TN5 give their view on all the teams
With Euro 2012 due to get under way very shortly, TN5 cast their eye over all the competing teams. Who is likely to be leading the way in their groups, and who looks like they might struggle?
Czech Republic – With many of the stars from previous years now retired, the Czech Republic are not the force they were. With limited options up front, they will look to Arsenal’s bit part player Rosicky to provide the drive and creativity. However, they do look fairly strong defensively, with Cech in goals likely to be a busy man. Defender Kadlec was the leading scorer in qualifying, which tells you all you need to know about their attacking options.
Greece – The defensive style that brought them glory in 2004 may have changed, but so too has most of the team from that era. A lot will rely on the new generation of players such as Ninis creating in midfield and Papadopoulos at the heart of the defence. Promising for the future, but perhaps a tournament too soon for these players to really shine?
Poland – The co-hosts will be looking to progress to the quarter finals after getting a dream draw. Much will depend on the form of their two stars at either end of the pitch. In Szczesny they have a keeper who’s performed superbly in the Premier League and Europe, and up front they will be relying heavily on the goals of Lewandowski. Have they the creativity in the rest of the team to supply the chances that could take them even further than the Quarter finals?
Russia – Excelled last time out when an Arshavin inspired side reached the semi finals of Euro 2008. Certainly not the force they were then, but still a side that could cause an upset. Much will depend on Arshavin recapturing his pre-Arsenal form, and also whether Pavlyuchenko or Pogrebnyak have brought their shooting boots with them. With an accomplished keeper in Akinfeev behind a solid back line, they should have enough to take them through from the easiest group in the tournament.
Verdict – In a group of teams where the keepers are often the stars, don’t expect too much excitement. Poland should push through with home advantage, and Russia are probably the best of a limited bunch and likely to progress too.
Denmark – A reasonably decent team with some household names, and in any other group would fancy their chances of qualifying. But the draw has been exceptionally harsh and it’s difficult to see them getting more than a point or two. Agger and Kjaer at the back will be difficult to breach, and many eyes will be on the young, creative Eriksen in midfield, but it would be a mammoth achievement to knock out either Holland or Germany, never mind Portugal.
Germany – Many peoples’ favourites for the competition, with stars throughout the team. Neuer is a quality keeper, Lahm is class at full back, midfield is packed with Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Ozil and new star Gotze, with firepower from Gomez, Podolski, Muller and Klose. Perhaps their one weakness is at central defence which the opposition will look to exploit. A daunting prospect for anyone, but can Gomez fire the goals they will need if they are to go all the way?
Netherlands – Another star studded side. Solid at the back, they have an embarrassment of riches going forward. If Sneijder hits top form, with Van Persie’s class they could be the most potent attacking force in the competition. This could be their year after missing out in the World Cup final 2 years ago.
Portugal – A one man team? There’s no doubting Ronaldo’s class, probably the biggest talent on show. Looking around the rest though and you see a lot of very average players. The golden era is no more with only the likes of Veloso and Moutinho coming close to reaching Ronaldo’s world class standing. A tough group may prove a step too far for him to bridge on his own.
Verdict – The most eagerly anticipated group of all. It will be tough to qualify but Germany and Holland should have too much for the other two.
Croatia – Always performed well in recent years and again are many peoples’ outside bet. A solid team with a strong back line. Going forward, they will rely heavily on Modric, but where will the goals come from? Jelavic is likely to lead the line, but his international form is far from prolific. If he can capture his form for Everton, they could have a chance of progressing to the Quarter finals and perhaps beyond.
Italy – Shock horror! Scandal hits Italian football. Now where have we heard that before? Well, most recently just before they won the World Cup in 2006 so they are used to prevailing against the odds. However, this is an aging Italian side with no stand out star. No Del Piero, no Baggio, no Totti. Perhaps this could be a blessing as the team as a whole comes to the fore. Much will depend on the midfield drive of De Rossi and defensive strength of Chielli in front of Buffon.
Rep of Ireland – Making their first major finals for 10 years, and the Irish always perform. A tough group won’t worry them as they revel in the underdog tag. Difficult to see where the goals will come from and much will depend on the rear guard action of Given, Dunne and others. If they are to nick a goal or two, perhaps Long could emerge as a national hero to take over from Keane in leading the line.
Spain – Current Euro and World Champions. Casillas, Ramos, Pique, Fabregas, Xavi, Alonso, Iniesta, Busquets, Torres, Pedro. Need we say more? Not really….except no one ever wins three in a row do they? With no Villa and Torres having the crisis of confidence he’s had, could scoring actually be a problem for the Spanish (they were never prolific when at their very best)? Llorente could emerge as the key player. We saw glimpses last year for Athletic Bilbao and he could provide the goals that otherwise might be missing.
Verdict – Spain to ease through the group stages but could come unstuck in knock out football. Extremely close to call for the 2nd qualifying team, but expect Italy to rally and snatch the other spot just ahead of the others.
England – It’s heart rule head time! Or should that be Hart rule head? The golden generation is just about past their time, a depleted squad with injuries and suspensions, there’s not much hope pinned on this squad. Expect Hart to have a busy time between the sticks, but he is the best goalie in the world and he will cement his growing reputation on the international stage this summer. In the absence of Rooney, much will rest on Young to provide the creativity, and Carroll (if selected) could emerge as a hero after a difficult season. It’s going to be tough, and the battle will be won or lost by the central midfield two. Can they be disciplined enough to provide the protection the back four will need so we don’t get hit on the break?
France – They go into the tournament on the back of a 21 game unbeaten run, and a team unity that has been missing in recent times. A well balanced side, particularly in midfield, that combines strength with skills. Many eyes will be on the much talked about M’Vila, but keep an eye on Newcastle’s Cabaye whom much of the play will go through. Nasri and Ribery will be expected to create the openings, and Benzema is in the kind of form that will take anything that’s offered to him.
Sweden – Always a tough side to beat, particularly for England! They will be well set up at the back with WBA’s Jonas Olsson out to put one over his former boss. Kallstrom in the middle of the park will pull the strings and which Ibrahimovic turn ups could impact massively on the Swede’s chances.
Ukraine – Co-hosts, but with far less prospects than Poland. A tougher group and a weaker team, it difficult to see much joy for this home team. Tymoshchuk will run the midfield and Gusev’s pace will be their main outlet, but the stars are now well past their best and the most they can hope for is to be party spoilers for the others sides.
Verdict – France to dominate the group, with England just doing enough (probably the hard way) to see off Sweden and a disappoint Ukraine.