An opinionated view of the 2012 European Championships

In a couple of weeks, the 2012 European Football Championships will begin, hosted jointly by Poland and Ukraine. Am I excited? In a word, no. But still, I’ll try and remove as much cynicism as I can, and try to create a sort-of preview. Mainly if you plan on putting a bet on.

The European Championships are held every 4 years, on a 2-year gap with the FIFA World Cup. The main difference is that generally (barring oddball qualification tables or last-minute changes) the competition is far more balanced- there’s only 16 countries in it, and normally are all fairly decent. Or good enough to make the group stages relatively interesting, provided things such as ‘route 1 football’ isn’t used.

Logo’s alright too, I suppose. Quite nice in fact.

Anyway- the teams are in the following groups:

So then. Who’s down to do well, and who best not bother unpacking?

(All odds are from Ladbrokes. I’m not advertising them at all, but they are one of the few online bookies I could find that have the majority of the teams in a ‘something/1’ odd, rather than anything daft. Makes life easier, really.)

Also, all opinions of various teams are my own. Other than the Republic Of Ireland (found out for myself), England (told by friends) and Germany (read a few articles), I don’t know much detail about the various teams, other than an overview. I’ll try my hardest to be unbiased.

If you have any thoughts about my thoughts, or want to make a prediction, feel free to comment at the end.

Group A

Poland- despite the obvious advantage of the home turf, I can’t see them progressing, unless VERY lucky. (50/1)

Greece- Won it in 2004, have been quiet since then. Might get the runner-up spot in the group, but I doubt will get further than the second round, if that. (50/1)

Russia- A surprise package. Could go far in the tournament, plus the eyes of the world will be watching, as they have a World Cup to host soon-ish. However, might get too complacent in the group stage, and could fold against more established, mightier opposition later on. (20/1)

Czech Republic- As Czechoslovakia, won the 1976 tournament and were a force to be reckoned with internationally. As the Czech Republic, a little hit-and-miss- runners up in 1996, 3rd place in 2004, nothing else of note. My favourites to win the group, from there it depends on the draw more than anything else. High potential. (66/1)

Group B

Netherlands- Perennial often-do-wells (if a little on the dirty side, always a plus), history is on their side. Won the European Championship in 1988, picked up bronze or silver most other times. Runners-up in the 2010 World Cup too, so the side may still be hungry for trophies. All depends on the team choices, although the group stage draw hasn’t been kind to them in terms of opposition…(7/1)

Denmark- One of the unlucky teams of the group stage draw. Denmark have been plopped straight into the ‘group of death’. See, I like Denmark. I wish them well in the tournament. But it’s not going to help. Only a lot of luck and a lot of defensive scrapping might, might, get them through to the second round. Don’t count on it though. (100/1)

Germany- There’s a betting slip on my desk with ‘£5- Germany’ written on it. I feel it’s a safe, if not exciting, bet to make. My favourites to win the tournament, Die Mannschaft have undergone a fairly large-scale youth policy change, bringing in new players- ready for experience on an international level- as a transition for some of the older, while retaining key positions in the team. Obviously, history is on their side too, but so are tactics, to an extent. There’s a potential outcome that the most difficult part of Germany’s progress through the tournament will be the group. Let’s wait and see. (3/1)

Portugal- 2 teams progress from each group. Sadly, that means 2 don’t. And Portugal are in a disadvantaged state. Yet another very good team (on their day), Portugal, like Denmark, have the capacity to completely overhaul most EURO2012 predictions. But as fun as that would be to watch, it’s unlikely. (20/1)
Group C
Spain- 2010 World Cup winners, Spain are going into this as the favourites, understandably. With a team fairly unchanged from 2 years ago, they should pose a considerable threat to win. However, in a tournament with two ‘groups of death’, Spain could end up very dumped out of the competition very early if something unexpected occurs. (5/2- favourites)
Italy- Undefeated in qualification, Italy will be out to prove themselves. Another team of often-do-wells tend to start tournaments slowly before deciding to show the world what they can do. This tactic sometimes pays off, sometimes backfires. A difficult group stage could mean an unfair early exit, but with clear heads and good strategy, could easily go all the way. (12/1)
Republic Of Ireland- After being unfairly duped from the 2010 World Cup, Ireland are back- first European Championship since 1988. Because of this, they are being viewed somewhat as an unknown quantity. The outsiders of the tournament (along with Denmark), have been cursed with a very difficult group. However, Ireland have a rather impressive habit of overcoming opposition (as shown during both qualification and in friendlies recently). One to watch. Then again, their EURO2012 campaign might be a show for their attempt to go to the 2014 World Cup (where, yet again, a difficult qualification group awaits). I want to see them do well (naturally), but I’m not waiting in too much hope. (100/1)
Croatia- The other dark horses. In fact, everything I wrote for Portugal applies here. Croatia, on their day, can be very impressive, but the pressure might be a little too much here. Arguably the best side to come out of the former Yugoslavia area, Croatia can sometimes be relied on for creating large-scale upsets, but recently have had a bit of a slump.  Sorry. (50/1)
Group D
Ukraine- T’other hosts, along with Poland. However, unlike their co-hosts, have the advantage of a slightly easier group. But only just. Again, home side advantage, but can’t see them doing too well. (40/1)
Sweden- I can see them doing well. Just saying. Sweden are a bit of a mixed bag- potential to do very well indeed. In fact, they are my favourites for winning Group D- after that I’m not sure. Another ‘wait and see’ team. (66/1)
France- Booo. Handballed Ireland out of the 2010 World Cup, only for the players to hold a mutiny and end up ejected from the tournament in the first round. Some of my all-time favourite players are French…well, two are…but just out of spite I don’t want to see them do well. Chances are they will though. (11/1)
England- Here they come now, riding on a sea of tabloid hype and media frenzy. Like many of the teams in this tournament, England have the capacity to play very well. They just have to remember how to do it, and apply themselves for a full 90 minutes. Almost the opposite of Italy, expect a storming through the group stages, only for the collecting bottle to go when the bigger boys come calling. Expect penalty shootouts. (9/1)
And that’s the lot. As I’ve said, I’m very biased normally, but I’ve tried not to be today. I’d like to wish all of the competitors best of luck, but chances are they won’t see this. But the gesture still stands.
I’ve sort-of made predictions too. Two different ones.
And I might do inclined to do the stickers. I’ll play that by ear. Maybe.
So yeah, that’s my big preview over with. Will I be watching the tournament? Probably not, if I’m going to be honest.
(Dial Tone)
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