up for the semi-finals will be whether he can find a place for the very impressive Marco Reus. Reus was behind much of Germany’s best play against the Greeks and he got his name on the score-sheet in emphatic style and may well have played his way in Loew’s thinking ahead of the Italy clash, as this individual performance was arguably more impressive than any other by one of Loew’s usual first-choice trio of attacking midfielders Thomas Mueller, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil thus far in this tournament.

It seems a formality that Mario Gomez will come back in for Miroslav Klose as the lone striker and Germany will be heavily reliant upon Gomez to prove himself just as clinical this time around as he was in the opening two games of the tournament, which saw him score three goals having had possession of the ball for just 22 seconds throughout these two matches. This conversion rate was staggering and it proved many of Gomez’s doubters very wrong indeed and now Germany will hope he can return to the side in similar goal-scoring fashion.

Germany’s opponents Italy may not have frightened the life out of any potential opposition at this tournament with their failure to score over 120 minutes of football against England who they had on the back-foot for much of Sunday night but they did play well and they will be hugely encouraged by Andrea Pirlo’s glorious exhibition of passing football and one of Mario Balotelli’s more persistent, determined and perhaps most importantly mature performances in an Italian shirt.

Italy are under no illusions about the task lying ahead of them if they are serious about winning the Euros and they know they will have to be more clinical if they are to have any chance of doing so but there were many more positives than negatives to come out of their quarter-final performance and consequentially they will head into the Germany game with greater self-confidence.

I think that Italy will find it hard to adapt to being fronted up to when it comes to possession and in terms of territorial domination in this semi-final clash after the dominance they experienced in their game against England and what I think will hurt them the most is that Andrea Pirlo in particular is far more unlikely to have a huge say in this game as Germany are better equipped to deal with the significant threat which he poses.

I think Germany will win the game 2-1 and I still have them down as my favourites to win the tournament as I have throughout the entirety of the competition.

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Euro 2012: Quarter-Final 2 Prediction

Germany Vs. Greece:

Having sent shockwaves through the entire competition with their surprise win against Russia in their final group game, in the quarter-finals Greece now face the challenge of taking on Germany who have recently taken over from reigning champions Spain as the bookies favourites to win the tournament.

Mario Gomez and Bastien Schweinsteiger

Gomez and Schweinsteiger have been the two stand-out performers for tournament favourites Germany

It would be fair to say that the Greek side isn’t packed with household names or with players that possess real star quality but their performance against Russia and the willingness to fight for a result which they showed in the second halves of their other two group games against Poland and the Czech Republic have impressed and Germany must be prepared to face up to a very committed and resilient side this evening.

Greece may not have superstars at their disposal but they appear from the outside to be a harmonious group of players intent on taking the national side as far as they possibly can in this tournament and though they don’t seem keen to get too far ahead of themselves they will surely be thinking back to 2004 and wondering whether they could do it all over again.

As with the Portugal-Czech Republic game yesterday though, I am finding it very difficult to see beyond the overwhelming favourites to win the game and in today’s quarter-final Germany are undoubtedly befitting of such a billing.

Before the tournament begun I was tipping Germany to win the tournament as their team appeared to have a very decent blend of youth and experience as well as the deadly combination of style and substance. Many were expecting them to continue in the same vain as their performances in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which at the time were being labelled as ‘very un-German’ as they were full of vibrancy and excitement as opposed to the more stereotypical solidity and efficiency of many former German national sides but thus far in the tournament we have seen more of a return to the days of organisation and attacking ruthlessness.

Some have even dared to mock the German side for their less fluent approach so far in the tournament but I think Joachim Loew has got his tactics absolutely spot on as his side have come through the hardest group in the tournament having dropped not a single point along the way.

Sure, the German side at the Euros have played with more structure  and perhaps less excitement than the side that won so many admirers in South Africa two years ago but that is because they were quick to realise that this was exactly the requirement if they were to stand the best chance of advancing from ‘the group of death’ and giving themselves the best route possible to the final of the competition.

I think that this quarter-final tie with Greece will provide Germany with a greater opportunity to express themselves and play a more adventurous brand of football, as on paper it is arguably the easiest game they have had in the tournament thus far.

We should however expect Germany to stick with the winning formula that has served them so well in the group stages where their performances have been based upon an understanding of togetherness, cohesion and the knowledge that they must be clinical when chances to score come their way.

I think that Greece will  struggle to live with Germany’s work rate and dominance of possession and I think Germany will be afforded the opportunity to press forward more than they did in the group stages  and  I’m going for a  3-0 Germany victory which would set up a semi-final against either England or Italy.

 

Euro 2012: Quarter-Final 1 Prediction

Portugal Vs. Czech Republic:

In the first of the quarter-finals we have two sides that it would be fair to say weren’t fancied by most in terms of their chances of progression to this stage, however, both sides have overcome losing their first games of the tournament with Portugal finishing second in ‘the group of death’ and the Czech Republic topping Group A in spite of a crushing 4-1 defeat to the now eliminated Russians in their opening fixture.

Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal

In their final group game against the Dutch Ronaldo’s performance for Portugal was arguably the best individual performance of the tournament so far

Since this opening day confidence knock the Czech Republic side have recovered their position valiantly and though their squad isn’t blessed with tremendous depth or individual quality, they have found a way to win games and that has been no easy feat when you consider the sides they have beaten in their last two games. First, they had to beat Greece who so famously mastered the art of punching above their weight and winning games they shouldn’t have and then having conquered the former champions they had to muster a result against Poland in their own backyard.

These two wins demonstrated admirable and impressive resilience and a surprising ability to be clinical when match-deciding chances came their way, however, I simply can’t see any way that they can beat Portugal who have better options than the Czechs in arguably every single position on the field.

Though I don’t expect the Czechs to just lie down and take a beating, I think that this quarter-final tie will be fairly reminiscent of the events of the Czechs opening game against Russia. In the Russia match the Czechs battled hard throughout and at times they even brought the fight to their opposition on the offensive but eventually the superior quality of the Russian side told and they bagged a couple of late goals to underline their dominance.

I am going for a 3-1 win to Portugal and though I expect them to once again be heavily reliant upon their skipper Cristiano Ronaldo, who was at his unstoppable best against the Dutch in Portugal’s final group game, I hope to see the likes of Nani and Helder Postiga and perhaps even midfielders Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles start to contribute more meaningfully to the goals tally.

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.

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 1 Predictions

Poland 2-1 Greece:

Day one of the Euros could go either one of two ways. One potential summary of the day could be along the lines of ‘Group A really does lack quality as many expected to be the case‘, perhaps though it could be something far more positive, such as; ‘Maybe Group A won’t be as bad as people expected, the quality on show exceeded expectations.’

Poland Football Team

The co-hosts Poland look like favourites to win their opening game but expect a close game

If the latter statement is to prove to be a more apt description of day one then the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski are more than likely to have played their part in proceedings and so too  are the likes of Sotiris Ninis and Sokratis Papastathopolous who look like Greece’s strongest squad members.

I actually think that Group A may benefit from the fact that there is not an abundance of star players of show and could prove to be very hotly contested and very exciting for the neutrals.

I am going to go for Poland to win on home soil in the opener with Blaszczykowski to play a starring role. I think both sides are fairly well matched for the most-part but I also believe that Poland’s stronger assets slightly outweigh those of the Greeks and that is why I’m siding with the co-hosting nation.

Russia Vs. Czech Republic:

The second of day one’s matches sees the hot favourites to win the group, Russia, take on a Czech Republic side that look a shadow of the sides which have served them so well in previous European Championships.

