Posts Tagged ‘Euro 2012’

Spain vs Italy: Euro 2012 final

Two of these teams met in Group C on June 10th, where they played out a fairly entertaining 1-1 draw. Now though both Italy and Spain will be hungrier, knowing that either of them could be crowned champions of Europe in just a few hours time.

A lot of football fans doubted Italy’s ability to make it out of their group, never mind go all the way to the final. When the Italians met Germany in the semi’s, it looked like it could be the end of the road for the Azzuri but a vintage display by Pirlo and a Balotelli brace proved to be enough with Italy winning 2-1. Cesare Prandelli has got his tactics pretty much perfect for every game so far, including the opening fixture vs Spain in the Group. They have not trailed for a single minute at the tournament so far. Italy are the only team to put the ball in the Spanish goal so far at this Summers finals and will be confident they can do it again.

It doesn’t come as much as a surprise to people that Spain have made it to the final. However, they haven’t done it with the same style and class that they won the previous World Cup and European Championships with and have received criticism from certain parts of the footballing community for not playing with a true striker in some of their games, the first of which was Italy. The Spaniard eased past Group C, topping the group unbeaten. They then bet France with ease and proceeded to the semi’s where they met Portugal, which Spain won on penalties. If they do in fact win the Euro’s then there is no arguing that this Spanish team is one of, if not the greatest international side of all time.

Key Battles 

Andrea Pirlo vs Xavi

Possibly the two best passers of the ball in world football so it’s obvious to see why these men will be influential for both their sides. Andrea Pirlo has carried his Scudetto winning form to Euro 2012 and has been Italy and arguably the tournaments greatest player, picking up three man of the match awards out of Italy’s five games so far. Xavi was one of Spain’s key players in 2008 & 2010 when they lifted silverware. Nothing has changed. He is still pulling the strings in the middle of the park for ‘La Rojas’, completing 465 successful passes so far in this tournament. Xavi can tend to go under the radar during the match which is one of the reasons why he is such a threat. Give either of these players an inch and they will make you pay with a pinpoint pass that could have a huge say on who’s set of supporters will be celebrating come the end of the night.

Gianluigi Buffon vs Iker Casillas 

“[Gianluigi] Buffon and [Iker] Casillas? That face-off will be crucial”, they are the words of legendary Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff. He could prove to be correct. Goalkeepers are one of the key players for most teams out there but there are very few teams in the world that can claim to have goalkeepers as solid and consistent as Buffon and/or Casillas. They both captain their sides and both have made well over 100 caps for their country. I expect this game to be a very tight one so both keepers will have to be at their best if either of them is to lift the trophy at the end of the night.

Now mere moments away from kick-off, who will be come champions of Europe?

Will it be Del Bosque’s Spain or Prandelli’s Italy?

Ronaldo & Portugal v Spain

Ronaldo celebrates his goal versus the Czech Republic

Ronaldo celebrates his goal versus the Czech Republic

Portugal take on Spain tonight in the first of the Euro 2012 semi finals. It has been a fantastic tournament thus far, with just one 0-0 draw which in turn had a wonderful penalty shootout including that Pirlo chip.

The four semi-finalists each deserve their spot and all have a good chance of lifting the trophy. Although in Portugal’s case it isn’t a team effort as such, it is more of a Ronaldo plus 10 other men’s effort that has gotten them to the crunch stage of the tournament.

But is that fair to the rest of the team? In the Portugal squad you have players such as Nani, a Champions League winner and a three time Premier League winner; you also have Raul Meireles, who has recently won the F.A Cup with Chelsea and played a vital role in the team that got Chelsea to the Champions League final this year; also in the squad is centre back Pepe and left back Fabio Coentrao who won the La Liga title with Real Madrid (although Coentrao did only start 11 league games); Also in the squad is full back Joao Pereira who is hot property at the moment and is apparently being chased by Chelsea.

All those have an impressive CV individually but none are superstar players that can win a game on his own. Up step Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal’s form at the tournament have been consistent with Ronaldo’s individual form, against Denmark, Ronaldo had a poor game and Denmark really had a good chance of getting something out of this game and, probably should have. But Portugal’s lesser stars got them a vital three points winning 3-2.

