Impending Large European Football Event
Posted on June 7, 2012 9:14 pm
So, here we sit on the eve of one of International Football’s biggest events. This time tomorrow, Poland vs Greece and Russia vs the Czech Republic will have set the stage for Euro 2012. If 2008 was anything to go by, we could see a tournament that puts the 2010 World Cup to shame in terms of entertainment value. Group A is of course, the Group of Dearth, with nary a competition favourite among them, but if they get in their stride, Russia could be a dark horse. However, with Spain, Germany and Holland looming on the horizon, there’s a lot of quality to be quashed before any underdog can come to the fore.
Group B is the much-hyped “Group of Death”. Just how deadly it is will be influenced by whether Portugal live up to the expectations of about two tournaments ago. People have spent so long expecting that team to produce a performance worthy of their dazzling array of talented players that the anticipation has dried up. That might just make them dangerous. Having said that, Denmark look like just the kind of organised, if not spectacular outfit that can frustrate them. Germany are on Spain’s heels in the list of favourites, while Holland on the back of the World Cup final appearance, are probably promising something similar to the Portuguese the aforementioned eight years previous. Germany also seem to be juxtaposed to England in the “cock-up” stakes. No matter what issues or expectations the German’s have, they tend to deliver a perfromance regardless.
Group C is almost a second Group of Death, except it contains Spain. Of course, some have asked if they can maintain the hunger this time around. To those people, I point to Barcelona’s trophy cabinet. No, I’m afraid that any talk of waning desire from Xavi & co, is born purely out of meagre pickings when trying to find an actual weakness. Also, their Group C opposition appear more stubborn than dangerous. Ireland will make up what they lack in raw talent with the underdog spirit and determination that saw them qualify for this and narrowly miss out on the World Cup. Croatia have enough about them to cause any team problems on their day. Italy should be in a shambles, but while they don’t compare to past generations, adversity has bolstered them in the past and in Cassano and Balotelli they boast an enigmatic duo that could take the tournament by storm, or equally have a psychotic break.
Then it’s on to the Group of D. Because it’s neither a group of dearth or death and it keeps the D theme going. France are favourite here almost by default. They seem to have regrouped since their farcical World Cup and in Ribery and Benzema boast an exciting attack, further bolstered by Valbuena and Nasri. England already deserve the Golden Lemming for the worst lead-up to a finals tournament in recent memory. Having said that, the circumstances, the new coach, the injuries, the Liverpool Select XI, the Players Not Selected XI and a myriad of injuries mean that for once, the English media aren’t piling gargantuan, unrealistic expectations on the team. That’s a good thing. And while I have your attention, I’d like to once and for all squash the widely held belief that such expectations and delusions of grandeur are shared by the population at large.
The average English person knows that there are at any one time, a number of teams for closer to major international glory than our team. We like to think we’re in the conversation, that if we perform extra well, we’re in with a shout. But regardless of what any overzealous bookmakers, semi-literate tabloid journalist or woefully out-of-touch BBC Pundit might suggest, we actually have an accurate idea of how good we are as a team.
That said, the expectation for the England team is making it out of the group. Whatever success they do have, expect it to be ground out. Don’t write off a tricky Sweden or home Ukraine team either.
So my prediction? I’ll be obvious. Like most of European (and indeed World) football for the past four years, that Barcelona-tinged, possession based Spanish midfield will likely dictate the course of this competition. To date, nobody has come up with a definitive answer to it. Even when Barca or Spain have failed, it’s not only been rare, it’s also tended to be lucky. Defeats against the USA in the Confederations Cup and Inter and Chelsea in the Champions League, have tended to be come as much from what the Spanish side failed to do as what the opposition did. But for a better finish here, a converted penalty there, or a refeeing decision reversed, those results could all have gone either way. There’s only one team that really rivals Barca right now and even they’ve been walloped by them. That of course is Real Madrid, who will also be contributing many a gifted player to the Spanish team.