With the eight remaining teams set for the next round of the Euro’s, it is time for me to eat some of my words. Perhaps I should have been more careful in my selections, or maybe I should have heeded the warning that the Euro’s are easily the most unpredictable tournament in the footy world.
Perhaps the most exciting group as the first round came to an end, with these teams all fighting till the very last minute. Also, the only group where my predictions were completely off base, as I had chosen dark-horse, Russia as well as co-hosts, Poland to commence.
My reasoning you ask? With tactical players such as Arshavin, Glushakov and Pavlyuchenko, as well as the fact that Russia will be hosting the 2018 World Cup, pressure has been mounted on the team to show the world that they are indeed making strides.
As for Poland, one always wants to believe that the host nation has what it takes to make their country proud, but in this group the Greeks side, led by Captain Karagounis, surprised yet again by putting an end to Russian side, who merely needed a draw to continue. Confidence remains high despite the fact that their next opponent is tournament favorites, Germany. Will we see Greece cause another major upset like they did in 2004 by ousting tournament favorites, Germany?
My predicted winners, Germany, seemed to breeze through this round, becoming the first national team this year, to win 12 competitive games in a row, and the only team in the Euros to win all of their matches, seemingly well on their way to be crowned Champions.
On the other hand, the team I claimed would be the biggest disappointment, Portugal, changed their fate with the help of Ronaldo’s much feared right-foot. Though admittedly, CR7 seemed to only find his groove when it mattered, going from biggest letdown to hero in one game.
As for the Netherlands, my second selection in Group B, they seemed to fall short in every aspect. With rumors floating about that there is disharmony within the camp, perhaps the same fate that befell France in World Cup 2010 has moved on to haunt the Netherlands. And the questionable selection of offense chosen by Bert van Marwijk, exiting the group without any points, and for the first time ever losing three consecutive competitive games in a row, it didn’t come as much of a surprise.
With Spain looking to become the first nation to win three consecutive international titles, the pressure is most certainly on.
The Spanish team and Vicente del Bosque has taken much criticism from the Spanish press. From questioning his selection, to the formation he has chosen thus far, Del Bosque is feeling the heat, although he stated yesterday that the criticism is of no importance to him. If, and only if Spain does not go on to lift the Cup, maybe then he will think back on all the criticism.
As for L’Azzuri, the veteran Italian side proved once again that they are not yet a team to be forgotten. With the tactical skills of Pirlo, who seemed ever present as well as Cassano, Balotelli, and the beastly Buffon, they seem well on their way and are set to face England, who have had a trying build-up to the Euros.
Content with both teams going through, as my selection for Group C was spot on, I must admit that a part of me feels that Croatia, who played with so much heart and passion deserved to clinch a spot, but so the wheel keeps turning.
England sans Rooney seemed destined to disappoint, but when his banned finally lifted, he went on to score the winning goal. With a solid mixture of veterans and rookies, the team once again rose to fans expectations and managed to end top of Group D, despite the lack of confidence from critics.
At the other side of the same coin, “The Return of France” as dubbed by some, saw the French side finally return to their revered style of play. Breakout star on the team would undoubtedly have to be right-back Mathieu Debuchy, but facing Vicente Del Bosque’s side next, the question must be asked, will their return to former greatness continue, or will it merely be a passing phase?
Firmly behind my initial selection of Germany to lift the Cup, my selection of opponent has been eliminated and forcing my hand in selecting a new rival. As much as this pains me, my prediction for the Euro Final 2012: Germany v. Spain….sure to be an enticing and energized game. Hopefully this time around I won’t have to swallow my words, again….Auf Gehts Deutschland!
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