The last game of Group B was Ronaldo’s first good performance in the tournament grabbing the two goals for Portugal that took them through to the quarter finals as runner-ups to Germany.

In the quarter finals, another Man of the Match performance by Ronaldo and another goal was enough to beat Group A winners Czech Republic to see Portugal through to the semi-finals and has given Ronaldo the required confidence he needs to overcome the World champions and defending European champions Spain. The Spain side, on paper, look deserving of their crown as World and European champions and thus far have been impressive to have eased into the semi finals, the Spanish play some amazing football at times and it seems that Portugal will have to play a more reserved game if they have any chance of getting through to the final. Portugal’s tactics may result in a dull game but hopefully it won’t be. Hopefully the Spanish play at a higher tempo then usual to break down their opponents and Portugal in turn can brake fast with Ronaldo on the end of a Nani through ball possibly? Ronaldo v Iker in a one on one situation, who would win this battle of nerve?

There is no doubt though, if Portugal win tonight and beat Spain through a Ronaldo goal or individual piece of magic that he would be a certainly to pick up this years Ballon d’Or award as Messi doesn’t play in an international tournament this summer.

10 Young Players to watch out for at Euro 2012 (Part 2)

Sotiris Ninis

Country: Greece

Club: Parma

Age: 22

Position: Attacking Midfielder/Winger

The pacey Albanian born winger made 7 appearances for Greece in the qualifiers netting a goal in the process. Ninis was linked with moves to big European clubs such as Man United and Lyon earlier in the year, instead he opted to sign for Serie A side Parma back in March. Having twice won ‘Greece Young Player of The Year’ a lot was expected of Sotiris Ninis but so far he hasn’t lived up to the hype at Euro 2012 having only played 53 minutes of the tournament. However Greece have progressed to the quarter-finals so hopefully we will see him perform like the Greek fans know he can.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Country: England

Club: Arsenal

Age: 18

Position: Winger

“The Ox” caught a lot of peoples attention this season for Arsenal and one of them people was Roy Hodgson who gave the teenager his debut in May against Norway. Oxlade-Chamberlain is a powerful and physically strong winger who can easily knock full-backs off the ball, showing traits from his days playing rugby at school level. He started in the game against France but only came on as a late substitute against Sweden so it’s still not certain whether he will start or be sitting on the bench for England’s clash with co-hosts Ukraine today. At only 18 ‘The Ox’ still has to develop and mature as a footballer but the future looks very bright for the young Gunner.

Yann M’Vila

Country: France

Club: Rennes

Age: 21

Position: Defensive Midfielder

M’Vila has been compared to legendary French midfielder’s Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele. M’Vila was the rock in the Rennes side that finished 6th in Ligue 1 last season.  He has already captained his club Rennes, making him the youngest captain in the clubs history and has now proven to be the heart of the French team. The ball-winning midfielder has incredible vision and is constantly looking to play the ball forward. M’Vila has only played 20 minutes at the Euro’s so far due to an injury he picked up in a friendly against Serbia before the competition began. I wouldn’t expect to see M’Vila playing in Ligue 1 come next season as it looks more and more likely that he could be on his way to the Premiership to join Arsenal.

Mario Balotelli

Country: Italy

Club: Manchester City

Age: 21

Position: Striker

Most people will be familiar with Balotelli at this stage. In just one game he can have moments of madness and/or moments of brilliance. The highly entertaining Italian can be unpredictable both in his play and personality, which makes people think “What’s he going to do next?”. The Palermo native netted 13 goals for City this season as they went on to lift the Premier League for only the third time.  Gifted with pace, technical ability and a powerful shot, Balotelli can be a real handful for defenders. In August 2010 Balotelli earned his first cap for the Azzuri in a friendly match against Ivory Coast. Making him only the third black player to ever play for Italy. Last night he scored his first competitive goal for his country against Ireland, a wonderful bicycle kick inside the area which could quite possibly be goal of the tournament so far.

