Continuing the Euro 2012 Group roundup, we move on to Group B, the one earmarked with the pundits’ tag of ‘Group of Death’. Certainly, all eyes will be on this one, with Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark fighting it out over two spots. Here are the team summaries:
Coach: Joachim Low
Captain: Philipp Lahm
Star Man: Mesut Ozil
One to Watch: Mario Gotze
Fifa Ranking: 2
Previous Tournament History: Winners (1972, 1980, 1996)
If they were a film: Inception – Smooth, slick and stylish and full of talented young stars. Big things were expected of it and big things were delivered. Quality piece of work.
Qualifying Roundup: As you’d expect, the Germans qualified with consummate ease, despite facing possibly the toughest group with Belgium, Turkey and Austria all in their path. They won ten games out of ten though, notching 34 goals and conceding just five, showing just why they are one of the favourites for this tournament.
Tournament Analysis: Although Spain are the bookies’ favourites, many pundits are leaning towards the Germans, especially after such an impressive qualifying campaign. They have a fantastic squad at their disposal and the quality in the middle of the park simply beggars belief. They will dominate possession from the outset thanks to the likes of Ozil, Schweinsteiger and Khedira, while the emergence of Mats Hummels has solved the problem in the middle of defence. Strength in depth up front is a cause for concern if Mario Gomes fails to find his form, while Miroslav Klose isn’t getting any younger. It is the wealth of attacking talent available to Jogi Low that is really remarkable though, indeed it is possible the likes of Mario Gotze and Toni Kroos may not make the starting XI. They will be excellent choices to bring on from the bench though and one would expect Germany to come out of this pool despite the tough opponents. This youthful German side is ready to win tournaments, they lit up the last World Cup and it could well be their turn to lift the trophy again.
Coach: Bert van Marwijk
Captain: Mark van Bommel
Star Man: Wesley Sneijder
One to Watch: Kevin Strootman
Fifa Ranking: 4
Previous Tournament History: Winners (1988)
If they were a film: The Bourne Trilogy – Always there or thereabouts in terms of being the best with some high quality performers involved. The action is dark and brooding, but when the creativity is unleashed, it can be an unstoppable combination.
Qualifying Roundup: The Dutch were also in fine form during qualifying, dismantling a group that contained some tricky opponents. They would have gone through with a 100% record had it not been for defeat to Sweden in the last game, but they notched up a seriously impressive goal tally of 37 (although they did have San Marino in the group!) Qualifying hasn’t always been easy for the Dutch in recent years, but there were no problems this time around.
Tournament Analysis: They upset the odds in reaching the 2010 World Cup Final, but they disappointed many by the aggressive manner in which they played. Although the flamboyant Dutch returned in qualifying, van Marwijk is likely to return to a more pragmatic approach, adopting just the one striker despite having both Robin Van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar at his disposal. Their midfield boasts an astonishing array of talents as well, including Sneijder and Arjen Robben, while supporters in orange will hope PSV starlet Kevin Strootman starts instead of the more defensively minded Nigel de Jong. Questions marks remain over their defence against the best in the business, indeed none of their back four could be genuinely categorised as ‘world class’ but if their attacking starlets are unleashed up top, the Dutch could sweep teams away anyway. The draw hasn’t been kind, but they will be confident in overcoming both Portugal and Denmark and perhaps even the Germans. A repeat of 2010 could be on the cards and they will hope to go one better.
Coach: Paulo Bento
Captain: Cristiano Ronaldo
Star Man: Cristiano Ronaldo
One to Watch: Nelson Oliveira
Fifa Ranking: 5
Previous Tournament History: Runners-Up (2004)
If they were a film: Harry Potter Series– So much is expected, but not much is delivered, indeed the end product provided is a pretty poor piece of work. The story all revolves round one man and if that one man is to fail, then the whole show could come crashing down in tatters.
Qualifying Roundup: Difficult. The Portuguese made a complete hash of qualifying and were lucky to get to Poland and Ukraine in the first place. They finished runners-up to Denmark and only edged ahead of Norway on goal difference. It started badly after a draw with Cyprus and a defeat to Norway and they just about turned it around to reach the playoffs. They demolished Bosnia when they got there though, winning the second leg 6-2 after a dour 0-0 draw in the first.
Tournament Analysis: Portugal are a tricky call to make. On their day, they can be devastating and the fluid 4-3-3 formation that Bento has adopted suits Ronaldo down to the ground. However, the show is all about CR7. Everything focuses around him and if anything happened to him, Portugal would be in more than a spot of bother. They do have quality in some areas of the squad though, the back four of João Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fábio Coentrão is ably guarded by goalkeeper Rui Patricio and on their day, Veloso, Meireles and Moutinho are more than capable of performing in midfield. However, the likes of Nani and Quaresma are unpredictable out wide and Portugal may struggle to find the consistency to even qualify from the group. Odds of 18-1 look like a decent punt though if they find their form, anyone with Mr Ronaldo in their squad are capable of great things.
Coach: Morten Olsen
Captain: Daniel Agger
Star Man: Christian Eriksen
One to Watch: Nicklas Bendtner
Fifa Ranking: 10
Previous Tournament History: Winners (1992)
If they were a film: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Fountain of Youth – Not as bad as everybody makes out, but still doesn’t stand a chance against the others. Some surprisingly good moments, but at the end of the day, it just hasn’t got what it takes.
Qualifying Roundup: The Danes were hugely impressive in qualifying, losing just the one game in Lisbon to the Portuguese and they won the group ahead of their highly fancied rivals. Fellow Scandinavians Norway and Iceland are never easy to beat either, so for Denmark to reach the tournament without the aid of the playoffs was an impressive feat.
Tournament Analysis: Luck has not landed on Denmark’s side this time around; maybe they used it all up in 1992. The draw could not have gone any worse than it did and Morten Olsen will have pulled off a minor miracle if he manages to get his side out of the group. The veteran coach has been in place since 2002 and this will be his last hurrah, but he will have to rely on 20-year-old Christian Eriksen if the Danes are to get anywhere. The young Ajax starlet, despite his age, is the driving force behind this team, though he will be backed up by a defence that conceded just six goals in qualifying. Captain Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer are at the heart of this and should ensure they aren’t on the end of any thumpings. Goals are a problem though, just 15 were scored in getting here and this responsibility will lie with Nicklas Bendtner, the self-proclaimed messiah. His future at Arsenal is up in the air and this tournament will finally offer him the chance to put his money where his mouth is and deliver the goods he so often brags about. Expect the Danes not to score all tournament then.
Group B Predictions: