Friday, June 6, 2008

Euro2008 Preview, Random Thoughts, Predictions

Format: four groups of four, round robin play within each group, top two from each group advance to the knockout stage, which starts with quarterfinals pitting group winners versus group runners up and culminating in the final on Sunday June 29th.

First off, previews from people smarter than me and with a bit more time to write something worth reading: Bobbeh, who has previews of each team and predictions, and Soccernet, which has previews of each team. Michael at B&B also has a very astute observation about style of play, which is a great thing to read after reading Soccernet's rundown of how each team looks to line up formation & tactics-wise.

Now then, some random and nonsensical thoughts from me.

Group A
Czech Republic

Portugal are big faves here and have loads of talent but coach Scolari plays pragmatic results driven soccer rather than the beautiful game. It will be a surprise if they don't win the group. Czech didn't call up Pavel Nedved, and Tomas Rosicky is injured, but they still have lots of talent and an amazing wall of a keeper in Peter Cech. Still, I have a hunch that they are going to struggle and I wouldn't be surprised if they struggle. Switzerland struggle to score but play resolute defense: to wit, they never conceded a goal in the 2006 World Cup but were eliminated on penalties by Ukraine in the final 16 after a scoreless draw. Look for their games to be defensive minded and low scoring. Turkey on the other hand can score lots of goals but can concede lots of goals as well. If you like 3-2 games more that 1-0 games {who doesn't} then pull for Turkey and not the home Swiss.

I'm also really interested to see the Jan Koller-Phillippe Senderos matchup in the Switzerland-Czech match, as Senderos struggles with big powerful strikers {I think it actually says "Drogba's Bitch" on his forehead}, and big Jan is 6'8".

Prediction: Portugal go through, and in a minor shock inconsistent Turkey string together a couple of solid matches and go through as well, while the Czechs flame out and the host Swiss disappoint.

Group B

I don't think home field will make up for the fact that Austria is the worst team to participate in the European Championships, well, maybe ever, so this comes down to picking 2 of the other three. Also, Austria will focus on not conceding, and they don't have much firepower, so look for their games to be kind of negative. Germany are favorites and if they don't go through from this group then it will be the biggest shock since France didn't get out of the group stage, or even score a goal, as defending World & European champions at World Cup 2002. Croatia lost Eduardo to his grotesque broken leg, and he scored the majority of their goals, so that leaves them having to prove they can get the goals from others. They are into the attacking, attractive soccer, while Poland play cautious defense and then try to score on the counter attack or set piece.

Prediction: Germany and Croatia, who I think will follow so many teams before, in all sports, who lose their superstar and then actually play better afterwards when everyone thinks they will go backwards.

Group C

The Group Of Death, as it were. France have a split squad- old and experienced, and young and talented. If they go old I think they might not make it out, especially with PV4 and Henry nursing injuries {along with Ribery}: you could argue without much resistance that Thuram, Makelele, Vieira, and Henry are all past it. Maybe not totally past it, but past their best. The young kids have tons of upside, but who knows if madman coach Domenech will do. Italy and Holland are both loaded, and everyone assumes that two of these three will move on, basically completely neglecting Romania. That might be very dangerous: Romania only lost 1 match in all of qualilfying, and that was to neighbors Bulgaria after they had already clinched qualification {read: it was an exhibition for Romania}, and they finished ahead of Netherlands in qualifying {drew away, beat them at home}. Adrian Mutu is off the coke and is scoring lots and lots of goals.

Prediction: France flame out, as Zidane is gone, Henry plays out of place up front alone, and Vieira is nowhere the player he used to be, even in World Cup 2006 when he put the team on his back and dragged them out of trouble and into the group stage. From what I have seen of Inter matches this year, he just isn't capable of bossing matches anymore {damn it hurts to write all that about my co-favorite player ever}. Makelele and Thuram are past it as well, and unless the kids {Gomis, Nasri, Benzema} get a chance and go crazy, I'm sad to say I think France will not make it. I also have a funny feeling that Romania will shock the world and go through with Italy {yuck- really don't like them}, meaning Holland fails as well. I would much prefer France and Netherlands going through, but my Colbert gut thinks it may very well be Italy and Romania. Here's hoping my gut is wrong.

Group D

Spain has as much talent as anyone here, if not more. Greece are defending champs, and are the ultimate example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. They are notoriously tough to break down, and they have a knack of converting the scarce chances they create when they come up.

I look forward to seeing Russia's matches mainly to watch Alexi Arshavin, who I watched in the UEFA semifinals and final for Zenit St. petersburg, and he was amazing, easily the best player on the field. Check this dude out if you get a chance- I'll be shocked if he isn't bought by a major European club before the new club season starts in August. ***Update- damn, dude is suspended for the 1st two matches so we'll only get to see him in the finale against Sweden, unless they go through of course.

Sweden's longstanding "Big Three" of Larsson, Ljungburg, and Ibrahimovic are past it as a group, as Ljungburg is past it, Larsson has come out of retirement for the 3rd or 4th time and seems past it as well.

Prediction: I really think Sweden are going to crash out because I don't think the Big Three can carry the team anymore, and I don't see much else there. I also think Spain will go through as group winners, leaving Greece and Russia. Greece are a bitch to beat, but I think Russia will find a way- actually this is more what I want more than what my brain says. Arshavin is a game changer, there's other talent there, they like to attack, and they are coached by the legendary Guus Hiddink, whom I love, so there you go. If Greece make it out I can totally see them 1-nilling their way to the final just like they did last time.

So your quarterfinalists are:

Picking from this stage out is a fool's errand, cause it is such a crapshoot, but lets say for shits and giggles that Portugal and Germany make it to the semifinals, along with Russia and Spain, and Germany and Spain make it to the final, with Spain winning.

Yes, I just picked Spain, just like World Cup 2006. And yes, I know that is stupid given their decades of talent laden disappointments. And yes, I hate their crazy and racist manager. And yes, in a one off with Germany anyone would be silly to pick against Germany. But they have to break their international tournament voodoo spell sometimes, so fuck it, they are my pick. For fuck sake there's so much talent that Cesc Fabregas doesn't start {obviously I think he should, and that they are better with him pulling the strings than Xavi}.

Although those are my predictions, that's not necessarily the teams that I want to go through/succeed. I really don't like Italy, never have, and after that I want attacking teams to do better than stifling defensive teams. Here's hoping for lots of 3-2 thrillers and no 0-0 bore draws or boring 1-0s where a team scored and then closes up shop {see: Greece, Euro 2004}.

So there's the ramblings of this idiot.

What do you think will happen? What do you want to happen?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice breakdown. I have not looked in here since I've been watching the games delayed by a day on TiVo.

The top 4 I'm rooting for are Spain, Netherlands, Germany (I had a great trip there once and they beat Italy and France when nobody else can), and Portugal.

I think Greece reverts to form and I don't see them being a factor. After the first few games Italy looks old and I don't see them making it out of the GoD. After just watching Spain/Russia I think Spain might actually do it this time.