Thursday, June 5, 2008

Euro 2008 Preview (Part II)

Yesterday I previewed Groups A and B. Today we look at Groups C and D. Tomorrow we'll look at the knockout rounds and predict a winner.


France - This is a team in transition and are still looking to define themselves post-Zidane. The good news: Henry should be well rested and play like he has something to prove after a disastrous first season at the Nou Camp. The bad news: Their central midfielders once played for Caesar in the Roman era Euros. Makele and Viera are still both capable players but they aren't what they were. Are suitable replacements available? I look for Frank Ribery to shine in this tournament and I expect him to be the breakout star of the Euros.

Holland - Babel injury probably locks in the un-Dutch-like 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1. This could be a blessing in disguise as either of those formations should get the best out of Ruud van Nistelroy. Expectations seem lower than usual for the Dutch which likely means this is a year they impress. A healthy Van Persie is key to their hopes.

Italy - Cannavaro's injury is a serious blow to the World Champions. He hasn't really been up to his 2006 standards but he's the calm centre of Italy's backline. Italy is another team in transition. Who will be pulling the strings and getting the ball to Luca Toni? Do Pirlo, Gattuso and the gang have another magical run in them?

Romania - They will be overlooked in this group but are definitely capable of pulling off an upset. By all accounts they are a good team and are unfortunate to be drawn into this group.

Prediction: Well, what more can be said about this group? The Group of Death certainly lives up to its billing. The biggest surprise, for me, is how the Czechs managed to avoid this group? I will probably rue this prediction at the end of June, but I see Italy crashing out here with Holland winning the group and France coming in second.


Spain - Stop me if you've heard this before. They have too much talent and could score goals by the boatload. Who can stop Torres? They are loaded in attack and defense and have, arguably, the best goalkeeper in the world. The finals are not out of the question. Still, they are Spain.

Greece - They look to be a better team this time around than when they won in 2004 (and bored everyone to death). Ironically, despite being better and playing more attractive soccer they aren't likely to advance. No magic run this summer.

Russia - They didn't impress in qualifying - barely finishing above England is not exactly a significant accomplishment.

Sweden - They are always better than everyone thinks and gives them credit for. They always qualify with ease and usually navigate trickier groups than this one. Ibrahimovic's form is a concern. The returning Larsson should be good for a diving header. Undoubtedly they will field the best looking team with the most attractive fans. So they got that going for them, which is nice.

Prediction: This is a tough group to figure out. Sweden wins the group and Spain also advances after making it difficult for themselves.

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