Welcome to Four Five Two’s third-world class coverage of Euro 2012. We are taking an in-depth look at the 16 teams who kick off play Friday afternoon. If we feel ambitious we may even have some other articles up. As always we will also provide predictions so you can make fun of us for being completely wrong. We continue our previews with Group B, or the Group of Death.
Group B is this year’s (bum ba bum bum!) Group of Death. All four teams in this group have reached the final of the Euros in the past 20 or so years (and Portugal’s the only team that hasn’t actually won. Fuck you, Greece.) Portugal finds itself in the Group of Death for the second tournament in a row while Holland is making its third appearance in the past four tournaments. It’s no coincidence that these are the two favored national teams of this site’s resident Spurs fans. CONSPIRACY!
Anywho. Onto the teams, after the jump:
The Germans have one of the strongest squads in the world and are one of the clear favorites to win the tournament. Between the sticks, Neuer is one of the best goalkeepers around. In Miroslav Klose Germany has one of the most prolific strikers in international football and Mario Gomez, despite his shocker in the Champions League Final, serves as adequate backup. Both strikers scored against every other nation they faced in qualifying. Germany also kicks off the tournament on Klose’s birthday, so they’ll probably like play extra hard or something.
Germany boasts a wealth of young yet experienced midfield talent so brilliant that even Spain has a right to be jealous. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil are among the best in the world at their positions, if not the best. This team is so stacked that badass youngsters like Gotze, Reus, Muller, Kroos, and Schurrle will all struggle to even see the pitch. (Insert umlauts where appropriate)
If Germany has one weakness, it’s their defense. Philipp Lahm is their only world class defender. Mats Hummels lit up the Bundesliga, but has yet to really convince for the national team. I’m also not entirely sure Badstuber or Boateng are quite good enough at this level. And Per Mertesacker is just completely fucking terrible. But their incredibly fluid attacking style should be enough to compensate for any frailties at the back.
Expect Germany to reach the final, and maybe even win it. But I still haven’t forgiven them for that whole Holocaust thing, so fuck Germany.
Orange you glad the Netherlands are stuck in the Group of Death? I used to like the Dutch, but ever since their cynical display in the 2010 World Cup Final, I seriously loathe this team. These were the guys who invented the concept of total football, yet they reduced themselves to karate kicking Xabi Alonso for 120 minutes. That a team with so much attacking talent at their disposal played such atrocious anti-football is shameful.
Up front the Hollish have van Persie, Huntelaar, Sneijder, Robben, van der Vaart, Affellay, and Kuyt to squeeze into four attacking slots. But none of this will matter because right behind them will be van Marwijk’s twin destroyers: van Bommel and Ninja de Jong. The Dutch seemed to revert to their old attacking instincts during qualification, but don’t be fooled. The Dutch always play aggressive attacking football against weaker opposition. Against Germany and Portugal? I imagine they’ll be a lot cagier and try and play a more compact, defensive game. Which is silly.
Because like all the teams in this group, The Netherlands scintillating attacking talents are balanced by a pretty meh defense. When Johnny Heitinga is your best defender, you know you’re in trouble. Gregory van der Wiel is much better going forward than he is at defending, Joris Mathisjen has never been more than mediocre, and Jetro Willems is 18 years old with two caps to his name. At least they have three very good keepers in Stekelenburg, Krul, and Vorm. Too bad they can’t all play at once.
After reaching the World Cup Final in 2010, the Dutch are another heavy favorite to win it all this summer, but I don’t expect them to get out of the group. Especially if they fail to play an expansive attacking game and try instead to kick the shit out of their opponents.
Portugal struggled at the start of qualifying under now-departed manager Carlos Queiroz, but Paulo Bento has since come in and righted the ship. Sort of. They crushed Bosnia 6-2 in their qualifying playoff to reach the tournament finals, but have failed to win in three friendly attempts in 2012, culminating in a disastrously abject loss to Turkey last weekend. But Portugal don’t care. Portugal don’t give a fuck.
Portugal as ever will rely heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo to power them through the tournament. As he goes, so goes Portugal. Luckily for them, he’s the best player in the tournament. (Finally, a place for Cristiano where he can be free of that stupid Leo Messi!) If CR7 shows up, he is completely unstoppable and also very handsome. Portugal will also be hoping Nani can help share some of his goal scoring burden. After emerging from CRon’s shadow at ManU and then subsequently missing the World Cup due to injury, Nani will be hoping to have a big tournament.
Rounding out the midfield will be Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, and Joao Moutinho. All three are capable defensively and excellent with the ball at their feet. Unfortunately, Portugal lacks the depth of the Germans and Dutch, and while their first choice midfield is excellent, their understudies may not be up to the task.
Up front will be either Hugo Almeida or Helder Postiga and the less said about them the better. Pauleta seems to be the only good number 9 Portugal has produced in ages, and the striker position has been a real weak point in the Portuguese lineup since his retirement. Although young Nelson Oliveira looks promising for the future, he isn’t likely to see much action this summer.
Their defense will be anchored by terrible human being Pepe and filled out with Bruno Alves, Joao Pereira, and Fabio Coentrao. They’ll miss Carvalho and Bosingwa (both of whom were exiled from the team after confrontations with the manager), but their replacements are more than capable. Young goalkeeper Rui Patricio is coming off an excellent season and he needs to be on his game if Portugal expect to succeed.
Most people would consider Portugal lucky to get out of this incredibly difficult group, but I think if they can get out of it there’s no reason they can’t win the whole thing. Força Portugal!
The Fightin’ Nicklas Bendtners actually topped their qualifying group ahead of Portugal, yet they’re still considered the underdogs in this group. They don’t stand much of a chance emerging from a group with three of the world’s top 5 ranked teams in it. But then again, they weren’t even supposed to be in the tournament at all in 1992, only getting in after Yugoslavia broke up, and they ended up winning the whole damn thing. So you definitely can’t count this team out, but let’s be honest, yes you can. Nobody really expects lightning to strike twice here.
After losing first choice keeper Thomas Sorensen to a back injury, ManU understudy Anders Lindergaard will play in goal behind a center back pairing of Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer.
Young Ajax starlet Christian Eriksen will run this team from midfield. It’s fair to say this entire team hinges on his performance. If opposition sides can keep him quiet, the Danish have literally no chance of emerging from this group. Not that they have much of a chance anyway. But if he can run this team like he does at his club side Ajax, the Danish could make life very difficult for their opponents.
Dennis Rommedahl is somehow still only 33 years old, and that blows my mind. I would have guessed he was at least 97. I need a minute to deal with this information….
Ok. So, forever young Dennis Rommedahl is still fast as shit and they’ll need his pace to get in behind the overly aggressive fullbacks and suspect centerbacks of the other teams in the group if they are going to stand any chance of progressing. But with all-ego-and-no-talent striker Nicklas Bendtner leading the line, there’s no way this team isn’t fucked.