I’m about to give you a totally invalid guide to the groups of Euro 2012. It’s filled with inaccuracies, terrible predictions, stereotypes, and fake stories. Basically, it’s ESPN without it being presented as serious. Enjoy!
Group A – The Group of Meh
If Group B is the toughest group, Group A is the least entertaining group of all-time. Co-hosts Poland are joined by dullards Greece, group favorites Russia, and underachievers Czech Republic. Poland have not done anything in the international stage since 1982 when they finished 3rd in the FIFA World Cup, and this is only their 2nd ever appearance at the European Championships, the other back in 2008 when they failed to win a group game and were swiftly booted. Their best player is Lukas Podolski, but unfortunately he chose to play for the Germans.
Greece somehow won Euro 2004 through a barrage of headed goals and then barely venturing into the opposition’s half the remainder of the tournament. This was clearly a stunning result as Greece didn’t qualify for the 2006 World Cup, and put in tepid efforts at Euro 2008 and the last World Cup. Their reputation for boring, defensive, negative football is well documented, and sadly it might be enough to get them at least 2nd in this group.
Czech Republic were inexplicably ranked in the top 5 of FIFA’s silly rankings system pre-2006 World Cup, and looked every bit the part after obliterating the USA before getting humiliated by Ghana and Italy and finishing 3rd in the group stages. Their chance to redeem themselves at Euro 2008 went well until underdogs Turkey knocked them out of the competition with a stunning 3-2 win, in which Turkey scored all of their goals in the final 15 minutes and GK Petr Cech was credited with an assist for Turkey’s equalizer. They didn’t bother with qualifying for the last World Cup. Expect them to underachieve again as they can’t be relied upon to win games 2 and 3 evidently.
Russia should win the Group of Meh easily. They have the historical pedigree dating back to the USSR era and just recently finished in the semifinals of Euro 2008. The Russians, led by Dutchman Dick Advocaat, finished 1st in their qualifying group and conceded just 4 goals in their 10 matches. It would be a shock if they managed to concede a single goal against any of their opposition. Their weakness is Andrei Arshavin, a man whose spell at Arsenal was spent either not putting in 100% effort or refusing to pass the ball.
Group B – The Group of Death
Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, and Denmark. What more could you possibly want? The moniker could actually be literal, as the last time Portugal played The Netherlands in an international tournament it ended in a foul-filled 1-0 win for Portugal in the 2006 World Cup. Roughly 65 yellow cards, 13 red cards, and 11 arrests were made in the proceedings and Robin Van Persie was stretchered off the pitch with pieces of shrapnel in his leg. Every team here has won the European Championships at least once except Portugal, who have only managed a runners-up medal when they hosted the tournament in 2004.
If there’s any potential weak-link here it’s Portugal, who struggled throughout qualification (including a 4-4 draw with Cyprus), and needed a 6-2 playoff romp of Bosnia and Herzegovina just to make it to Poland/Ukraine. Their team is obviously headlined by Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored between 500-550 goals in this past La Liga season, but is still lacking a signature performance on a world stage.
Denmark stunned the continent by winning Euro 1992 in Sweden, knocking off Germany 2-0 in the final in one of the most prominent upsets in world football. They confirmed their place in Euro 2012 by beating Portugal 2-1, putting them 3 pts clear of the Portuguese heading towards the final round of qualifying. While goals were at a premium, they conceded just 6 and their captain is Liverpool defender Daniel Agger. Their strike partnership is led by Dennis Rommedahl and his goofy-moving counterpart Nicklas Bendtner.
Germany better win the group and then win the tournament, but I’ll explain that later.
Group C – The Group of Debt
Spain, Croatia, Ireland, and Italy make up the “Group of Debt”, given all of the financial and economic struggles for Spain, Ireland, and Italy over the last year or so. In fact, Croatia had to lend the three nations a couple of euros for travel money to Poland.
Due to their deepening financial crises, the Spaniards had to sell several of their top players to other countries in a mass liquidation sale, which explains why Fernando Torres is playing like he’s the best striker in Tuvalu. Nonetheless, Spain are the best team in the world right now and are the defending European and World champions.
The same forecast is not as good for Ireland, who could not afford to have Robbie Keane on the squad so their 4-4-2 formation sees Bono and The Edge playing up top. Their success depends on the luck of the Irish, which appears to have stopped working if Thierry Henry’s handball against them in the World Cup qualifier is anything to go by.
Group C should be fairly easy to predict, as the Italians have fixed the matches in advance, and they read: Italy 2 Spain 1, Croatia 1 Ireland 1, Italy 1 Ireland 0 (on an own goal), Spain 3 Croatia 1, Italy 2 Croatia 0, and Spain 2 Ireland 1. That would mean Italy top the group with 9 pts, Spain finish 2nd on 6 pts, Ireland and Croatia both go out on 1 point. I’m of course not going to follow this in my predictions.
Group D – Group of War
Ukraine, England, Sweden, and France have one thing in common – They have extensive war histories. Sweden backed off after the 15th-19th centuries in which they went to war every other week. England is of course part of Great Britain, and they know a thing or two about wars and colonialism. You don’t need to be informed of France’s many “conquests”, and your knowledge of Ukraine’s battles beyond their Soviet Union history can all be summarized by watching Yul Brynner in Taras Bulba.
As for football, it’s been forgettable as of late. England were humiliated in the World Cup, didn’t even care about Euro 2008 and opted not to qualify, and when they aren’t getting thrashed by superior teams like Germany they manage to lose in every single penalty shootout ever. Wayne Rooney is suspended two games after a mindless red card against Switzerland in their final qualifier. Their defense includes noted racist John Terry, and because of this Rio Ferdinand (brother of Anton, who was the victim of Terry’s racism) has stubbornly not been called up to replace the injured Gary Cahill, with Roy Hodgson choosing Liverpool’s Martin Kelly for some insane reason. England’s expectations are low, and justifiably so. It will make their press reaction when they crash out of the tournament even funnier.
The French have managed to exit in disgrace in three straight World Cups (well, at least Zidane managed a horrendous finale in 2006), and didn’t win a game in Euro 2008 all whilst playing a horrendous 0-0 draw with Romania that has since been denied to have ever existed according to UEFA. But with new manager and local legend Laurent Blanc at the helm, perhaps order will be restored and France will go back to being one of the top teams in the world. Should also mention that all matches with midfield dynamo and full-time diver Franck Ribery will see Ribery’s face blurred out on television due to the graphic nature of his facial structure.
Ukraine is co-hosts with Poland and frankly there’s no reason to believe they’ll get out of the group either.
Sweden are as always fueled by the music of ABBA, and that could very well be the key to getting to the quarterfinals. There are rumors that the Swedes plan to distract their opponents with non-stop disco from kickoff to full-time thrown in with ABBA’s non-disco hits such as “Fernando”.
Who to Pick
Group A: Russia and Czech Republic
Group B: Netherlands and Germany
Group C: Spain and Croatia
Group D: France and Sweden
Germany over Spain
France over Croatia
The Final Pick
Germany over France