Popular Posts

Friday, December 9, 2011

Euro 2012 draw: David Pleat's verdict

This is the weakest group, which will encourage optimism in most of its competitors. The Czech Republic will not be expecting too much, having had very little success on the international stage since finishing runners-up to Germany in 1996, and a lack of goals will be their problem. Greece, who beat the Czechs in the semi-finals on their way to winning the tournament in 2004, will be well organised as usual and are improving technically, as anyone who saw the nucleus of home-grown players in the Paok team which performed so heroically at Tottenham this week will have noticed.

Russia, with six clean sheets in their last seven games, improved rapidly under the guidance of Guus Hiddink and have continued their upwards surge since the Dutchman was replaced by his compatriot Dick Advocaat. The youngster Alan Dzagaev, an outstanding emerging midfield player, will be one to watch. Poland's manager, Franciszek Smuda, will hope that patriotic fervour from the supporters will help them through. It will add interest to the competition if they proceed, as I think they may

Prediction: 1 Russia 2 Poland

The long-serving Denmark coach, Morten Olsen, has proved time and time again that under-rated teams can beat bigger fish, but he can never have faced such a stern test. In qualifiers the Danes defeated Portugal in Copenhagen but the improving Portuguese, now coached by Paulo Bento, will be a more difficult proposition. And that will be the easiest of their fixtures.

Holland's superb run to these finals cannot be ignored. They scored 37 goals in winning nine of their 10 matches and, despite the travelling involved in this group, can rely on their supporters to make their matches colourful occasions. Germany, who qualified even more emphatically with a 100% record, will be the big threat. Joachim Löw has guided his side to victory in 13 of their last 14 competitive games, and their first match, against Portugal, will be crucial. Mario Gomez, who has displaced Miroslav Klose in attack, could be one of the stars of the tournament, but the Germans have plenty of other contenders, and their morale will be boosted by memories of a comfortable victory over Holland in last month's friendly

Prediction: 1 Germany 2 Holland

Spain will be the obvious favourites to proceed from this group. They have won their last two major international competitions and we hope to be mesmerised once again by their exciting if diminutive midfield group. The Republic of Ireland battled through to the finals thanks in large part to some great defensive performances from the likes of Shay Given and Richard Dunne, and their Italian coach, Giovanni Trapattoni, will be particularly relishing the chance to play the team representing his homeland. Italy have found this a troublesome tournament, winning only once, in 1968 (still once more than England, of course).

Croatia may be dark horses, but usually play well in tournament football and could present Italy with a tough fight for second place. Ivica Olic and Josip Simunic are in the twilight of their careers but with Luka Modric pulling the strings and Darijo Srna a powerhouse a right-back, they cannot be underestimated. Slaven Bilic will be planning to burnish his reputation in the hope that a Premier League club might then come calling

Prediction: 1 Spain 2 Italy

The long distances involved will make this a difficult group for visiting supporters, but Ukraine can be sure of being met with a wave of euphoria. They are sadly not in the same class as when members of Valeriy Lobanovskyi's Dinamo Kyiv monopolised the national team, with Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Andriy Shevchenko now fading forces. They will be hard to beat, as England have discovered in recent meetings.

Under Laurent Blanc France have restored their countrymen's faith following the disastrous reign of Raymond Domenech, who led the team with such catastrophic results at the 2010 World Cup. Player power has been defused and they have a young and talented group, the majority between 22 and 25. Expect Frank Ribéry to be to the fore. Sweden showed at Wembley recently that we should not fear them, however hard we have historically found it to beat our Scandinavian friends. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is having a good season at club level in Italy, but Johan Elmander and Ola Toivonen may prove more effective as a partnership than Ibrahimovic would be alone. England should not be thinking, even without Wayne Rooney, of anything less than qualifying

Prediction: 1 England 2 France

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts