Euro 2012 Draw: Reflections Of The Forthcoming Madness

Poor corporate oversight here. Meant to get this up on Saturday.

TSG’s celebrated peanut gallery: Waldorf, Statler, and…I don’t know Beauregard got together via email on Friday to toss out one-liners and multi-liners from the balcony on the Euro 2012 draw. It was TSG’s Serie A expert–and Italian national team–expert Eric Giardini, joined by Ronan Quinn writing from Newcastle on Ireland. They both welcomed John Nyen who writes on Liverpool, the Premiership, and the Portland Timbers, lives in Denver and has national ties to I’m not quite sure.

Anywho, here was the discussion that ensued:

Eric, Italy:  What are your initial thoughts on the draw? Being an Italy supporter I can’t say I’m entirely thrilled with the draw. Thoughts on who got off easy? Toughest group? Surprise pick to make it out of a group?

Chief Tableclother Luka Modric...

John, Potpourri: My favorite thing about the draw was Low’s face upon the announcement of Germany in Group B. I am firmly hoisting my flag under my 50% countrymen Sweden (since Norway can’t make it into a tournament these days).

Thoughts on who got off easy? Poland. Their group is passable for the youngish team.
Toughest group? The answer here for most everyone is going to be group B, but I think “C” is underrated.
Other than Spain (who haven’t been dominant in their friendlies recently) the other three teams are going to be difficult to predict. Without Cassano and Rossi for Italy, with the good-bad luck of Ireland, and Croatia (who are coming into this tournament a bit like the USA in 2006 with a high ranking, some good players but not quite sure how good they are going to be).

Surprise pick to make it out of a group? Croatia. I think Modric has a chance to be very influential.

Ronan, Ireland: Let me start if I may from Ireland’s point of view. Certainly on the face of it, it appears a bit of an uphill task for the boys in green. I agree to an extent with you John that Croatia are always a dangerous team with some really creative players like Modric, Kranjcar and Rakitic to name a few, with a seemingly never ending list of forwards who can score (Olic, Eduardo, Petric etc.). It is exactly the type of team Ireland have struggled with in the recent past (like a Russia).

With respect to Eric and Italy, it is the game I fear the least. Ireland have matched up well with Italy recently and haven’t been beaten by them since 1990 (please no YouTube videos of Schillaci). Trappatoni has a bit of inside knowledge as well and Ireland tend not to get beat by the big teams under his guidance.

Will Ireland get undone again?

HANDBALLS ASIDE!

Spain is a very different proposition, although Ireland are the type of team they have struggled against. In the same mould as the USMNT in the Confederation Cup 2009, and Switzerland in last years World Cup, Ireland deploy a very resistant, counter attacking 4-4-2, which frankly the Spanish don’t like.

Perhaps I’m overly optimistic….

As for the rest of the draw I think Group A is fantastic. Every team in that group will be confident of going through and hopefully that will produce amazing cup football.

Group B really is a tough one, this is the best Denmark side in years in my opinion and their edge over Portugal for the last four years makes that group the hardest. Germany versus Holland will be….epic.

If France were to beat England in the opener in Group D, John’s Sweden might sense blood. And Sweden have historaclly stumped England for 40 years–barring last month’s game at Wembley.

But host nations are always difficult.

Surprise package: I’ll go with Poland. You’re playing against a decent team with them, but a vociferous crowd. Momentum, everything.

John, Potpourri: I am, as well, hoping for good things from Group A with the caveat that we have Greece in there. Granted they played well in qualifying and did beat Croatia 2-0, but their group wasn’t exactly a dangerous one with the likes of Latvia, Georgia, and Malta. I still tend to think that their style, while dulling and pragmatic, might work well enough for them to get through provided their defense is water tight.

I tend to feel that I am on the outs with Portugal right now as well. Given the fact that the Dutch and Germany are going to come directly at you, we might see quite a bit of counter from Portugal. Also I do wonder which Ronaldo we are going to see… the one who scored one goal in the World Cup or the one at Real Madrid surround by enormous amounts of talent. Plus….Portugal just lost to Denmark 2-1 in October. Not exactly inspiring for them. This is actually why, even though I think group B is a group of death, it might end up being slightly dull. I’m not sure I see anyone getting through except the Dutch and Germany.

Flanks a lot...