Holger Badstuber

Country: Germany

Club: Bayern Munich

Age: 23

Position: Defender

The German defence has been rock solid this tournament and one of the main reasons for that is the Badstuber/ Hummels defensive partnership. Badstuber has established himself as a key figure for both country and club. He helped guide Bayern Munich to the Champions League final this season but will be hoping to go one step further with Germany by lifting the European Championship trophy come July. So far he has played every minute for Germany in the Euro’s winning  over 90% of the tackles and headers he has attempted. Former Bayern Munich manager Louis Van Gaal stated that Badstuber is the “best left footed defender in Germany”. If the Germans are to go all the way to win it (which many expect them to) then Holger Badstuber will one of the main reasons for their success.

 

See Part 1 here: https://footballtopic.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/5-young-players-to-watch-out-for-at-euro-2012/

10 Young Players to watch out for at Euro 2012 (Part 1)

Kevin Strootman

Country: Netherlands

Club: PSV

Age: 22

Position: Midfielder

Known for his box-to-box displays and combative nature, PSV’s Kevin Strootman has attracted a lot of interest across Europe including Ac Milan where he is wanted to replace fellow countryman Mark Van Bommel in the defensive midfielder role. He is currently battling with Nigel De Jong for a place in the first team in the Dutch squad. A good tournament for the 22 year old midfielder could see him moving away from the Phillips Stadion this Summer.

Alan Dzagoev

Country: Russia

Club: CSKA Moscow

Age: 21

Position: Attacking Midfielder

The young Russian scored twice in Russia’s opening game against Czech Republic as they went on to win 4-1. He will be a key player for Russia if they are expected to go far. He was influential for CSKA in last seasons Champions League as they made to the round of 16, recording more key passes per game than Cristiano Ronaldo and Cesc Fabregas. With an eye for goal and able to pick out a pass with pinpoint accuracy it is safe to say that Alan Dzagoev will terrorise opposing defenders this Summer.

Robert Lewandowski 

Country: Poland

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Age: 23

Position: Striker

Many people are familiar with the Polish striker now after yet another successful Bundesliga campaign netting 22 goals for the reigning German champions. Poland’s hopes rest on Lewandowski’s shoulders and he did not disappoint as he scored the opening goal of Euro 2012 in their 1-1 draw with Greece. At the age of 23 he has already made 43 appearances for his country, bagging himself 15 goals in the process. Manchester United are apparently very interested in signing the striker and will be keeping a close eye on him at the Euro’s.

Mario Gotze

Country: Germany

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Age: 20

Position: Attacking Midfielder/Winger

Despite being hit with a hip injury Gotze was still a  key player in Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga winning squad this season scoring 6 goals in just 17 games. He will more than likely not start for Germany but could prove to be trouble for fatigued defenders if brought on from the bench, turning them inside out with his blistering pace and creative play. We could well see a future star folding in front of our eyes at Euro 2012 if Mario Gotze gets the game time.

Christian Eriksen

Country: Denmark

Club: Ajax

Age: 20

Position: Midfielder

At only 20 years of age Eriksen has already made 24 appearances for Denmark and featured in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The Dane’s skilful dribbling has helped Ajax lift the Eredivise two seasons in a row (2010-11, 2011-12) and due to his fine form he was awarded ‘Danish footballer of the year’ and ‘Young Player in The Netherlands’ in 2011. Denmark will be relying on Eriksen to try guide them through the “Group of death” and into the quarter finals. If Eriksen lives up to the hype at the Euro’s then he will more than likely be leaving Ajax for bigger and better things.

Euro 2012 – Group B

Group B – or otherwise known as the “Group of Death”. Containing Portugal, Germany, Netherlands and Denmark, it’s hard to argue against that. Many expect Germany to top the group while Portugal and Netherlands fight it out for second place. However Denmark could well take points off teams in this groups, although it’s very unlikely that they will qualify.

Portugal

European Championship Record: 1984 Semi-finals, 1996 Quarter-finals, 2000 Semi-finals, 2004 Runners-up, 2008 Quarter-finals.

