With a lot of exciting football matches ahead it is time to make my predictions of the tournament (where I am, to be honest, usually pathetically wrong...):
- Group A: A strong defense and home support will bring the Swiss to the top of the group, with Portugal just behind (the two teams will share points in the last game of the group).
- Group B: The Croatians have a young and talented team, and is ready to repeat what they did in 1998: they will defeat a German team which I believe will disappoint for its third EURO in a row. Croatia will win the group, ahead of Austria, which without a strong team will take advantage of playing at home.
- Group C: This is the "group of death", and is thus the hardest to predict; I am certain we will see some close matches. The Romanians are an exciting young team, but they won't prevail. Instead, I believe the Netherlands will win the group, taking advantage of what i believe will be a tuff last repeat of the 2006 World Cup Final, but where the French will prevail ahead of the Italians, to take the second spot in the group.
- Group D: This group is also hard to predict, but I believe the Russians will surprise by winning the group. Spain will largely disappoint, as usual, but will squeeze past the Swedes to take second place in the group. The Greeks will lose their 2004 title.
With these predictions on the first round, we are looking at the following quarterfinals (I will not make any further predictions here):
- Switzerland-Austria: The co-hosts clashing!
- Croatia-Portugal: Surely to be an utterly intense match!
- Netherlands-Spain: Can Spain do it?
- Russia-France: The surprising Russians against the dangerous French.
According to this, we could plausibly be looking at a final between Russia/France/Netherlands and Portugal/Switzerland.
In the Facebook UEFA Euro 2008 predictor (I have before written about the football applications on Facebook) the most predicted team for champion is Spain, closely followed by Portugal. Although one can seldomly count on history alone, this is interesting: Spain often go in as favourites, but besides their victory in 1964, they usually disappoint. I don't believe their team this time is particularly stronger than previously - who knows...? Maybe that is why they could make it...
The teams mostly picked as runner-ups are Germany and Italy, and this shows that people are perhaps hoping/expecting to see a new winner, in spite of one of the big powers who usually win. Neither Italy nor Germany have done well in the last couple of European Championships, and although one should never-say-never with these super-teams, I don't believe that they will do well this time either.
In any case, I have been wrong before, and the greatest fun is to discuss it over beer and watch some great games, as well as taunt our fellow Europeans!