We get our first day of rest in Euro 2012, as the eight teams prepare for the quarter finals, with Spain – France and England – Italy looking like the headlining matches. Germany and Spain should still be considered the favorites to win this tournament, but suddenly Portugal emerge as viable contenders, with Cristiano Ronaldo firing on all cylinders.
Czech Republic – Portugal
Never count out a team with Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite the expectations to finish third; despite the opening match loss; despite Ronaldo missing every single chance against Denmark. Joao Moutinho and Miguel Veloso took a step in the right direction against the Netherlands, with Ronaldo doing the rest of the work in the scoring department, in what many believe was his finest game for the national team.
The Czechs will be underestimated again. How could they not be? Despite their two wins after the opening loss to Russia, they rarely impressed, as Petr Jiracek seems to be the only player who comes to mind as somewhat of game changer. The return of Hubschman really improved the midfield, but the Czechs really have to worry about their defense handling the incredible speed of the Portuguese counter attacking.
Game Info – Met twice in a Euro tournament, with the Czech Republic winning both times, including 3-1 in Euro 2008. The match will be played on Thursday, 20:45 local time, in Warsaw.
Prediction – Seeing Portugal improve through the tournament while the Czechs have failed to impress for longer than 10 minute stretches, you have to go with the Portuguese.
Germany – Greece
Greece hardly impressed anyone, as usual. Still, they managed to come back against Poland with 10 men and were one penalty miss away from winning that match. They weren’t too far from coming back against the Czechs and showed the usual fighting spirit plus parking the bus mentality against Russia. It can’t work again against Germany, right?
It shouldn’t. Germany didn’t play as good as they can in the group stage, but they played well enough, being the only team to pick up 9 points. They were fantastic against the Netherlands and efficient against Denmark. This team can win matches without playing 100%, which is always handy when it comes to Greece. The ability to attack through the wings with Muller and Podolski, plus Schweinsteiger passing and pace setting in the middle will decide if this will be a hellish encounter for Germany or an easy one.
Game Info – Greece have never beaten Germany, with the two teams meeting for the first time in 11 years. Friday, June 22, 20:45 in Gdansk.
Prediction – Hard to go against Germany. The complete package against a team that simply’s out there to ruin their opponents match. Germany have enough to handle Greece and make it into the Semi Finals.
Spain – France
The finger-lickin’ matchup of the quarterfinals. Spain were frustrated by Croatia for most of the match in Gdansk on Sunday, but France can’t and won’t play that way. They don’t have a strong enough defense to hold on against 90 minutes of Spanish pressure. They need Alou Diarra and whoever is next to him (probably Cabaye) at their best to try and put some pressure on the Spanish possession and ball movement.
For Spain, it’s not just about the 4-5-1 or 4-6-0 by Del Bosque. He showed that using Navas to widen the playing field can be very useful, but the most important player in the tournament so far has been Andres Iniesta. Every time he’s turned his game up, Spain play better and usually find the net, against frustrating (Italy, Croatia) or more lenient defenses.
Game Info – Spain have beaten France in their last two friendlies, but did lose to them 1-3 in the 2006 World Cup. Saturday, June 23, 21:45 at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.
Prediction – France found it hard to get things going against Sweden, which aren’t exactly the toughest of defending teams. Maybe it was Blanc tempering with the lineup, but maybe it’s a bigger problem than that. Karim Benzema has played well but has found it hard to score so far. Spain, despite not playing magical football, seem to be a bit more loaded offensively and should have enough to beat France.
England – Italy
Luck might be on the English side for once, with that goal that should have been allowed going unseen. On the other hand, there was an offside during the build up play. Wayne Rooney is back and England will probably be forced to take more initiative against Italy, not in love with having most of the possession as well.
Prandelli’s shouldn’t be pleased with his team’s attacking and midfield inefficiency, despite the win over Ireland, who managed to embarrass the Italians on more than one occasion. He should stick to Di Natale – Cassano pairing, which seems to be working better than any combo with Balotelli, who did score against Ireland. Hodgson has a similar headache with Theo Walcott, but he’ll probably leave him on the bench for later.
Game Info – England haven’t beaten Italy since 1997, and the two teams haven’t met since the Italian winning 2-1 in Leeds, back in 2002. Sunday, June 24, 21:45, Olympic Stadium in Kiev.
Predictions – If there’s one match you should put your money on going to extra time and penalties, it’s this one. England, for once, do come out on top.