This year’s tournament promises some very intriguing story lines:
Will Spain’s domination continue? Injuries and age have somewhat changed the face of the all-conquering La Furia Roja, but with all the talent at coach Del Bosque’s disposal, his biggest challenge remains getting the Barcelona – Real Madrid factions to work together as one cohesive unit.
How good are the German youth? One of the youngest teams at the last World Cup, they turned in a dominating performance, only losing to eventual winners Spain in the semis. The experience gained should serve Die Mannschaft well.
Has Italy completely revamped itself? Cesare Prandelli has instilled in his squad the importance of positive and attacking play, much like the Juventus side the national team is often modeled on. Gone are the days of the catenaccio and shutting-up shop with a one-goal lead for the current Azzurri.
What is Netherlands’ identity? Proponents and fans of the ‘Total Football’ revolution watched aghast as the Oranje proceeded to hack, whack and shellack their way to the World Cup final two years ago. Will coach van Marwijk once again choose brawn via Nigel De Jong over the brain of Kevin Strootman? Is there a Plan B if Arjen Robben is injured?
Can Portugal hold its nerve? Aside from a particular Madeiran-born starlet going by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo, it really doesn’t look like the rest of the side has the quality and mental strength it would take to make it to another final.
Will England thrive as underdogs? In the last two decades or so, this might be the least heralded Three Lionssquad to have entered international competition. With the pressures of winning relatively off this team. They will be without star Frank Lampard, however, this might be a good chance for Wayne Rooney & Co. to make a run to England’s first ever Euro final.
Is France a legitimate contender? France is another team that will be coming into the tourney with limited experience, but the youth in Les Bleus’ ranks are all renowned names and under Laurent Blanc’s tutelage, a repeat of the 1996-2000 era is possible.
Who will be the upset teams? Despite how the way the groups have shaped up, it’s difficult seeing how one of the smaller nations would make it past the quarter finals. The qualifiers from Group A will run into two of Germany, Portugal or Netherlands, an unenviable task. Four years ago Russia beat the Netherlands in the quarters and my pick for an upset would be Russia repeating that feat.
Curiously enough, European football seems to always throw up one of two scenarios (World Cup – WC, European Championships – EC):
A team on the rise, with its own playing style is about to impose its will on the footballing landscape for the next four years or so:
- Spain – ’08 EC (1st), ’10 WC (1st), ’12 EC (favorite);
- Germany – ’06 WC (3rd), ’08 EC (2nd), ’10 WC (3rd);
- France – ’96 EC (3rd), ’98 WC (1st), ’00 EC (1st);
- France ’82 WC (4th), ’84 EC (1st), ’86 WC (3rd);
- West Germany – ’72 EC (1st), ’74 WC (1st), ’76 EC (3rd).
– A team coming together under adversity, with its units bonding under a single-minded determination to succeed in any manner possible, usually one and done:
- Greece – ’02 WC (did not qualify), ’04 EC (1st), ’06 WC (dnq);
- Denmark – ’90 WC (dnq), ’92 EC (1st), ’94 WC (dnq);
- Netherlands – ’86 WC (dnq), ’88 EC (1st), ’90 WC (2nd Rd).
Without a doubt, we should have an open and flowing tournament that is testimonial to the emphasis being placed nowadays on passing and movement. My picks for the semis are Spain meeting Russia and Germany playing Italy, and a repeat Spain-Germany final, with the Germans making it third-time lucky against the Spaniards with a 3-1 win.
Written by Saurabh Mittra
How do you think the tournament will play out? Let us know in the comments section below!