Andriy Asharvin and Alan Dzagoev

The likes of Asharvin and Dzagoev should hold Russia in good stead to win their opener and eventually to top Group A

Russia to me look like the overwhelming favourites to win this match and of particular interest to the neutral will be the performances of Andriy Asharvin who was so brilliant for the national side in their Euro 2008 campaign but seemed to have lost his mojo over the past couple of seasons at Arsenal and Alan Dzagoev one if Russia’s more exciting prospects heading into the Euros.

The Czech Republic may not be going into the tournament with a great deal of hope or expectation but if the likes of Tomas Rosicky can play to the best of their abilities then they may have the potential to shock a few people and if they could pick up a point in their opening game then they will start to believe that progression to the latter stages is possible.

I think Russia will win this game comfortably and am predicting a 2-0 triumph. I hope and expect Asharvin to play a big role in the win and to prove that the past couple of years have been something of a blip.

EURO 2012 Group B: ‘The Group of Death’

Denmark:

Having been handed pretty much the roughest draw possible Denmark look like the weakest of the four sides in Group B on paper but as the old saying goes ‘football matches aren’t won on paper’ and the Danes will be hoping that this footballing cliche lives up to it’s billing.

Eriksen

Eriksen has made a major impression at Ajax and now he will look to impress in a major international tournament

They may appear to have a somewhat inferior squad to those of their rival teams in Group B but they actually have a squad made up of some very decent international footballers as well as Christian Eriksen who is one of the most highly rated young midfielders in world football. It is too early to right off Denmark’s chances of causing an upset in ‘the group of death’ but one would have to say that there would be little shame in propping up the rest come the end of the group stages if that were to be the case.

One to watch… Christian Eriksen: Eriksen has attracted the interest of many top European clubs over the past couple of seasons with his pace, creativity and ever-developing class clear for all to see. This could be the tournament where he becomes a star.

Euros nostalgia: Denmark were surprise winners when Sweden hosted the tournament in 1992. Inspired by Peter Schmeichel’s phenomenal form in goal and the playmaking skills of Brian Laudrup the Danes came through tough group consisting of hosts Sweden, France and England and then defeated reigning champions Holland in the semis before beating Germany 2-0 in the final.

Tournament prospects: It is very hard to see Denmark getting out of the ‘group of death’ given the competition but that was also the case back in 1992 when they were victorious. They will probably finish bottom of the group but don’t write them off as they are a very decent side.

Netherlands:

Over the past few years the Dutch national side have re-established themselves as one of the super-powers of international football and that has been in no small part down to the starring roles of attacking midfielders Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder and front-man Robin Van Persie.

Robben

Robben may not have many more chances to land silverware with the Dutch national side

Another key part of the Dutch’s re-emergence has been their willingness to trial and persist with the inclusion of young and talented players on the international stage. Over the past few years players such as Gregory Van Der Wiel, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Ibrahim Affellay and Eljero Elia among others have been thrust right into the thick of international football and they have had to develop at a rate of knots in order to meet the standards required.

Their blend of world class talent, experience and a wealth of young and talented players has seen them become a real force to be reckoned with and they will hope to go one further than their runners-up finish at the World Cup in 2010.

One to watch… Gregory Van Der Wiel: Holland’s squad is brimming with young and attacking talent and Van Der Wiel definitely comes within this bracket. The young right back has attracted the attention of huge clubs such as Real Madrid already and perhaps he is just a few strong performances at the Euros away from sealing such a move.

Euros nostalgia: The Netherlands won the trophy in 1988 with a squad containing legends such as Ruud Gullit, Ronald Koeman, Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten who scored probably the best goal ever to grace the final of a European Championship.

Tournament prospects: The Dutch squad is up there with the best in the competition and their recent qualification and major tournament form suggests that they are prime candidates to win the tournament. However, they are in the toughest group of the draw and they will have to hit the ground running to avoid an embarrassing first round exit.

Germany:

Germany are nearly always key players when it comes to major international tournaments and it appears as if that will be the case once again.

