Euro 2012 - the Outsiders
The Euro 2012 football tournament starts on the 8th June, and in my last hub I looked at the eight main contenders for the championship. However, there are eight other countries attempting to upset the odds and win this year. The last time an outsider triumphed was in Euro 2004, when Greece shocked Portugal in the final to win their first ever European Championship.
- Who Will Win Euro 2012? Preview, Contenders and Predictions
This is a preview and guide for the Euro 2012 football tournament. It discusses the eight main contenders and favourites for the tournament, as well as providing predictions.
- Group A - Poland, Greece, Russia and Czech Republic
- Group B - Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Portugal
- Group C - Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland and Croatia
- Group D - Ukraine, Sweden, France and England
The Eight Outsiders
The Poland team has been refreshed by the emergence of Jakub Błaszczykowski, Lukasz Piszczek and youngster Robert Lewandowski, who have all had great seasons with new Bundesliga title winners Borussia Dortmund. Despite the fact they are the lowest ranked team in the tournament, the Poles have showed that they can compete with some of the world's best, beating the likes of Argentina and Ivory Coast last year, while also drawing with Germany. In fact, they are unbeaten in their last 9 friendlies, however, they haven't played a competitive match since 2009, when they finished 2nd bottom of their World Cup qualifying group.
Euro 2012 is the first time ever Ukraine will feature in the European Championships. Their preparations for the tournament have been dealt a blow with an injury crisis among their first choice goalkeepers, and the 3 goalkeepers named in their squad only have one cap between them, which may be a worry. In the opening of the new Olympic Stadium in Kiev at the end of last year (where the final will be held), they managed to hold Germany to a credible draw. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Andriy Shevchenko have both played over 100 games for Ukraine, and it seems the they will be vital to Ukraine's chances in Euro 2012. Shevchenko, the ex-Chelsea and AC Milan striker, is now 35 and will captain Ukraine in what will be his final tournament before he retires from international football. If they are to make it through to the group stages, then it looks like he will have to add to his 46 international goals. Although they made the quarter finals of the World Cup, it looks unlikely they will make an impact in Euro 2012, despite their home advantage. They have been drawn alongside France, England and Sweden, all tough sides who will extremely disappointed if the fail to at least reach the Quarter Finals.
However, the hosts of major tournaments have a history of exceeding expectations; Euro 2008 was the first time ever there was no representation from host nations in the knock-out stages, so the trend would indicate that at least one of the hosts can make it through to the knockout stages, with Poland looking the more likely of the two. Home advantage could give them the edge in a group with looks like it will be very tight.
Will he end his international career on a high?
The Croatians will fancy their chances to sneak ahead of Italy and qualify for the quarter finals. In Euro 2008, they were extremely impressive in the group stages, qualifying top of their group with 3 wins, before losing out to Turkey in the next round. In qualifying for Euro 2012, they had to beat Turkey in the play-offs after finishing second in their group behind Greece. They are currently ranked 8 in the World Rankings which may be slightly misleading, although they do have quality within their squad with Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric and Darijno Srna, who provided his team with 6 assists in the qualifying campaign. In-form Everton striker Nikica Jelavic will also look to make an impact, however, he will most likely have to do this as a substitute, as Ivica Olic of Bayern Munich is usually preferred up front.
Republic of Ireland
Giovanni Trapattoni's side qualified from the play-offs as a result of their convincing 5-1 aggregate win over Estonia. Experienced striker Robbie Keane played an integral role in their qualifying campaign, scoring 7 times, and he will be looking to make a similiar impression in what could be his final major international tournament. They have been placed in a very tough group and it will be a big ask for Trapattoni's side to qualify for the knockout stages, however, his side will be organised and will be very hard to beat. This trait was has been exemplified in the last year, as they are unbeaten in over a year (12 games), with their last defeat coming in March 2011 against Uruguay. They will also gain confidence from the fact that they have beaten group opponents Italy in a friendly last year.
They have quality within their side and contain players within their squad who have the ability to cause problems for any team. The Swedes were impressive during qualifying, finishing only 3 points behing Holland, and subsequently qualifying for Euro 2012 as the best runners up out of all the qualifying groups. They will certainly be dangerous opponents for contenders France and England in the group stage, with the goalscoring threat of their captain, AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the set piece abilities of Sebastian Larsson. Ibrahimovic provided 3 assists and scored 5 times in qualifying, bringing his international goal tally to 29. Lyon midfielder Kim Kallstrom, also could be one to look out for - he had the joint highest number of assists in qualifying, alongside Germany's Mesut Ozil, while also scoring 3 goals.
Can he lead his country into the knockout stages?
Will be hoping to relive the scenes of 8 years ago when they triumphed against Portugal in the final. They do lack the individual quality that most of the other teams possess, however, they are a team which will be very organised in defense and will be hard to break down, as they demonstrated in their qualifying campaign whre they were unbeaten and only conceded 5 goals, representing a better defensive record than the likes of Spain, Germany and Holland. They will need someone who will be able to score them goals, and perhaps its time for Celtic striker Georgios Samaras to shine on the international stage.
Saving his goals for this summer?
The Danes were extremely impressive in qualifying automatically for Euro 2008 ahead of Portugal. All focus has been directed towards Holland, Germany and Portugal in Group B, however, don't be surprised if the Danes make a significant impact on the group and they should not be overlooked for qualification to the knockout stages despite the quality within their group. Nicolas Bendtner looks sets to start and will be hoping to add to his 3 goals he scored in qualifying. Dennis Rommedahl also impressed in qualification, with 5 assists and 3 goals.
The Czechs qualified for the tournament courtesy of a win over Montenegro in the play-offs, however, they were fortunate to pip Scotland to the play-off spot and don't look like a team that have the quality to reach the latter stages of the championship. They will have high hopes though of reaching the quarter finals from a group that is wide open, and their final group game against co-hosts Poland could be decisive. If the Czechs are to make it through, it looks like Petr Cech will have to continue his fine form form in goal, and playmaker Tomas Rosicky will have to play a key role in midfield. Bayern Leverkusen full-back Michal Kadlec could be one to look out for, scoring 4 times in qualifying.