I have received great responses to the previous major soccer tournament threads. I am sure this one will be as good.
Here is the official page for the tournament:
UEFA EURO ? UEFA.com
This tournament is rife with controversy. The ongoing claims of racism in the host nations of Poland and Ukraine. The continuing soap opera that is the English and French teams. And the Italian match fixing scandal, which has police officials pulling Italian players off the practice fields and into custody. There are plenty of back stories.
Here is my preview of the four groups. I put them in order that I believe they will finish. The top two in each group advance. In the knockout rounds, the A1/B2 winner plays the C1/D2 winner in the first semi. The B1/A2 winner plays the D1/C2 winner in the other semi.
RUSSIA The Russkies has the right combination of an incredibly weak group, confidence, a burgeoning league and their top players in peak form. A legitmate championship dark horse contender.
POLAND Dismissed by many as a throw away in a terribly weak group, if the Poles can muscle out an opening match win against the Greeks, they can make it into the 2nd round. If Robert Lewandowski finds the net, they are better than the bookmakers say.
GREECE The New Jersey Devils of international soccer. Boring but effective. If they eek out a 1-0 win over Poland, expect two scoreless ties in the next two matches that will snooze them into the 2nd round.
CZECH REPUBLIC The future is bright. But the future is not now. Still, they tend to play well when underestimated.
GERMANY In the unquestioned Group of Death, the Deutchlanders will field as solid a team as they have in 20 years. In my opinion, a huge favorite to win it all.
HOLLAND The Clockwork Oranje are deep, in peak form and have an unsettled score with critics (like me) who pasted them for their ugly play in South Africa two years ago. A strong chance to make the Final.
PORTUGAL The sun is setting on the Portugese glory days. They can still pull off an upset and get through to the 2nd round. But, bad days are ahead for this team that should have won a major tournament in the past decade.
DENMARK My dark horse before the draw is now a bottom feeder facing three teams with superior talent and pedigree. Ingen bøn.
SPAIN Given that they have beaten the other two favorites to win the last two major tournaments, Espana would be a likely dead cinch lock to win this year. However, the cracks are showing on this superteam. They can (and will) be gotten in the semis.
ITALY Whenever the Azzurri are wrapped up in controversy, like the current match fixing scandal, they drop the Prima Donna attitude and play strong, unified soccer. Far from a championship contender, the boys in blue may have some very black days (including FIFA sanctions) ahead of them.
IRELAND Coach Giovanni Trapattoni (nicknamed Trap O' Tony) has put together a solid team mixed with vets and youngsters. If they beat the Croats, they are in a great position to get past the Italians on June 18th.
CROATIA Like the Czechs, they seem to thrive when no one talks about them. Win or lose, they still have the best sports uniform on the planet.
SWEDEN In the most eclectic group in the tournament, the Swedes are back to their old reliably solid and devastatingly boring brand of soccer. Uninspiring, but enough to win this group.
FRANCE The circus that has been French soccer in recent years has left town, for now. Les Blues are back to playing a strong team game and scaring the crap out everyone. Look to them as a favorite for Brazil in 2014.
ENGLAND Few things in sports are as magical as the English fans singing God Save the Queen before a match. It is spine tingling. The Three Lions have too many problems. Rooney misses two games. The John Terry racism thing is not good. Frank Lampard's injury is a critical blow. And they flat out just aren't very talented.
UKRAINE Not devoid of talent, tho co-hosts can take advantage of the other three teams intangibles. My guess is they will be lucky to sneak out a lone tie.
So, who will win?
With Germany and the Dutch placed on seperate sides in the knockout round, I look for one of them to get revenge on the Spaniards in the one semi, and the other to beat an upstart, sleep-inducing Swedish side in the other semi.
And in the Final, the Deutch will beat the Dutch.
First matches are Friday. Let's enjoy this.