Been a long day so I best get my predictions in before Euro 2012 begins in about 12 hrs time. cannot believe it's finally here. Like a kid on Christmas Eve. Anyhoo...
Russia & Poland to advance
Russians clearly the class of the group, which says something about how the lack of quality in group A if they were in any of the other groups, they'd be going home early. It's an aging squad, but a squad still posessing a lot of talent & creativity. Main men Arshavin & Pavlyuchenko both returned home to Russia with their tails between their legs from failed stints in the Premier League & will be expected to lead the side along with rising star Alan Dazgoev who doesn't get the recognition he deserves playing in the RPL. So long as they remained focused, not always a given with this lot, then the group stage should be a breeze
Poland should benefit greatly from their host nation status & ride a wave of local support to the quarterfinals. Home pitch advantage alone, however, will not be the only reason for them finishing second. A top young goal keeper in Wojciech Szczesny anchoring a solid defence & an attack lead by rising star Robert Lewandowski, leading scorer for Bundesliga champs Dortmund, the Poles have enough to hold off Greece & advance out of the group. This is a team we should be hearing more of in coming years.
Germany & Holland to advance
If Group A is one of the weakest groups ever assembled for a Euro, then group B would have to be one of the strongest of all-time. Germany are the best of the bunch, not only here but in the whole tournament as they are my pick to win it all. It's hard to argue against it when you look at the talent they have at their disposal. Blessed with extraordinary depth & relentless drive, the Germans will be an oasis of creative free flowing soccer in a sea of anti-football & will win the group & the tournament
As for Holland this is a team that should contend for the trophy they have a talented, veteran laden roster that ran roughshod over it's group in qualifying . However, this is Holland. De Oranje are known to be a rather self-infatuated bunch with massive egos & are prone to fighting amongst themselves, especially when things don't go their way. If they posess a modicum of discipline they will finish ahead of Denmark whom they are far superior to & a Portugese side that appears to be having some problems given their poor display against Turkey in their recent friendly
Spain & IRELAND! to advance
THE group for me. Sapin is clearly the class here & will breeze through without much diffcultty. There are storm clouds however for the reign European & World Champions. The loss of Carlos Puyol is massive, the man is a force on the backline. His leadership & size will be missed & could give their opponents an opening especially on set pieces. Then there's the issue of fatigue, the downside of having a team as laden with talent as theirs means they have seen a considerable amount of action for their clubs, by some accounts many of them, especially those playing for Barcelona & Real Madrid have play the equivalent of 5 season worth of soccer in the last 4 years. Spain have had a good run but it will end in the Euros
As for me picking the Irish, well what the hell do you expect?? I feel quite bullish about Ireland's chances, which i will get into more detail later but suffice it to say they will finish 2nd & make some noise in the knockout stage.
England & France to advance
You'd think from all the doom & gloom surrounding England that they are one of the worst teams not just at the Eutos but anywhere in the world. This pessimism is not the worst thing in the world for the Three Lions who have been the victims of over-inflated opinions. If there will be one phrase used to describe England's performance I have little doubt it will be Park the Bus. If you're expecting Barcelona then you will be sorely disppointed. Woy of the Wovers will set up his side to produce a master class in anti-football, which is not a bad thing for this side, as evidenced by the successful yet unappealing wins over Norway & Belgium in their warmup matches.. Hodgson understand his team's limitations & has them playing in a manner that will get them results. I expect them to surprise many & win the group.
France are a team on the rise, they haave put behind them the debacle of South Africa where they were on the receiving end of karmic retribution for screwing Ireland out of a berth in the World |Cup (but I digress...) young & gifted the French under Laurent Blanc have been playing with flair while maintaining a disciplined defensive shape. This is a team that will, in my opinion, be a legitimate contender for the World Cup in 2014 & their performance this year will be very impressive as I have them going all the way to the final, but falling short to Germany.
Knock out stage picks
Holland over Russia
France over Spain
Germany over Poland
IRELAND over England (yeah baby!)
Germany over Ireland
France over Holland
Germany over France