World Ranking: 5th

The 2004 finalists weren’t the most convincing in qualifying, coming second behind Denmark. Following defeats to both Norway and Dermark as well as a 4-4 draw with Cyprus at home there were questions being asked of Paulo Bento’s men. They met Bosnia & Herzegovina in the play-off’s were they struggled in the first leg playing out a 0-0 draw in Bosnia. However they made no mistake in the second leg putting six in the back of the Bosnian’s net, winning 6-2 on the night. Portugal will need to be more consistent if they are to get through this group.

Key Players:

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo has had his best season to date netting 59 goals in 53 games for Real Madrid, lifting the La Liga in the process. He also scored seven goals in the qualifiers. There is no doubt that he possesses the talent to change a match with one moment of brilliance and defenders will be wary of his ability to score goals from almost anywhere on the pitch. However Ronaldo hasn’t made a major impact for Portugal in any of the major finals he’s played in so far but will be hoping that this time he can lead his national team to glory. He will need to continue his run of form if Portugal are to avoid an early group stage exit.

Fabio Coentrao

Prior to the 2010 World Cup not much people considered Coentrao to be a potential star for Portugal but when he was placed in left-back at the World Cup he made no mistakes cementing a first team place. He was arguably Portugal’s best player in South Africa, playing a huge part in the 7-0 win over North Korea as well as putting in solid performances against Ivory Coast, Brazil and Spain. He missed the Norway and Denmark matches through injury – this was the only two games they lost. He transferred to Real Madrid in July 2011 from Benfica for €30 million and played 19 games for the Spanish champions.

Germany

European Championship Record: 1972 Winners, 1976 Runners-up, 1980 Winners, 1984 Group Stage, 1988 Semi-finals, 1992 Runners-up, 1996 Winners, 2000 Group stage, 2004 Group stage, 2008 Runners-up.

World Ranking: 2nd

Three times winners Germany will be hoping to add a fourth European Championship to their trophy cabinet this Summer, and who would bet against them? Narrowly defeated by Spain at the Euro 2008 final, Germany will be confident of going one step further this time around. A young and exciting squad full of confidence they seem to have the winning formula. The Germans stormed through their qualifying group going undefeated and scoring 34 goals in just 10 games.  If anyone is to dethrone Spain you would put your money on Germany.

Key players:

Philip Lahm

Captain of both his club Bayern Munich and his country, Lahm is a model professional. It’s very rare to see him have a bad game on either stage. This could be a Summer to remember for the Munich native as he could lift both the Champions League and European Championship. Being a right-footed left-back gives him the ability to cut inside opponents and deliver crosses into the box. He scored the last minute winner against Turkey in the semi-finals of Euro 2008 to give Germany a 3-2 win and progress to the final, but it’s Lahm’s solid defending that has been a key reason for his success to date.

Mesut Ozil

Ozil set the world alight following his performances in the 2010 World Cup, being nominated for the Golden Ball (Best Player) for his efforts. After the tournament many major European clubs wanted him, including the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Barcelona but it was to Real Madrid that he signed for in August of 2010 for around €15 million. Ozil usually plays behind the forwards, playing the killer through ball or hitting a beautiful shot at goal with his left boot. In the nine games he played in qualifying he scored five goals as well as setting-up more goals than any other European player with seven. At only 23, Ozil will be hoping to make Euro 2012 a special tournament for both himself and his team-mates.

Netherlands

European Championship Record: 1976 Third, 1980 Group stage, 1988 Winners, 1992 Semi-finals, 1996 Quarter-finals, 2000 Semi-finals, 2004 Semi-finals, 2008 quarter-finals.

World Ranking: 4th

Yet another side in this group that will feel they can go all the way and win it. The 2010 World Cup finalists didn’t win the support of much neutrals in South Africa with their “anti-football” tactics, however the Dutch fans were very proud of what their side achieved. Going forward the Netherlands prove as much as threat as Spain or Germany but their weakness is definitely at the back like it has been for some amount of years. Despite a rather weak defence compared to other top European nations, Netherlands have won 23 out 25 competitive international games. Their only defeats coming to Spain at the 2010 World Cup final and a 3-2 defeat away to Sweden in qualifying for Euro 2012.

