The time has finally come, the Euro 2012 Cup will begin play tomorrow to crown the next champions of Europe. Poland and the Ukraine will be housing the tournament, with the final ultimately taking place in Kiev, Ukraine.
Although many consider the World Cup the ultimate sporting tournament because of its inclusion of the best countries in all of the world, when looking at it by pure talent and competitiveness, it is the European Cup tournament that has the edge. Here you will find the sport’s greatest teams (with the exception of the three storied South American nations of equal to higher regard) competing against each other, without the advantage of being placed in a group including weaker sides like they can benefit from in the World Cup. Here, just 12 teams dispute the title, including all of the European nations that have been crowned either world or European champions.
Here is a quick look at each group, along with my predictions.
GROUP A: Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic
In what appears to be the most even group, for all the wrong reasons, it is hard to pick out a clear winner of this group. What is clear is that it appears that we’ll have at least one tournament host go on to the next round. Poland heads into this tournament with 3 great players who play for German league champions, Borussia Dortmund, who are looking to bring their magic play to national side. The Czech Republic, Greece and Russia are marred with the inability of being able to suit up a clear superstar. Petr Cech came up big in club play by winning the Champions League title last season, but he may not be enough to take his side to the next round with Rosicky being the only other (relative) star in the squad. Russia were an exciting side, but that was some years ago, back when a much more promising Arshavin commanded a thrilling front line. Greece is bringing a squad that’s quite balanced, with several young players making the trip to Poland along with some players that already know what it’s like to taste European glory after having won the 2004 tournament.
Predicted winners (in order): Poland, Greece
GROUP B: Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal.
No tournament is complete without a so-called “Group Of Death.” For this tournament, the only way this group could have been any more “deadly” would be if you’d swap Denmark for Spain. Whereas the previous group didn’t have too many clear signs of group winners for all of the bad reasons, it was quite difficult figuring out the winners of this group for all the good reasons. The Netherlands were finalists in the World Cup 2 years ago and have one of the most lethal forwards in the world in Robin van Persie. Germany were finalists in the previous installment of this tournament and finished 3rd in the world stage; add to that a flawless qualifying campaign plus the wonderful play of Ozil and Lahm’s leadership, the Germans are one of the strongest sides in the world today. Portugal has the 2nd best player of the game, C. Ronaldo, plus other offensive players like Nani and Meireles that can easily be placed on anyone’s fantasy squad. Denmark doesn’t boast a side with world superstars of the caliber of the other teams in the group, but they have won the tournament before and will like up a team that’s solid and can put up a fight to just about anyone. Ultimately, an offensive prowess plus a strong defensive line will prove vital to see the eventual winners of the group through to the next round.
Predicted winners (in order): Germany, the Netherlands
GROUP C: Spain, Italy, Ireland, Croatia.
So what can be said about a group that includes the defending champion of the tournament, which just so happens to be the World Cup champion as well? Spain is automatically through to the second round. The other three teams? Ireland and Croatia also lack the benefit of a world class staff and will rely on bursts of magic to try and sneak their way into the next round. The second best team in the history of the world cup has suffer some serious blows to their reputation through yet another match-fixing scandal, but their talent can surely overcome it and possibly deliver a performance to what they accomplished the last time around.
Predicted winners (in order): Spain, Italy
GROUP D: Ukraine, Sweden, France, England.
The other country that’s hosting the Euros may not fare as well in this tournament as their fans would like. Facing teams that are considerably better than them, the Ukranian side will most likely see an early exit. Sweden do have a scoring ace in Zlatan Ibrahimovic but with a team that lacks better balance in quality, the usual suspects are more than likely of seeing themselves off to the next stage of the tournament.
Predicted winners (in order): France, England
This tournament will bring us some fantastic moments along with some brilliant goals. Tune in to ESPN to catch all of the magic of the beautiful game as it happens.