Monday, May 19, 2008

EURO 2008

The European Championship for national teams is starting soon, on June 7th. As all leagues have pretty much finished, and thus, the EURO 2008 in Switzerland/Austria will be a good afterthought/hangover, full of exciting matches for all football fans.
I must admit that I have far higher expectations to the EURO 2008 by now than I would have to the World Cup, where too many teams mean too many boring matches between lousy teams. But with more of the better teams and a more compact format, the EURO 2008 should not suffer from this (nevertheless, I do predict some incredibly boring matches between some of the more tactically-minded teams).
Although some people say that the EURO 2004 in Portugal was a bore with the wrong winner, I do not agree: Greece was not an exciting team, but were deserved winners. In fact, another beauty of the European championships is that you actually have the realistic possibility of seeing surprises by "small" teams winning: Greece is only one example, but Denmark in 1992 is another (This also makes it very difficult to predict the tournament!)

Greece will undboubtfully have a hard time defending their title, although their group D does not look impossible; they have been paired with Spain, Sweden and Russia.
Sweden is as always unpredictable, and could both win and lose, while Spain again goes to a big tournament with a super-team, but without winning it. Russia is another interesting team: they qualified at the last moment because of England's exit, but were otherwise not overly impressive in the qualifiers.

What I would call the "group of Death" is group C, where the world champions and number two, France and Italy, face each other in a repeat of the 2006 World Cup final. The other teams in the group are the ever-talented Dutch, and a young talented Romanian side, who actually qualified ahead of the Netherlands in their group. Watch out for them!

Group B will see some interesting clashes, where Germany will try to wash away their huge disappointments from the EURO 2004 and the EURO 2000, where they didn't qualify from the initial stages. But it won't be easy, as they will be facing teams who are sure to want to defeat the Germans: Poland has qualified strongly (ahead of Portugal), and after a dramatic match in Berlin at the 2006 World Cup, will be sure to want to upset their big neighbor.
For Croatia any game against Germany is special: in the EURO 1996 they lost in the quarterfinals, but in the 1998 World Cup quarterfinals they destroyed Germany 3-0 in a legendary match which brought Croatia to the forefront of world football. Croatia-Germany is a match I would never want to miss!
The last team in the group are the Austrian hosts; a team that has not showed great results in the last years, their possibilities as hosts are difficult to estimate.

Group A will see the Swiss co-hosts in some interesting matches, although the group otherwise doesn't personally excite me very much: the Swiss are good, but in the 2006 World Cup were very defensive and boring. The group could see a tense match between Turkey and Switzerland, who played last time for the 2006 World Cup play-offs, when Turkey proved disgraceful. Nevertheless, Turkey is still an interesting team, that anyone should watch out for.
The other two teams in the group, Portugal and the Czech Republic, are powerful outsiders: the Czech had a good EURO 2004, but a lousy 2008 World Cup. They still have a powerful team, and won their qualifying group ahead of Germany.
Finally, Portugal still has a super team, and with the world's currently best player, Cristiano Ronaldo. However, it remains to be seen whether they can go all the way after their disappointing loss at home to Greece in the EURO 2004. But I would certainly call them the favourites in group A!

I shall soon make my predictions for the tournament, but be sure that it will be fun, as European nations again face each other for the title of the best team of the continent!

No comments: