UEFA have tried their utmost means to ensure the hosts of Euro 2008, Switzerland and Austria have easier paths to qualify from the group stages to the quarter finals. Such benevolence may still not be enough for the home teams to qualify for the next round. Group stages at this quadrennial event are tougher than the World Cup, where each group ends up getting one minnow atleast.
Needless to say the four groups at Euro 2008 are evenly matched including the Group of Death where there’s not much to choose between France, Italy, Holland and Romania.
A typical ‘end-of-the-club-season’ tournament has few factors which decide the winner
– Young Talent aspiring to shine before the transfer window (Wouldn’t upcoming stars like Benzema, Engelaar, Nani like Real Madrid to lure them?)
– Tired legs of several stars from big clubs (Manchester United, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Roma, Bayern Munich stars were mightily busy till mid May)
– Injuries to key players (No better example than Fabio Cannavaro)
– Tactical play of European teams (read: defensive, boring, low on adventure and flair)
– Egos of stars who have had an average season (Wouldn’t Henry like to end the year on a high, or Deco from Portugal’s golden generation want to lift a trophy with the national team?)
– The draw – Group of Death teams never win major championships
– In European Nations championship history, a dark horse team hits the high notes and shocks the world (Holland 1988, Denmark 1992, Czech Republic 1996 and Greece in 2004).
With such a backdrop, I had a look at the four groups and did my share of crystal ball gazing..
Group A: Cristiano Ronaldo and coach Scolari will guide Portugal to lead this group. My second team is Turkey’s dogged defensive play ahead of the Czech Republic.
Group B: Joachim Lowe’s Germany and the Croatian team should have a relatively comfortable ride out. This adds up to Portugal and Germany playing the first semfinal. The second half of the draw is more complicated
Group C: I feel Holland and one of the heavy weights will go through, probably France since Italy minus Cannavaro and Totti would not be the same force.
Group D: Torres and Villa have enough firepower to ensure Spain rule the group and I fancy Guus Hiddink’s Russia to make the quarters cut ahead of Sweden.
The leaders of Group C would reach the semi finals and it depends on who faces Spain in the other quarter final – France, Italy or Holland. France should be one of the semi-finalists either way and Holland or Spain would fill the other spot. My pick is that France would get knocked out in the semis.
Which brings me to the final – Germany’s experience for the big occasion should clash with Spain’s unfulfilled promises or Holland’s adventurous ways…., what after this?
My bet is on Germany winning this trophy, dark horses would be Spain for sure, followed closely by Holland – despite its weak defence, clash of personalities and Seedorf deciding to pull out of the tournament.
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