Euro 2012 is just around the corner. As we shift focus from club to international football, it’s time for us all to fill out our brackets. I know most of you have no idea who to bet on, so I decided to help you out by filling out mine for all of you.
4. Czech Republic
This is the group no one really knows about. I’m going to give Russia the benefit of the doubt that they have become strong enough not to slip up to lesser opponents, and although I would love to pick Robert Lewandowski and co-hosts Poland to advance, I have a feeling Greece are going to lock down defensively and do enough to finish second.
The group of death is going to prove formidable for all those involved. The difference is going to be depth, confidence, and understanding between the players. In these three areas, I give Germany and the Dutch the edge over Portugal. Christiano Ronaldo is obviously the best player in this tournament, but his team isn’t as deep as the other two. The Germans are on the cusp of something special, so I have them as the favorites to win the group.
The Spaniards are still number 1. Until someone knocks them off that pedestal, they will come into any tournament as the favorites to win the whole thing. However, watch out for Italy. They are going to surprise some people if they play the correct lineup with several players from Juventus, who finished the year unbeaten in Serie A. It won’t be enough to topple Spain in the group, but they should advance comfortably.
English fans hide your eyes. The hiring of Roy Hodgson a month before the tournament, coupled with the selection of a very similar team to the one that flamed out of the World Cup two years ago doesn’t sit well in my mind. Many people think France could struggle with Loic Remy injured and likely watching from home, but I like the way they are constructed. If they play Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri on the wings with Karim Benzema up front, they could have Hatem Ben Arfa in central attack and two deeper central midfielders to protect an already potent back line. Watch out for Olivier Giroud who is having a tremendous season leading Montpellier to a surprise Ligue 1 title over PSG.
Russia 1-2 Netherlands
The dutch are a fluid team with terrific understanding of each other. Russia gets a goal, but the Netherlands advance based upon this and better depth.
Spain 2-0 England
The Three Lions suffer by finishing second in their group with a matchup against mighty Spain. England has traditionally disappointed in international competitions and Euro 12 proves to be no different.
Germany 3-0 Greece
As I stated before, Germany is on the verge of something special. Their fluidity, along with the talent of their midfield make up for what could be a suspect back line if Per Mertesacker can’t play. They face a Greek team that won’t attack as much as they could which will help that fact as well. Mesut Ozil is going to take over this tournament.
France 0-1 Italy
Italy locks down and France can’t finish. Eventually, Balotelli enters the game and finds a goal then subsequently gets a red card after a dirty unnecessary tackle and a French flop. After a few clutch saves from Gigi Buffon and a hectic finish, Italy progresses. (Obviously, everything I just said is facetious outside the first sentence. But seriously, it could happen. Would you really be surprised?)
Netherlands 1-1 (4-3) Spain
The Dutch shock the world and beat Spain on PK’s. Not sure I have a rhyme or reason for this one, I just want to pick an upset and I think if the Netherlands play the way they should and not how they did in the World Cup Final two years ago, they just might be able to do it with the absence of a clinical Spanish striker on that entire roster. The wildcard is if Fernando Torres is included and somehow becomes the Torres of old.
Germany 2-1 Italy
I would actually love to pick Italy in this one, but I think Germany is going to be more powerful over the course of 90 minutes. The better team progresses here, setting up a matchup with their bitter rivals in the final.
Netherlands 1-2 Germany
Die Mannschaft win Euro 12. Why? Germany has the best collection of young talent that fit their system in the world. It is very similar to the way Spain came together in Euro 2008 before entering the 2010 World Cup as favorites. I see the same thing happening here. The progress the Bundesliga has shown as a whole by overtaking Italy as the third best league in the world cannot be overstated. Then the emergence of Borussia Dortmund as a world class club to push Bayern Munich to greater heights will payoff dividends this summer if my psychic abilities are working properly. The possibility that Munich could improve their domestic showing and get back ahead of Dortmund next year by adding a bit of depth in the transfer market, coupled with a possible Champions League win over Chelsea at home Saturday, could lead them to become the new dynasty of Europe. How’s that for predictions? Above all, the mesmerizing young Mesut Ozil pulling the strings to Joachim Low’s brilliant tactics together leads me to believe Germany will conquer this tournament and set themselves up to be the favorites in Brazil at World Cup 2014.