Key Players:

Robin Van Persie

Van Persie proved to the world that he is one of the best forwards in the world this season after netting 30 Premier League goals for Arsenal so far. If he can continue to score goals in the Euro’s he could well be lifting his first major trophy since winning the FA Cup in 2005. Van Persie scored six goals in six games in qualifying – four of which came against San Marino. After the four goals he was entered into the Dutch national teams top 10 all-time top goal scorers with a tally of 25 goals, surpassing Marco Van Basten. Can Van Persie continue to score goals and help his side to European glory?

Arjen Robben

Despite not playing a single game in qualifying Arjen Robben still remains a key player for Holland. He was one of the stars in their World Cup campaign, scoring against Slovakia and Uruguay. That year he lost both the World Cup and Champions League final. This year, however, he could lift both the European Championship and Champions League. A bit more luck this time around for the Dutch winger? He was the star of the show in Holland’s 3-2 over England at Wembley, scoring two goals. Robben will be hoping to give some more defenders nightmares at Euro 2012.

Denmark

European Championship Record: 1964 Fourth, 1984 Semi-finals, 1988 Group stage, 1992 Winners, 1996 Group stage, 2000 Group stage, 2004 Quarter-finals.

World Ranking: 10th

Many have wrote Denmark off already, not expecting them to put up much of a fight. Although it’s very unlikely the Danes will qualify they are very capable of taking points of the other three. They finished ahead of Portugal in qualifying after all. A team mixed with young talent and experienced players they could well put up a fight this Summer. Not many are naive enough to expect Denmark to relive the memories of twenty years gone when they lifted the European Championship. They could have a say on who qualifies for the quarter-finals and who doesn’t.

Key players:

Christian Eriksen

Possibly one of the most closely monitored players at this years finals. The 20 year old played in every single one of Denmark’s qualifying games and has captured the attention of many big European clubs. Having scored against Iceland in the qualifiers he became the youngest ever Danish player to score a goal in European qualification. He has been dubbed as “the new Michael Laudrup”. He was a key player for Ajax as they lifted the Eredivisie this season. Accurate passing and a powerful shot from distance, Eriksen is a real threat to opposing defenders. If he is to impress this Summer then it’s very unlikely that Ajax will hold onto their young Danish starlet.

Dennis Rommedahl

Another player that has played every game in qualifying is 33 year old Dennis Rommedahl. He may be in his twilight years but he still remains a vital part of the Danish team. Rommedahl netted three goals and assisted five in the eight qualifying games. He is now Denmark’s most capped outfield player of all-time with 114 caps. He was arguably Denmark’s best player at the World Cup with his man of the match performance coming against Cameroon where he made and scored a goal. Will this be Rommedahl’s last tournament or will he press on?

Final verdict: Germany to top the group and the Netherlands to grab second place after beating Portugal in the last game.

Euro 2012 – Group A

Group A is looked at as the weakest group in the European Championships but it’s also extremely well matched. The group contains c0-hosts Poland, Russia, Czech Republic and Greece. There isn’t much separating these sides and any of the four teams could find themselves in the quarter-finals.

Poland

European Championship record: 2008 Group Stage

World Ranking: 65th

The co-hosts Poland only played in one European Championship prior to Euro 2012 where they finished bottom of their group with only one point.  They will get the tournament under way against Greece on June 8th in Warsaw. Bar a few exceptions the Polish team isn’t really filled with well known players. However playing in front of their own passionate supporters will motivate them and could prove to be the deciding factor of Poland’s progression to the quarter-finals.

Key Players:

Wojciech Szczesny 

Poland is known for producing talented keepers and Arsenal’s Szczesny is no exception. With only nine international caps to his name he isn’t the most experienced player but he is arguably Poland’s most influential nonetheless. His form has kept fellow Arsenal team-mate, Fabianksi out of the first team. Although he is only 22 Szczesny is very confident between the sticks and trusts his defenders completely.

Robert Lewandowski

Despite only being 23, Lewandowski has 40 caps for his country already. He has helped lead Borussia Dortmund to their second successive Bundesliga title after scoring 22 goals for the German side. He will more than likely be played as a lone striker. The nations hopes seemed to be on Lewandowski and if he is on form he will be a real threat for defenders this Summer.

Greece

European Championship record: 1980 Group Stage, 2004 Winners, 2008 Group Stage.

World Ranking: 14th

Greece shocked the footballing world in 2004 as they became champions of Europe having beaten Portugal in the final in Lisbon. However in 2008 they didn’t pick up a single point. Now eight years on from their triumph what should we expect from Greece? It’s hard to tell but they remained unbeaten in the qualifiers in a group that contained Croatia, so they will be confident going into the European Championships.

Key Players:

Giorgos Karagounis

A vital part of the team that won Euro 2004, despite missing the final through suspension. Karagounis remains the captain following the 2010 World Cup and was arguably the most influential player during qualification for Euro 2012. At the tender age of 35 Karagounis is the second most capped Greek player ever on 115 and will hope to break the record at this Summers European Championships.

Avraam Papadopoulos

The Australian born centre back was the rock in the Greek defence and is a huge reason why Greece only conceded five times in qualifying. He was voted the Greek Player of the Year in 2011 and will hope to bring that form into Euro 2012.  He could well be a key reason if Greece are to make it out of the group.

Russia

European Championship Record: 1960 Winners, 1964 Runners-Up, 1968 Fourth, 1972 Runners-Up, 1988 Runners-Up, 1992 Group Stage, 1996 Group Stage, 2004 Group Stage, 2008 Semi-Final.

World Ranking: 11th

Russia are many people’s favourites to top the group and progress to the knock-out stage. They only lost once in qualifying (vs Slovakia) and conceded just four times in ten games. A win against Czech Republic in the first game is vital because both Poland and Greece will be tough for the Russians. Russia were the surprise package at Euro 2008 going to the semi-finals knocking out the Netherlands along the way.

Key Players:

Andrey Arshavin

Despite being loaned out by Arsenal to Zenit after numerous lacklustre performances he still remains a key figure for Russia. Arshavin captained his side throughout the qualifiers. It appears that he may have found some form again grabbing 3 goals in 10 games for Zenit so far. There is no doubt about it that Arshavin was a key figure in the Euro 2008 Russian side and put in two great performances to get them to the semi’s. Dick Advocaat could well get the best out of Arshavin again just like he did at Zenit when the lifted the Uefa Cup in 2008.

Alan Dzagoev

The 21 year old is looked at as the next big thing of Russian football. He has been putting in dazzling displays for CSKA Moscow since 2008. He was Russia’s top scorer in qualifying along with Roman Pavlyuchenko on four goals. Dzagoev outfoxed many defenders in this seasons Champions League and will be hoping to do the same at the Euro’s.

Czech Republic

European Championship Record: 1960 Third, 1976 Winners, 1980 Third, 1996 Runners-Up, 2000 Group Stage, 2004 Semi-finals, 2008 Group Stage.

World Ranking: 26th

The Czech’s are very proud of their European Championship record, having won it in 1976 (as Czechoslovakia) and sent a team to every finals since it got it’s independence in 1993. Although they don’t appear to be as solid as they once were. In qualifying they lost three times in only eight games, although two of them losses came against World & European Champions Spain. The other was a home loss to Lithuania. They qualified after beating Montenegro 3-0 on aggregate in the play-offs. Can they scrape through?

Key Players:

Petr Cech

The Chelsea shot stopper is one of Czech Republics most experienced players after making 89 appearances for his country. Cech has been in form this season for Chelsea helping them to the Champions League final and will hoping to lead by example at Euro 2012 to help put his nation through to the quarter-finals. Cech feels like he needs to make up for his blunder at Euro 2008 when he let a cross slip through his hands which allowed Turkey’s Nihat to score and ultimately eliminated the Czech Republic.

Michal Kadlec

He was the only Czech player to play every single minute of the qualifiers which instantly shows his importance to the team. Despite being a defender he scored four of Czech Republic’s twelve goals. Three of which came from the spot. He is clearly an attacking threat as well as being a solid defender. His father led Czech Republic to the final at Euro 96 so Michal will be hoping to somewhat follow in his fathers footsteps this Summer.

Final Verdict:

Russia to top the group and Poland to finish second in front of their home crowd.