For me, there are four nations in the Euro 2012 that can win it – Spain, Germany, France and The Netherlands. Other than that? It would be a huge surprise to see someone else lift the trophy, although miracles do happen once in a while – Just look at Denmark in 1992 and Greece in 2004. But according to that calculation, we need four more years for a shocker.
Something about Spain isn’t making everyone feel confident this time around. Well, come to think of it, before the 2008 tournament, not many were giving them a chance to win it. Lovable losers syndrome, if you ask me. Spain always played great football in the group stage but mess up in the knockout stage. Not anymore, going in for a third major title in 8 years.
There’s still that pretty much perfect midfield, based on the Barcelona trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets with the addition of Xabi Alonso in the defensive midfield and David Silva up front. You really can live without a world class striker with these five players in your midfield, without even accounting for Cesc Fabregas, who always begins these tournaments on the bench. He finds his way in the starting lineup, just like in 2008 and 2010.
But what is worrying for some about this team? The Barcelona – Real Madrid rivalry, fiercer than ever before. No striker, initially, to rely on. Torres peaked three years ago, and has had trouble picking up his game and the opportunities given to him ever since. Not including Roberto Soldado in the squad might be a mistake.
And then there’s Group B, wonderfully called the Group of Death, holding two potential winners. Germany have the talent, maybe the most talented squad aside from Spain going into this tournament. Strikers you can count on and pretty much strength and talent across the table. Two things make you wonder about their ability to go all the way.
One – Loser-ism. Germany lost to Spain in the Euro 2008 Final, outclasses, losing only 1-0. Same thing happened two years later in the World Cup Semi Final, stopping Germany’s wonderful run through the tournament, the most impressive out of all the nations until that moment. If they can’t find a way to handle the Spanish midfield, it won’t matter how impressive they look.
Two – Bayern Munich hold a substantial percentage of the German national squad. They didn’t have the best of endings to the 2011-2012 season, finishing behind Dortmund in the league, in the Cup and painfully losing to Chelsea in the Champions League final. How will that affect the national side?
As always, the Dutch are tournament favorites to play well and lose at a certain point. They offer the usual menu – A wonderful attack filled with talent, playmakers and goalscorers with a defense and goalkeeper suspect to be the Achilles heel.
Their two strikers just finished an incredible season, but the two most important players are Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben. Robben had a rough campaign with Bayern Munich, maybe his last with the club. Things weren’t peachy for Sneijder in Italy as well, heading into another summer filled with transfer rumors.
A team with so much talent can’t mess up in the group stages once again. It took Laurent Blanc some time, but I think France are playing finally like he intended them too – quick passing, a lot of position changes between the front five and constant high pressure.
The social situation isn’t bad as it used to be, and the group they’ve been drawn into makes finishing first a very possible scenario. Once you get to the knockout stage, anything is possible.
Group A – Russia finish first, Poland as runners-up. Group B – Germany win the group, Dutch follow. Group C – Spain win the group, Croatia stun Italy (not a huge surprise) and advance from second place. Group D – France finish first, England make it, just barely.
Quarter Finals – The Netherlands beat Russia, avenging their loss on the same stage four years ago; Germany have a tougher than expected time again Poland, but come through; Spain prove too much for England; France are too good for Croatia.
Semi Finals – Netherlands vs Spain – A replay of the World Cup final, with less yellow cards (unless it’s Howard Webb again), with Spain winning again; Germany vs France – The French beat the Germans, just like they did in a recent friendly.
Final – Spain vs France – I believe in this Spanish squad to have what it takes once again. France are talented, but from from perfect team in all aspects. Spain are better in every parameter, and will come away with another trophy, cementing their age of dominance.