Euro 2012: The teams

The Euro’s are upon us!

The champions of Europe will be crowned in 24 days! So here’s a quick look at the teams who’ll be lining up and looking to take the coveted cup on July 1, and my predictions on who’ll be champs. Make sure to vote in the poll and check the team profile below.

Group A

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic have some really good players in their squad, but not enough to worry some of the bigger teams in their group. They have arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Petr Cech, and some forgotten diamonds in the rough, Milan Baros, Jaroslav Plasil and Tomas Rosicky.

I can’t see them progressing past the group stage, although I’m sure they’ll give it a right good go.

Predicted finish: group stage elimination

Greece

The shock winners of 2004, beating Portugal 1-0, will hope to bring back a bit of national pride to Greece after a dismal and torrid couple of years politically and financially.

Their warm up games have been a bit of a mixed bag. Losing to Romania, only managing draws with Latvia and Bosnia, but managing to beat Croatia. Greece are similar to England in a “which team will turn up?” way. I think they’ll get through to the group stage, but be knocked out in the first round after that.

Predicted finish: quarter-finals

Poland

I think second place in this group will be a close call between Poland and Russia. The Poles have some really good players in Lewandowski and Blaszczykowski, but two players can’t carry a team through a tournament. The rest of the squad has some good names in it, but nobody who I think will make their opposition tremble.

Although they’ve only lost once in their last 11 games (2-0 to Italy) drawing with Mexico, Germany and Portugal, I think it’ll be Russia who gets the second spot ahead of them.

Predicted finish: group stage elimination

Russia

Everything looks great for Russia, until pressure gets put on their defence. They have some of the top strikers, Pavlyuchenko and Pogrebnyak have been fantastic in the Premier League at times, and with midfielders like Arshavin and Zhirkov, their attacking prowess can match almost anyone on their day.

That being said, their past few games haven’t been spectacular, barring the 6-0 mauling of Andorra. 0-0 bore draws with Lithuania and Rep of Ireland aren’t the type of performances this team are capable of, but I think once competition time comes around, they’ll squeeze through to the quarter-finals.

Predicted finish: quarter-finals

Group B

Denmark

If Denmark weren’t in such an unforgiving group, I’d give them a shout of progressing through to the knock-out stages. But as it is, they have two of the favourites battling it out for the coveted title.

The Danes have beaten all their Scandinavian rivals in the warm ups; Finland, Sweden and Norway, along with the scalp of Portugal to add to those. There are two problems I can see for Denmark; one is that their strikers aren’t the most consistent around, and the other is that their squad doesn’t have the depth in defence that others have, and if a couple of defenders get injured or suspended, then it could spell disaster for their campaign.

Predicted finish: group stage elimination

Germany

My tip to win. The Germans are traditionally very efficient, hard working and brilliantly drilled defensively. There’s finesse, class and brilliance from front to back, and I can see Germany just constantly pummeling their opponents until they make the break through and continue to dominate the game from there on.

They did have an absolutely shocking result against Switzerland, losing 5-3, and again a shock defeat to France, but that has been merely a blip in their form. I think they’ll do very well, and probably come out winners.

Predicted finish: winners

Netherlands

The Netherlands have always been there or there abouts on par with the best teams in the world. Their pace and skill is practically unrivalled. The last time they won the European Championships was in 1988, and I reckon they’ll go close again this time around.

Most of their star players are right on form as well, Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, Affelay and Huntelaar are all world beaters and can tear apart any team they play. My guess is that they’ll have a final showdown with Germany, but it’ll be the Germans who’ll come out on top in a close game.

Predicted finish: runners-up

Portugal

The ever under-achieving Portugal will be trying to go one better than in 2004 when they were beaten by Greece in the final. And they should be able to, if they could play well as a team. Individually, they are probably in the top three teams on the planet. Ronaldo, Nani, Quaresma, Moutinho, Viana, Meireles, Postiga, Coentrao, to name but a few.

But for some reason, when this group gets together, they can’t find it within themselves to play as a team and tear open the opposition. They had to come through qualifying just to get to the Euros. They’ve been beaten by Denmark and Turkey, and could only manage a 0-0 draw with Macedonia and Poland – teams they really should be scoring goals against.

Again, they are in the same boat as Denmark; they would have a chance of progression if they weren’t in the same group as Holland and Germany.

Predicted finish: group stage elimination

Group C

Croatia

Some people might look at my prediction here and think: “not a chance in hell.” But I genuinely believe that Croatia will progress to the knock-out stage over Italy. They’re such a stubborn team. They went undefeated for months and months and they have some really in-form players.

They were beaten by Greece and Sweden in their run-up to the competition, but they are some tough opponents. Croatia also had to qualify for the tournament, beating Turkey 3-0 on aggregate which is no mean feat. As I said, I fancy them to get to the next round, but then be knocked out, probably by England.

Predicted finish: quarter-finals

Italy

A perfect combination of youth and experience. Italy should have the world at their feet, but they don’t. Ego seems to be the name of the game in Italian football, and with all the match fixing allegations and charges flying around the Italian leagues, it’s hard for me to see how this “team” can play together.

Italy have had three defeats on the bounce, to Russia, USA and Uruguay, and it shows their lack of consistency when they had three consecutive wins through August and September last year. The Italian players love the limelight, the media and themselves, and for those reasons, they’re out.

Predicted finish: group stage elimination

Rep. of Ireland

It’s difficult to look at this group and NOT think “ok, the biggest number in this group is going to be in Ireland’s ‘against’ column.” But have a think. They’re unbeaten in their last 10 games, have masses of experience and firepower with Keane, Doyle, Long and Dunn, and have a great team spirit.

That being said, they just aren’t good enough. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll give it a go with everything they have, but I’m sure it’ll all end swiftly for the poor lads.

Predicted finish: group stage elimination

Spain

They’re technically the best team in the world, according to the FIFA rankings, but I just can’t see them getting to the finals this time, even though they won it in 2008. The Spanish team haven’t particularly improved over the past couple of years, but you can’t deny that they’ve got some amazing superstars: Fabregas, Xavi, Iniesta, Mata, Torres and Llorente, to name but a few.

The only thing with Spain, is that they either play really really well, or really really poorly, and there are some other teams in the competition who will take advantage of any lapses in concentration or mistakes made by Spain, if and when they’re made.

Predicted finish: semi-finals

Group D

England

Our beloved England. Once again, shrouded in controversy, who should Hodgson pick, who should he omit, was it the right choice, will he make the team better? Only one way to find out, let the lads play! We have a lot of youthful exuberance this year, and I reckon that’ll definitely be a massive help for us when we get into an attacking flow, but the one thing that worries me about this England squad is the amount of goals it looks like we could concede.

Apart from Gerrard in midfield, there isn’t a lot of competitive international experience, and that worries me, where’s the defensive help going to come from? We’re definitely treating this competition as one to bleed through young players, but I suppose they’ll never get the experience if they don’t play, and it’s Hodgson’s first real test, so why not give it a good crack!?

Predicted finish: semi-finals

France

When you look through the French squad, you can see quality in every part of the pitch. Lloris, Mexes, Ribery, Benzema, four of the words best in my opinion. The first game against England is certainly going to be a tasty affair, I just hope they can mess it up!

The last time France won was in 2000, beating Italy 2-1 in sudden death extra time. Two years prior to that they won the World Cup, thrashing Brazil 3-0 in the final. But since then, French football has taken a nosedive. The shambles of the squad in South Africa summed it all up for me. No passion, no desire, no team mentality. However I do think there are some individuals who will drag the French through to the next round of the competition.

Predicted finish: quarter-finals

Sweden

Sweden have traditionally always been a tough game for England, but I think this current crop of Swedish players isn’t up to the standard of who they’ve had in the past. Yes, there’s Ibrahimovic and Elmander and Kallstrom, but there’s nobody to back them up with a couple of goals here and there.

I just don’t think this particular squad is good enough to compete with the others in the group, even if they have had some good wins against the likes of Croatia, away and the Netherlands during qualifying, I still think their campaign will end after three games.

Predicted finish: group stage elimination

Ukraine

Ah Ukraine, with your hopes piled once again on Shevchenko to score 20 goals in a competition. Of course, Ukraine will have a fantastic following because they’re joint hosting the competition, but I still think they’ll have a tough time getting anywhere.

They’ve been beaten by Turkey and Austria so far this month, not ideal preparation for a tournament. I just can’t see them going anywhere, with almost no household names in the squad, it’ll be down to pure hard work and determination to see if they can come through and progress, but I doubt they can.

Predicted finish: group stage elimination

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About Matthew Norman

A Search Manager working in the SEO department with three years of digital marketing experience in Middlesbrough, UK and now in Sydney.

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