Events / Sports

It’s Euro 2012, so let battle commence

Fellow football enthusiasts, Euro 2012 is upon us at last and the final sixteen elite national teams are ready to hit the field as though their pay checks depend on it, which technically they do.

So without further ado, here’s a brief and mostly objective summary of this year’s finalists and players who will be looking to make an impression.

Co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, the tournament kicks off tomorrow.

Group A

Czech Republic
The Czechs continue to suffer from a lack of opportunists and firepower up front and are not famous for their attacking strategies. However they do have a friend in captain and midfielder Tomas Rosicky, whose return to form in recent months after repeated injury will be vital to the Czechs’ offensive. Fortunately Czech Republic have been grouped with lesser teams Greece, Poland and Russia and may advance to the playoff stages.

Players to look out for:

  • Milan Baros (Galatasaray, Caps: 87, Goals: 40)
  • Petr Cech (Chelsea, Caps: 89)
  • Michal Kadlec (Bayern Leverkusen, Caps: 33, Goals: 7)


Greece
The surprise winners of Euro 2004 have the odds stacked heavily against them repeating such a feat this year. Former manager Otto Rehhagel has since been surpassed by Fernando Santos but Rehhagel’s principles have endured in the form of solid defence, well executed set pieces and almost constant organisation. With no strike force Greece will need to maintain flow and create quick and consistent scoring opportunities from midfield but will be tough to score against having conceded just five goals in 10 qualifying games.

Players to look out for:

  • Theofanis Gekas (Samsunspor, Caps: 56, Goals: 21)
  • Kostas Katsouranis (Panathinaikos, Caps: 89, Goals: 9)
  • Giorgos Samaras (Celtic, Caps: 52, Goals: 7)


Poland
As the lowest ranking team in Euro 2012 (65th) Poland lack the high profile stars that other the other teams in Group A boast. Therefore coach Franciszek Smuda will have to focus on rock-solid team cohesion in order to progress to the playoff stage. Thankfully, the Polish squad have a powerful force in striker Robert Lewandowski who is likely to lead their offensive charge with Borussia Dortmund counterparts Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek bringing up the rear. As co-hosts of the tournament Poland will be looking up the ante considering their most recent noteworthy result was finishing third in the 1982 World Cup.

Players to look out for:

  • Jakub Blaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund, Caps: 51, Goals: 8)
  • Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal, Caps: 8)
  • Adrian Mierzejewski (Trabzonspor, Caps: 21, Goals: 1)


Russia
Despite an ageing squad with little in the way of young talent Russia will be keen to reach the semifinals as they did in Euro 2008. Repeating the same high standard of attack in order to advance may be an issue however as the likes of striker Roman Pavlyuchenko and winger Yuri Zhirkov have underperformed this season. Having conceded a mere four goals in 10 matches during the qualifying stage Russia have a rock-solid defence in their favour that will be tough to crack.

Players to look out for:

  • Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow, Caps: 72, Goals: 5)
  • Roman Pavlyuchenko (Lokomotiv Moscow, Caps: 45, Goals: 20)
  • Pavel Pogrebnyak (Fulham, Caps: 31, Goals: 8)


Group B

Denmark
Clustered in with Germany, Netherlands and Portugal to form the ‘group of death’ Denmark have never been a team to take lightly. Having won the European Championship in 1992 the Danes are no strangers to success. Renowned for rapid passing in elaborate and sometimes complicated patterns Denmark are likely to find Germany the toughest obstacle to overcome.

Players to look out for:

  • Nicklas Bendtner (Sunderland, Caps: 46, Goals: 17)
  • Dennis Rommedahl (Brondby, Caps: 114, Goals: 21)
  • Thomas Sorensen (Stoke, Caps: 100)


Germany
Germany enter Euro 2012 as a strong favourite, and it’s easy to see why. Coach Joachim Loew’s selected charges include the likes of Sami Khedira, Mesut Oezil and Thomas Muller who compliment one of the youngest, fastest and most furious German sides to be fielded. Although the three-time European Champions have failed to lift a major trophy in the last 16 years, Loew has practically every base covered, giving Germany every chance of clinching the title this year.

Players to look out for:

  • Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich, Caps: 51, Goals: 21)
  • Philip Lahm (Bayern Munich, Caps: 85, Goals: 4)
  • Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich, Caps: 90, Goals: 23)


Netherlands
Despite a resilient qualifying campaign the Dutch have battled with defensive blunders as their 3-0 loss to Germany and narrow 3-2 win over England suggest. Nevertheless they boast some of the best attacking forwards in the tournament with skill and speed on the wings. Showcasing an almost identical team to that of the 2010 World Cup final, Netherlands are undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with.

Players to look out for:

  • Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich, Caps: 54, Goals: 17)
  • Robin van Persie (Arsenal, Caps: 62, Goals: 25)
  • Wesley Sneijder (Internazionale, Caps: 81, Goals: 23)


Portugal
Equipped with the world’s most expensive player, flair in attack, a steadfast midfield and tenacious defence Portugal are set to break a few hearts in the “group of death”. As semifinalists in Euro 2000, runners-up in Euro 2004 and quarterfinalists in 2008 Portugal have lucked out consistently and have yet to find glory. Coach Paulo Bento is likely to Cristiano Ronaldo’s determination and prolific goal-scoring capacity to spearhead the Portugal drive, provided the Real Madrid star can transfer his league form to the international field.