If their showing at the World Cup in 2010 is anything to go by then their young and developing squad could well be ready to take the Euros by storm. Since then they have promoted youngsters Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos, Marco Reus, Andre Schurrie and particularly Mario Gotze to the forefront of their thinking and their already young and exciting squad has picked up some even younger and more exciting recruits.

Ozil and Gotze

Ozil had a huge impact in 2010 and now partnered with Gotze in the playmaking department he could impress once again

If their more recent additions to the squad can impact in a similar fashion to how the likes of Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller did in South Africa in 2010 then Germany could be the team to watch in Poland and Ukraine.

One to watch… Mario Gotze: The diminutive Dortmund attacking midfielder has become a key part of Germany’s full international squad having graduated from the youth ranks since the World Cup in 2010 and he looks set to have a major impact in his first major competition for the national side.

Euros nostalgia: Having overcome England on penalties on their own turf in the semis of Euro 96, Germany went on to inflict defeat on the Czech Republic in the final and that remains as their most recent major tournament win.

Tournament prospects: Armed with a fantastic squad bursting to the seams with potential Germany could definitely go all the way and win this one. The bulk of their squad is made up of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund players and if they can re-produce the domestic form shown by Dortmund and the European form of Bayern then they will surely rival the likes of Spain. They may have a tough group but I think they will top it.

Portugal:

Over the past decade Portugal have often shown the worst of themselves in qualification for major tournaments by scraping through groups which their capable squads should have been more than able to deal with but when it has come to the big stage they have a decent record. They have managed to get out of the group stages in each of the last four European Championships and in amongst this record they should really have picked up the trophy in 2004 when they lost out to shock winners Greece on home turf.

Ronaldo

Ronaldo suffered the heartbreak of defeat in the final in 2004 but now he captains his country

It is rough on Portugal that they have been drawn in a group that contains two of the best sides in the world as they would have looked a decent bet to go through in any of the other three groups but don’t rule them out of contention in Group B just yet.

At their disposal they have an experienced and talented back line including Real Madrid’s Pepe and Fabio Coentrao, a versatile and energy-packed midfield including the likes of Joao Moutinho of Porto and Raul Meireles of Chelsea, and, to top it off they have one of the fiercest looking attacking contingents in the competition with the likes of Nani, Quaresma, Varela and Helder Postiga providing able support to the tournament’s best player in Cristiano Ronaldo.

One to watch… Cristiano Ronaldo: Off the back of his best season in La Liga to date (and that’s saying something!) the eyes of the whole tournament will be on Ronaldo as he hopes to set a captain’s example and inspire his side to qualify from the tournament’s toughest group.

Euros nostalgia: The football loving nation of Portugal was left devastated by their side’s failure to defeat Greece in the final of Euro 2004 the tournament which saw their star player of the moment, Cristiano Ronaldo, take his first steps in a major international tournament and saw their former star man, Luis Figo, play in his final European Championships.

A brief summary of Group B:

It is nearly impossible to predict the outcome of this group given the calibre of the teams and the individuals on show but it is hard to look past Denmark being the bottom side. I don’t think they’ll be whipping boys by any means and I expect them to push each of their opponents really hard but ultimately I think their efforts will prove a little futile.

Given that it is ‘the group of death’ it means that one of the tournaments stronger sides will have to take an early bath and face the indignity of a first round exit. I don’t quite know why I think this will be the case but I have a feeling that the Netherlands will prove to be the major casualty of the first round and I think Portugal will come second in the group behind Germany who I expect to fare very well throughout the tournament. I think that the winner of the competition will come from Group B and I think Germany look the most likely.

Euro 2012 Countdown: Group A

Greece:

The 2004 champions head into this tournament with just a very small group of survivors from their shock triumph eight years ago. Goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias and midfielders Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis remain from their heroic efforts in Portugal and they will hope to use their experience to guide an otherwise pretty young squad.

