A group of death, like every big tournament needs. The Dutch were part of something similar four years ago, making it in flying colors, just like their qualifying campaign; Germany are the favorites of many to win Euro 2012, but Joachim Low’s squad is far from perfect; Portugal have only Ronaldo to base their hopes on while Denmark will try and shock everyone once again.
After Semi Final appearances in the last two World Cups and a Euro final sandwiched in between, it’s time the German national side, completely reformed in terms of style under Joachim Low and before him Jurgen Klinsmann, win a tournament. They haven’t since the 1996 Euro and Olvier Bierhoff’s golden goal.
Favorites? Many believe they are. The perfect qualifying campaign and the depth of their squad, bolstered by an always improving German Bundesliga, leave many thinking that this side will finally get the best of Spain after two major losses in crunch time. Low will play his usual 4-2-3-1, hoping his young centre backs and Mertesacker can hold the fort and he gets more from Thomas Muller than Bayern did during the season.
The group of death is always hard to call, and deciding between the Dutch and the Germans is extremely difficult. If form is any deciding factor, the Netherlands have won their last two matches, beating Slovakia and Northern Ireland in impressive fashion, hoping to build on the success of the 2010 World Cup, reaching the final.
Despite having a top heavy squad, the Dutch team isn’t exactly all flair and style, but very efficient, hard working and relying mostly on Klaas-Jan Huntelaar during the fantastic qualifying campaign. Having the best striker in the world this side of the La Liga during 2012, Robin Van Persie, shouldn’t hurt the odds too much, with anything below a semi final considered a huge disappointment.
Two words – Cristiano Ronaldo. The captain and mega star of this team that has all the talent in the world on the wings with Nani complementing the Real Madrid man, but not much else to offer in terms of real world class football, especially in a group such as this one.
Lacking a true no.9 striker seems to be a big problems for Paulo Bento’s side, failing to win in their last three friendly matches, scoring only one goal in the 1-3 loss to Turkey. The defense looks solid on paper, but both Pepe and Bruno Alves are as volatile as a centre back can get. Again, it’s mostly up to Ronaldo managing to recreate his Real Madrid form, which rarely happens.
Every group of Death must have a minnow for the giants to squash. But Portugal are no true giants, with Denmark beating them in the qualifying campaign to achieve automatic qualification once again. Morten Olsen has been the head coach since 2000 and despite not having the most talented of squads, his system and discipline do make Denmark a worthy opponent.
The problem for Denmark is not having anything world class in any position, with the exception of maybe Daniel Agger and the developing Christian Eriksen of Ajax. As you expect from such a flair-less side, good defending and counter attacking while hoping to make the most of Nicklas Bendtner up front is mostly what the Danes base their hopes on.
Prediction – This might be the group of death, but Portugal’s unimpressive qualifying campaign, form and 2010 World Cup suggest that this should be Germany and the Netherlands who progress. The Dutch will finish behind Low’s team in the group, while Denmark might surprise many by actually beating Portugal and finishing third.