Players to look out for:

  • Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, Caps: 88, Goals: 32)
  • Nani (Manchester United, Caps: 54, Goals: 8)
  • Bruno Alves (Zenit St Petersburg, Caps: 48, Goals: 5)


Group C

Croatia
Unlike 2008 when Croatia were blessed with a relatively easy route to the quarterfinals, before being stopped by Turkey through a merciless penalty shootout, this year they face stern opposition in the group stage in the form of Spain, Italy and Ireland. Although coach Slaven Bilic commands a committed and talented squad a massive amount of pressure rests on the shoulders of midfielder and playmaker Luka Modric and attacking midfielder Niko Kranjcar.

Players to look out for:

  • Niko Kranjcar (Tottenham Hotspur, Caps: 69, Goals: 15)
  • Luca Modric (Tottenham Hotspur, Caps: 54, Goals: 8)
  • Ivica Olic (Bayern Munich, Caps: 77, Goals: 15

Ireland
Giovanni Trapattoni’s men have been dropped into an illustrious group, and will have to counter World Champions Spain and the currently misfiring but dangerous Italy. The definitive underdogs of Group C, Ireland, who have failed to qualify for a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup, are hampered by a weak midfield and will need to offset this by with early penetration, clean possession and be ready to capitalise on every goal-scoring opportunity. Opposition counter-attacks are likely to be Ireland’s undoing.

Players to look out for:

  • Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy/ Aston Villa, Caps: 117, Goals: 53)
  • Kevin Doyle (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Caps: 46, Goals: 10)
  • Damien Duff (Fulham, Caps: 95, Goals: 8 )

Italy
Blighted by injuries, Italy enter Euro 12 with the crucial figure of Antonio Cassano in doubt and Giuseppe Rossi ruled out through injury. However, they may find solace through Mario Balotelli, providing the unpredictable striker sticks to coach Cesare Prandelli’s game plan and remains disciplined. Despite friendly defeats by the US and Uruguay, Italy will be looking to rebuild their credibility after their disastrous campaigns at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.

Players to look out for:

  • Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma, Caps: 71, Goals: 10)
  • Antonio Cassano (AC Milan, Caps: 28, Goals: 9)
  • Claudio Marchisio (Juventus, Caps: 19, Goals: 1)


Spain
As current World Cup and European Championship holders Spain are favourites to lift the title, which in turn would make them the first team in history to retain the Henry Delauney trophy. In addition Spain would also be the first country to win three major tournaments in a row. So the pressure is on. Coach Vicente del Bosque has maintained the core of his well-oiled machine and avoided the risk of too much experimentation. With all to lose and all to gain Spain are the team to beat.

Players to look out for:

  • Andres Iniesta (Barcelona , Caps: 64, Goals: 11)
  • Iker Casillas (Real Madrid, Caps: 128)
  • Xavi (Barcelona, Caps: 108, Goals: 10)


Group D

England
Aside from the flack new coach Roy Hodgson has faced from the belligerent British media after only a month in charge, he has far bigger worries. The current England squad lacks technical ability and have looked insecure on the possession front in recent friendlies. Hodgson, who has lost four players from the squad to injury, cannot afford to play a defensive game, particularly against the likes of France and Sweden but he may have little choice.

Players to look out for:

  • Steven Gerrard (Liverpool, Caps: 92, Goals: 19)
  • Theo Walcott (Arsenal, Caps: 24, Goals: 3)
  • Ashley Young (Manchester United, Caps: 21, Goals: 6)


France
New coach Laurent Blanc has assembled a resilient and focused squad, currently with an unbeaten run of 18 games, including wins against Germany, Brazil and England. Not too shabby for a work in progress even by friendly standards. Les Blues fans are likely to see a far more composed and determined side than in recent years and with Olympic Lyon’s Hugo Lloris slipping on the captain’s armband fans will also see some ice-cool direction on field.

Players to look out for:

  • Patrice Evra (Manchester United, Caps: 39, Goals: 0)
  • Florent Malouda (Chelsea, Caps: 74, Goals: 8)
  • Frank Ribery (Bayern Munich, Caps: 57, Goals: 7)


Sweden
A team often regarded as greater than the sum of its parts Sweden are one of the most understated teams in the tournament. Hard-headed and disciplined, the Swedes’ best results to date have been a semifinal berth in the 1992 European Championships and third place in the 1994 World Cup.  With a fast, direct style and less physicality than most teams in the tournament Sweden are likely to make the most of counter attacks and long ball penetration.

Players to look out for:

  • Anders Svensson (Elfsborg, Caps: 126, Goals: 8)
  • Kim Kallstrom (Olympique Lyon, Caps: 90, Goals: 16)
  • Zlatan Ibrahimović (AC Milan, Caps: 77, Goals: 31)


Ukraine
Grouped with England, France and Sweden, underdogs and co-hosts Ukraine can at least take comfort from their substantial support base. With the bulk of attack and scoring coming from midfield instead of strikers and dysfunctional defensive strategies coach Oleg Blokhin will struggle to keep his charges in balanced and coherent form. However, the roar of home crowds may just provide enough impetus for Ukraine to escape the group stage.

Players to look out for:

  • Andriy Shevchenko (Dynamo Kiev, Caps: 107, Goals: 46)
  • Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro, Caps: 55, Goals: 6)
  • Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Bayern Munich, Caps: 114, Goals: 4)

 


 

Frisco Rosso

With more tension than your mother’s suspension, I am Frisco Rosso. I’m likely to deliver a few lines worth at any given moment regarding film, music, sport, books and anything morally unsound that strikes a blow between the eyes in the name of entertainment.

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