Ninis

Ninis could shine amongst Greece’s seemingly lacking squad

With so few remaining members of their triumphant 2004 squad it is going to be hard for Greece to make a real impact this time around but their are some decent talents in their squad. Sotiris Ninis, the highly-rated young Panathanaikos midfielder catches the eye as does 23 year-old centre-back  Sokratis Papastathopolous who has impressed with Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga and was bought by Italian giants A.C Milan just a couple of years ago.

One to watch… Sotiris Ninis: Greece’s versatile young midfielder is establishing himself as very decent play-maker and perhaps the lack of real quality in Group A will provide the platform for him to shine.

Tournament Prospects: The lack of a real depth of quality will probably result in Greece failing to make it out of the group.

Euros Nostalgia: Winners against all the odds in 2004, Angelos Charisteas scoring from a corner to sink the host side Portugal in the final.

Poland:

The co-hosting nation aren’t blessed with a large number of household names but they certainly do possess a threat within their ranks.

In addition to the positive thinking that comes with the territory of hosting the tournament they also have several players who have tasted domestic success in recent times, perhaps most notably their trio of Borussia Dortmund stars Lukas Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczykowski (Kuba, as his shirt would have him known) and Robert Lewandowski who have all featured heavily in their sides back-to-back Bundesliga triumphs and their recent completion of a domestic German double with victory in their premiere cup competition.

Dortmund

Poland’s Dortmund trio have all tasted major success this year

The latter of the aforementioned Dortmund stars, Robert Lewandowski, is perhaps the pick of Poland’s squad and if he re-produces the form that has seen him become one of the Bundesliga’s most feared front-men in the Euros then his stock will rise further and he will become an even more attractive prospect for some of Europe’s top clubs.

One to watch… Robert Lewandowski: He has been prolific in the Bundesliga this season and his country will need his goals if they are to make it through to the knock-out stages.

Tournament Prospects: Home advantage and a genuine goal-getter might well see them through the group stage but they appear unlikely to threaten beyond the quarter-finals.

Euros nostalgia: Not much to speak of unfortunately. They have never gone beyond the group stages so what better time to do so than now when they co-host the tournament.

Czech Republic:

Though the Czech’s have sprung a few surprises in some of the more recent European Championships, most notably in 2004 where they were semi-finalists and in 1996 when they were runners-up to Germany at the old Wembley Stadium, it is hard to see them producing similar success this time around.

Baros Czech Republic

Baros shone at EURO 2004 and will hope to lead the line again this summer

They do still have some talented and high profile names in their squad such as Petr Cech, Tomas Rosicky and Milan Baros who was prolific in their 2004 campaign but gone are the days of Pavel Nedved, Jan Koller, Karol Poborsky and Patrik Berger the players who have served their country so well throughout the past 15 years or so and who have provided the depth of quality needed to succeed at this level.

One to watch… Milan Baros: Their trusty front-man has long since been at the peak of his powers but he has an international strike rate of a goal every two games and has always been a strong finisher. His performances in 2004 have seen him labelled a ‘man for the big stage’ in international football but that was fully eight years ago and it is unclear whether he can hit such heights again.

Tournament Prospects: In many ways they are lucky to have even qualified given the nature of their triumph over Scotland in their qualification group and I expect their lack of real quality to be exposed and that they will fall at the first hurdle.

Euros nostalgia: The Czech Republic’s run to the final at Euro 1996 captured the imagination of European football fans but sadly they lost out to Germany in the final where Oliver Bierhoff starred.

Russia:

Semi-finalists last time out, Russia, will head into this tournament knowing that they are strong favourites to progress from their group. They may not be one of European football’s real super-powers but they do possess a decent balance of youth, talent and experience in their squad and this should serve them well.

Dzagoev Russia

Dzagoev looks a very decent prospect and he could be the heir to Asharvin’s throne as Russia’s chief playmaker

Their squad for the tournament includes many names which will be familiar with English football fans such as Andriy Asharvin, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Pavel Pogrebnyak and their squad is anchored upon their strong and robust defensive unit which will be marshalled by their keeper Igor Akinfeev who is up there with the very finest keepers in Europe.

One to watch… Alan Dzagoev: Russia’s smart young attacking midfielder has craft and vision that defy his tender age of just 21 and he has been a big hit for his club CSKA Moskow in the Russian league. He has a strike rate of a goal every four games in the Russian top flight and just 18 caps into his international career he has racked up a similar rate.

Tournament Prospects: So long as the weight of expectation doesn’t weigh too heavy upon their shoulders given their performances in 2008 and their relatively very decent group draw for the competition, Russia should breeze through the group and will give any side a good game in the knock-out stages.

Euros nostalgia: Russia were fantastic en-route to reaching the semi-finals in 2008 and Andriy Asharvin was the spark at the heart of their fantastic run.

A brief summary of Group A:

On paper this is the weakest of the four groups in the competition but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a bad one to watch.

Neutral fans may find it hard to get excited by the prospect of seeing a match-up such as Greece Vs. Poland given the lack of household names on show but I actually think this could be a very entertaining group to watch as three out of the four teams appear to be pretty well matched.

Russia should really win the majority of their three group games and should top the group as they possess the strongest squad but don’t rule out Poland who I think could go through the the quarters by finishing second in the group. I expect the Czech Republic to push for progression from the group but ultimately fail and end in third place and I think Greece will finish bottom of the pile.

Euro Draw: My Thoughts and Predictions

What an intriguing draw…

Group A:

For what this group looks set to lack in world-class talent it will almost certainly make up for in ferocious atmospherics. Each of the teams drawn into the first group are notorious for their passionate and at times raucous national fans and it all looks set to kick off. The stadiums that host the Group A ties will undoubtedly be erupting with noise and energy,  and the thought of these sides coming head-to-head in one of the biggest tournaments in world football is mouthwatering even if we aren’t to anticipate consistently brilliant football.

My Prediction: Russia and Greece qualify

Group B:

Without a shadow of a doubt this group must go down as the famed “group of death”. There simply isn’t a weak link amongst the sides (though Denmark are probably the underdogs on paper), and the amount of young and experienced attacking talent on show in this group is very exciting indeed. To think that the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Robin Van Persie, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze and Cristian Erikson will be taking to the field in the same group of the Euro’s is utterly tantalising, bring it on!

My Prediction: Germany top the group and Holland pip Portugal to second place.

Group C:

Poor old Ireland. Finally they deservedly qualify for another major tournament and they get the rotten luck of drawing Spain and Italy in their group. Not to mention  also drawing Croatia who have been known to perform well on the big stages. This is another exciting group with plenty of exciting young attacking talent as well as the all-round brilliance of the reigning champions Spain who will be hopeful of making it an incredible three straight victories in major international tournaments.

My Prediction: Maybe I’m just a romantic but I think Spain will top the group and Ireland will squeeze through to the last eight as well. I think that aside from Spain that this could be the tightest group of the lot which could play into Ireland’s hands.

Group D:

It will be tough but it could’ve been a lot worse from England’s perspective. All four teams in the group will fancy their chances of going through  and with good reason. Ukraine the joint hosts obviously have home advantage, France tend to go win or bust in recent major tournaments, Sweden performed well in qualification and England on paper are the best of the four teams. This is set to be another very close group and I just hope that this group stage isn’t as bereft of excitement and quality football as England’s group stage in South Africa.

My Prediction:

France and England both qualify as they probably should, but I can’t pick a group winner.

 

Beyond the groups:

It is very hard indeed to look beyond Spain winning yet another major trophy, but there are teams out there that could shock them. Germany’s youth will once again be on display and could inspire them to go deep into the tournament and we all know that Holland have a fantastic side, so perhaps these two are the most likely to upset the Spanish. Other major contenders include the likes of England and France but I think that Group D’s two strongest outfit’s are in the middle of tricky transitional periods and that they will both have a greater chance next time around.

I know it’s boring, but I think Spain will win the Euro’s again. How can I argue against them given the recent history?