Spain, being the world and European champions, are naturally the big favorites to win the 2012 Euro. Not having Torres and Villa shouldn’t be such a problem with their fantasy midfield in full capacity.
Germany have the perfect combination of style and strength, but they get stopped by Spain every time (2008, 2010) despite their impressive displaying during the tournaments. The Netherlands are an offensive powerhouse, but being in the same group with Germany and Portugal isn’t exactly helpful, and they too, couldn’t really handle Spain in the World Cup.
Spain, Germany, the Netherlands. I don’t see anyone else winning the Euro. France, England, Portugal. They might inspire something by name alone, but just don’t have enough all around quality to go all the way.
The defending world cup champions and the European champions. Number one on the FIFA rankings. Has anything changed since they’ve won the World Cup? Not much. They do have a bit of a problem up front, with David Villa still injured and Fernando Torres lost somewhere on the Stamford Bridge bench, but the overall quality in the squad, especially in the middle of the park, is simply a head or two above the competition.
Need names? Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, Busquets, Xabi Alonso, David Silva. Some of these guys actually sit on the bench! They have Soldado and Llorente up front. They may not be household names, but Llorente has scored in double figures for Bilbao since 2007 and Soldado is doing the same with Valencia.
I don’t pay much attention to friendly matches, but the road through the qualifiers does mean something. Although not suffering through a tough as nails kind of group stage, Spain were very impressive, finishing with a perfect 8 for 8, including over the Czech Republic who made it into the Euro through the playoffs. David Villa scored 7 goals in the qualifiers, David Silva finished with four and Fernando Llorente with 3.
The Germans, third in the world, have a score to settle with Spain. In the Euro 2008 they lost to them in the final. In the World Cup, it was the Semi Final. Both matched ended 1-0 in favor of the Spanish side, both matches were perfect examples of how much better Spain’s midfield is.
Have they fixed the problems of the past? Germany were incredibly dominant during their group stage. A perfect 10 for 10, despite having both Turkey and Belgium, far from easy fixtures. They finished with a 34-7 (+27) goal difference, with Miroslav Klose still ignoring his age, netting 9 goals. Mario Gomez finished with 6, Mesut Ozil helped with 5.
Most important players for the Euro? Bastian Schweinsteiger, still out due to injury which is blowing Bayern Munich’s season, and Sami Khedira who’s also having a so so time with Real Madrid. We all know about Mesut Ozil and his on again, off again style. His brilliance can really come into effect if the Schweini and Khedira are able to dominate like they did for most of the World Cup. Mario Gotze, currently injured, can also be a big game changer.
Another important part of Germany’s potential success will be Manuel Neuer. He was magnificent while playing for Schalke, but it’s been rather iffy for him since signing with Bayern. Low needs to hope these are just first year jitters and he gets his S^&% together come summer.
The no.2 nation in the world, and perennial losers. The finalists in the previous World Cup lost a lot of fans, the neutral ones, after their violent display against Spain under Bert van Marwijk. I actually think that a bit of a rough touch is exactly what the Dutch national team needs, although a line has to be drawn at some point.
The Dutch cruised through their group stage, winning nine out of 10 matches, letting Sweden beat them when it didn’t really matter anymore. They scored 37 goals in the qualifying stage, more than any other team in the world. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, having an incredible season for Schalke with 33 goals in 34 matches, scored 12 goals during the qualifying competition. Dirk Kuyt and Robin van Persie scored six, each.
So we know scoring isn’t a problem. Van Persie might be the best striker in the world today, and having Huntelaar and young Luuk de Jong never hurt anyone. The midfield isn’t the best in the world, especially with Sneijder not looking like his 2010 self in recent times. But Robben isn’t exactly tearing it up for his club, and he’s been brilliant when ever he wears the orange. Rafael Van der Vaart will hope his captures his Tottenham form and not his 2010 World Cup form.
As usual, the Dutch defense will be the one that needs to prove it’s better than what the paper says. At goalkeeper? Also a problem. Stekelenburg hasn’t been exactly perfect for Roma, maybe giving young Tim Krul, having a fantastic season for Newcastle, a chance to capture the no.1 jersey.