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.

 

Advertisements

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 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.

David Vs. Goliath II: Can Haye secure his famous legacy?

This Saturday will finally see the end to one of boxing’s longest sagas. David Haye versus Wladmir Klitschko has been a long time in the making and both fighters will be eager to prove that it can be worth the wait. A wait which at times has been rather irksome.

The pair of World Champions are both undoubtedly class acts in the ring but out of it they are different beasts. Haye is a cocky, smug, arrogant and above all a bit of a playground bully. Klitschko on the other hand is a smarmy teachers pet. Both have their magic moments with the media, but the anticipation surrounding this bout has allowed the two of them to become rather self-indulgent.

A prime example of Haye the 'bully'

Blissfully we will finally see the two of them in the same ring for the first time ever this weekend. The stage-show will reach it’s conclusion and the fight itself has the potential to be an absolute classic. Each fighter has sheer and utter self-belief in themselves. Such confidence is often just bravado, but in this case each of them have plenty of reason to believe that they are capable of a career defining victory.

Since moving up to the Heavyweight division, Haye has been unstoppable. His first fight which won him his world title against Russia’s nature defying Nikolay Valuev was a demonstration of magnificent hit-and-run boxing. His defence was such that the then World Champion Valuev barely landed any of his earth-shattering punches. In the mean time Haye managed to sneak in with his impressive speed and land heavy blows of his own which rocked the giant.

Haye's greatest achievement to date

Since then however, Haye has fought two fading forces. One was the resilient John Ruiz, who Haye destroyed bit by bit, bone by bone. The other was Audley ‘A-Force’ Harrison, who again Haye tore to pieces. But in truth these two fights were foregone conclusions. Haye’s attributes were more than enough to dispose of them with little fuss, and this begs the question as to why Haye even decided to take on such fights.

For a man seemingly so keen to fight as many high profile heavyweights before an early retirement later this year these fights seemed like odd selections. He has publicly demonstrated his desire to leave a legacy when he retires and such a feat will only be achieved by taking on the likes of Wladmir. We can see then why this fight is so crucial to Haye and his ambitions.

On the face of it this fight appears to be there for the taking. Haye is supremely talented and has strength way beyond the usual limitations of people with his stature but is it enough to defeat a highly reputable World Champion like Klitschko? He has already beaten a Heavyweight World Champion in the form of Valuev but Klitschko is a huge step up. Not only is he a huge man with immense ring presence and strength, but he has good footwork and knows when to throw his punches. Haye’s defence and evasion were super slick against Valuev but it will have to improve two-fold again if he hopes to prevent Wladmir from landing. At Heavyweight level David Haye’s chin has not yet been put to the test and it seems unlikely that Klitschko will fail to land significant blows. Haye must be prepared to endure such moments of shock and trauma if he is to come out of the ring with three belt to his name on Saturday evening.

Finally Haye has the chance to come face-to-face with Wladmir in the ring

Couple Klitschko’s far greater boxing talent and pedigree in comparison with Haye’s previous Heavyweight conquests, with the Partisan venue and it becomes hard to foresee a full-distance win for David. It seems that if he is to secure his greatest ever victory that it will take an aggressive approach and a win by way of knock-out. This is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility given that Klitschko has indeed been defeated in such a manner before, but it is certain that Haye will have to produce his very finest in order to chalk up another major scalp.