May 31, 2012
Group of Death will have life at the endQMI breaks down the groups
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI AGENCY
Take this to the bank about Euro 2012.
Favoured nations will take a beating getting out of their qualifying groups and that just may open the door for some of the lesser-known countries to make some noise in the tournament.
May is the key word. The teams playing in Euro are like sharks. There are the man-eaters and those less prone to attack something bigger or stronger. But if a nation like Germany, Spain or the Netherlands runs into injury problems, suspensions or simply gets into a bad streak, expect the feeding frenzy to start. In this kind of quality tournament most teams are strong enough to defeat a weakened opponent.
There are some spectacular preliminary groupings at Euro 2012.
Fans love targeting a group as the Group of Death. There is no debate in this tournament. It's a dubious honour for the nations who make up the deadly grouping. That designation falls to Group B where the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Denmark will beat each other's brains out to advance. How tough is this group? Three of the four teams in that group have won Euro before and Portugal probably should have won at least two.
The Euro winner will come from this group.
Group C isn't as strong as Group B but it may be one of the most intriguing. Defending world and Euro champion Spain will make it back to the final but it must get through Italy, Croatia and Ireland.
Italy is a team that goes through peaks and valleys. The peaks usually come at times when they are least expected. This Italian team has some developing talent, but not much is expected.
Italy's domestic league is going through yet another game-fixing scandal and it has reached into the national team. Domenico Criscito was dropped from the Italian roster when it became known he was being investigated.
But somehow, despite all their problems, Italians often find a way to win.
Croatia has talent while the Irish are tough as nails and, with Giovanni Trapattoni as coach, will be difficult to break down.
Spain will survive but it will hurt getting through the group.
Group D includes favourites England and France. When this draw came up, many believed England got lucky and wound up in one of the easier groups. Easy is a relative term. France is rebuilding but has some exceptionally good talent and may surprise.
Ukraine is one of the host teams and host teams always find extra inspiration from playing at home. Sweden has one of the best players in the world right now in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and he wants to disprove his reputation for melting when the heat is on.
Two teams are simmering and ready to boil during this Euro. Watch for Sweden and Croatia.
The top teams won't have it easy but they remain the top teams for a reason ... plenty of talent. The Spaniards are missing two key individuals, David Villa and Carles Puyol, but no one is writing them off.
A young German team provided many special moments at the 2010 World Cup. Two years later the team is more experienced and deeper.
The Netherlands has several players in their prime and needs to do something at this tournament before having to look at a rebuild. The Dutch will play with a purpose. Will purpose be enough?
Do the old Three Lions have one big tournament left in their legs? A better question may be: Do the same old Three Lions have anything left for England?
Who knows? But it will be a ton of fun finding out.
DALLA COSTA'S PICKS
Semifinals: France, Portugal
Dark-horse team: Sweden
Poised to disappoint: Netherlands
Golden Boot: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden
Player of the tournament: Mesut Ozil, Germany