Given what I have seen recently from France I believe they can beat England. France just has speed, speed and more speed down the wings (as we watched in the USA game recently) and I’m not sure that England’s fullbacks can keep up with that defensively. Also, are you putting Walcott out there to try to play offensively knowing that he might be (at best) pinned back to cover defensively or (at worst) defensively liable? Theo Walcott covering Glen Johnson would have the French side chomping at the bit going down the English right. Progression into the next round might come down to Sweden and England beating the Ukraine (not necessarily easy) and then playing each other which would be potentially a great game.

Eric, Italy:

I’ll go ahead and get this right out of the way: Was anyone else as awkward as I was with Zidane’s reading “skills”? Surely he must be able to read/speak English but after today I’m not entirely sure. Also, when they “shuffle” the balls around, they don’t really do anything? For the most part, it looked like they kept their hand on one ball and just sort of rolled it around and made the other balls move around it.

CONSPIRACY THEORY!

The Big Lewandowski for Poland prepares to cut the rug in 2012....

It’s interesting that Poland is being considered the dark horse pick for for both of you. Are we penciling in Russia to win Group A? I haven’t really seen anything from Russia this year – including a loss to Iran and draws with Armenia, Qatar (maybe they do in fact deserve to host a World Cup!), and a draw three weeks ago with fellow Group A participants Greece. Who will step up for Russia now that they have the early bulls eye on their back as projected Group winners? Arshavin? I think I’ve just talked myself out of Russia and you have convinced me on Poland as progressing to the next round…7 months out. What about the Czech Republic?

Group B has been widely tipped as the Group of Death and I have to agree. My early gut thought is that Germany and the Netherlands will come out of the group. However, any team with Cristiano Ronaldo can’t entirely be counted out (even if he is kind of a bust at the international level). If memory serves, Denmark finished ahead of Portugal in qualifying so even they have the ability to cause some noise.

Group C appears to be near and dear to this chain’s heart and will be just as competitive as Group B. Spain should “coast” into the quarterfinals and I can’t pick between Croatia, Italy, and Ireland. Ronan, that’s a nice fact on Ireland not having loss to Italy since 1990, but in that time Italy have been qualifying (and sometimes winning) for major international tournaments. While Trappattoni has done well for Ireland, I wouldn’t look up how he did managing Italy in South Korea in 2002 and Portugal in 2004. Not great. I’m also not too concerned with the loss of Rossi, if he can’t go in June. Prandelli has always threw his faith behind Balotelli (even when no one else did) and would most likely go Balotelli and Cassano in attack if all three were available. The only thing I can hope for is that Spain is too tired from Barcelona and Real Madrid competing for La Liga and the Champions League AND the bad blood from last year’s 4 Clasicos carrying over this year and the players from the two clubs not being able to stand each other (leaving David Silva all alone).

Is England as elated with the draw as they were in 2010? Will Rooney be able to participate in the Group? If not, can England still advance? I also like what Blanc has done in France and they’ll be itching to make amends for the fiasco in South Africa. Does Ukraine get the same home field bump that we think Poland will? They seem to have been hit or miss this year in their results (draws with Germany have been matched by blowout losses to France and the Czech Republic).

Do we have picks to advance from the groups? What would the quarterfinal matchups be? A v B and C v D? Here are my picks:

A: Russia, Poland
B: Germany, Netherlands
C: Spain, Italy?
D: England, France

This may be more for John than Ronan, but did you watch ESPN’s coverage? Did you see Alexi Lalas’ beard? I thought it was pretty great and he should keep it. (Matthew, are we allowed to comment on Alexi’s new beard? I know you guys are close)

John, Potpourri:

Ok, now I am upset that I watched the ball-fondling on ESPN deportes. I need a picture of this new Lalas beard.

Rooney has a three match ban provided it doesn’t get overturned on the 9th. If it stands he would only be available for the last game.

Also, I desperately hope that Balloteli starts up top each and every game for Italy. He has entered an entirely new zone of crazy and I do love it dearly.

Eric, Italy: When does Rooney’s ban start? I was under the impression that Rooney’s 3 matches wouldn’t start until the Group Stage began.

Regarding Lalas: It looks like he hasn’t shaved since MLS Cup.

Ronan, Ireland: I’m going to stand up for Trappatoni and say the refereeing for South Korea’s matches in 2002 was pathetic, and the 2-2 draw between Sweden and Denmark in 04 was suspicious considering it was the only result that would take both through and put Italy out. And of course I have respect for Italy’s achievements as a powerful footballing nation (used to be a big fan, loved Albertini when I was a kid), I just feel Ireland match up well in a head to head.

John, have to disagree on Walcott, he provides an excellent balance for a new England style and is much improved in all areas. Rooney has been a burden at major tournaments for England, complaining at the fans on a live broadcast last year, and his infamous stamp to Carvalho’s groin. His suspension may prove a blessing. I can’t see past the usual media circus putting excess pressure on the squad and guaranteeing a win, as is tradition with this nation.

Russia on their day are a really good team. Their day as you rightly point out is not often enough. The hihglight of the last Euro’s for me was their destruction of Holland, and with an “easier” group they may be one to watch.

Balotelli is a MUST for entertainment. What a man!

I’ll give my initial predictions for each group as well saying as Eric has done

A: Russia, Poland
B: Germany, Denmark
C: Spain, IRELAND (please)
D: France, England

I’ve gone for Denmark with thoughts that mabye Holland could pick up some injuries/suspensions. Van Persie is almost certain to get injured soon, and Robben is never far away either. And De Jong is more likely to fall under the former category.

John, Potpourri:

I’ll give my predictions in the format prescribed by everyone else here as well.

A: Greece, Poland
B: Germany, Netherlands
C: Spain, Croatia
D: France, England
(on Group D I am just being a realist. While I think Sweden has a shot, I could see them beating England and losing to the Ukraine and blowing it.)
On Holland, I averaged out RVP’s playing in the last 8 years which is 30.8 games for his club. The most he has ever made in a season for club was 44. He is at 19 (between Champions league and Premier League) right now, and I want to see if he can make it passed 30 without injury.

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jason on 2011/12/05 at 8:32 AM

    I like the detail and history’s in match up but there are piece’s missing. You talk about Ireland not losing to Italy since 1990 but fact is that Croatia have NEVER lost to Italy in international play.
    Poland will be a very tough match up for any team in Group A as forementioned but I don’t think that a young side will be able to handle Russia or Greece and will fall short, even with a home crowd.
    Group B is a very tough group but I have to say that my thoughts and hopes are with Group C’s fans as the match ups are out of this world! Yes Germany and the Netherlands will be a great matchup but the technical and style aspects of those games (including Portugal and Denmark) do not lead me to believe it will be as exciting as the match ups in Group C. Group C has two defensive minded teams along with two offensive minded. Should make for some amazing soccer and I believe the majority of highlights will come from Group C.
    Group D in my opinion is a waste of space. Yes it includes teams that have proven themselves but it also includes teams that are known as “choke artist’s”. Sweden tops it in my opinion.

    Just an opinion people, no need to badger me for my thoughs.
    Thanks

    Reply

  2. Posted by Alex on 2011/12/05 at 2:59 PM

    I am very excited to watch Germany this coming summer. Loew is one of my favorite managers and the German National Team has looked unstoppable thus far. My favorite to win the whole thing outright.

    Reply

    • Haha, we probably should have picked some winners. Clouded by the excitement of the draw.

      I agree, I think Germany are the team to beat and awesome to watch. The line-up will no doubt be intriguing having to choose between Ozil, Goetze, Reus, Kroos etc. No shortage of talent there and that’s only one position!

      Reply

      • Posted by EFG on 2011/12/07 at 5:19 AM

        I’ll wait to pick a winner closer to June once squads have been set, etc.

        Reply

        • I concur. You always wait till you hear whether or not RVP is going to miss some games before picking your team.

          Reply

  3. Posted by GeorgeCross [@BhasViswanathan] on 2011/12/05 at 4:47 PM

    Group A: After both Russia’s and Greece’s pretty straight forward qualification campaign, and the weakness of Poland and Czech Republic, I cannot see this going any other way. Perhaps Poland’s Lewandowski and Czech Republic’s Rosicky have other ideas, but looking at the overall quality of their teams, I am just not sure they will have enough to progress. Even Poland having the 12th man won’t make much difference in the end – even if Szczesny pulls off Tomaszewski-proportion heroics, it won’t be enough.

    Group B: Wow. Where do you start with this one? Germany qualified with a 100% record, and Netherlands only lost one game – after they had qualified. Just looking at their squads makes any football fan salivate – far too much talent!, but will RVP be fit in the summer? Will Sneijder be a disruptive element in the Dutch dressing room? And Denmark topped Portugal during qualification. It would take a risk- junky to pick either Denmark or Portugal to progress. Obviously, Germany and Netherlands do have a chink in their armour, but I don’t think either Denmark or Portugal will have anything to offer once Eriksen and Ronaldo are doubled up on / marked out of the game? Ronaldo [like Messi] without his club teammates is a different proposition – will he finally turn up at a tournament? As organized as the Danish are, offensively, can you see them troubling Germany or Netherlands when the focal point of their attack is spearheaded by Bendtner? Portugal obviously have some very good players, but can Nani or Gomes influence? Will Carvalho be missed? Not to jump the gun, but the good thing is that whoever progresses from the group, will play a team from Group A in the QF – which you would have to back Group B’s teams to both get to the SF.

    Most people will say that Spain and Italy will progress from Group C, and it would be very easy and logical for me to agree with that. The general mantra in tournament football [so I’ve been told] is don’t lose your first game. I can see the Italians being [even more] ultra cautious and cagey [who wouldn’t though against Spain?]. The Italians will want revenge against Spain for that penalty shootout defeat at EURO08. But I honestly see Spain taking maximum points from this group – people talk about their 4 defeats since being crowned World Champions, but they were friendlies – they can and will ratchet up the intensity during tournament play. Ireland playing Croatia first gives both of them optimism that a win and 3 points will leave their task of progressing that much easier – I am going to be brave and say 4 points might be enough to advance in second place. Could Ireland’s defensive organisation be the difference maker [I believe that they have only conceded 2 goals in their prior 12 matches]?

    With Group D, with utmost respect to Sweden and Ukraine, I don’t see them progressing and feel that there is not the expectation to progress. Ukraine’s hopes hang on a 35 year old Shevchenko, and Sweden have a love-hate thing going on with Ibrahimovic – both teams seem to play better without these guys, but can you leave them out? I suspect they would both do better without their most famous player. But it would take a brave coach to leave them out – if they did and they don’t progress, then it’s almost paparazzi suicide. The general feeling in Sweden [my brother lives there] is: “only if he can replicate the talent we know he has and shown at club level, for the national team”… yes, if only.

    England need to avoid what they did in RSA and top the group. They failed in 2010 and faced Germany, and we all know what happened there. England need to keep Joe Hart fit – it’s as simple as that. We have other important players, but we simply do not have a replacement for Hart. Hopefully Jack Wilshere will be fit, and Capello takes Theo Walcott, Adam Johnson and Ashley Young [form permitting of course]. An injection of pace is what England need – if we progress past the group stage, we’re going to be playing teams who keep the ball better than us, so when playing on the break, pace is going to be important – does Walker force his way into the squad? Then there is Rooney’s absence. Will it be for 2 or 3 games? Either way, we know he’ll be missing for France and Sweden. Does this make France the favourites to finish top?
    Hopefully, the English media will for once keep things in perspective. But you know towards the end of the season, the media momentum will gather, and they just won’t be able to help themselves.

    France are in the same boat [in wanting avoid Spain], but they are going through a transitional phase – recently, their best players have been Lloris, Sakho and M’Vila IMO – all defensive. They have players with fantastic skills, but when was the last time you saw Nasri, Ribery or Benzema turn it on for Les Bleus? They won their group during the qualifiers, but boy did they struggle. I see an England / France one-two finish, but what order depends on what France shows up. I would not be surprised if England and France play out a riskless bore-draw, turning their attention to beating Sweden and Ukraine. But if France lose that opening game, will they implode?

    Group A: 1. Greece, 2. Russia
    Group B: 1. Germany, 2. Netherlands
    Group C: 1. Spain, 2. Rep of Ireland
    Group D: 1. England, 2. France

    My one disclaimer is that this is wat I think will happen given than everybody is fit – especially for Rep. of Ireland.
    Who do people see as young player of the tournament? Denmark’s Eriksen, England’s Wilshere, France’s M’Vila, Germany’s Gotze, Italy’s Balotelli or Netherland’s Strootman? What impact will Lewandowski and Konoplyanka have for the hosts?

    Seeing as I do not have either of the host-nations progressing past the group stage, we should perhaps engage on a Poland vs. Ukraine vodka bracket…

    On a seperate note, do you think anybody in the Poland team can grow a ‘tache like a certain Mr. Boniek?

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/12/05 at 5:47 PM

      Just to answer a few of the questions at the end:

      Young player: Gotze, Gotze, Gotze. Best player in the world in the Olympic age bracket for sure.

      Poland: Lewandowski is an honest player who gives you some nice movement and decent link-up player, but these adjectives here are like saying someone’s “nice”–most of the time you just want to say good things about a person that’s not especially memorable.

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/12/06 at 8:49 AM

        My only concern is Götze actually starting ahead of Ozil…

        I read somewhere than he is the first player born after renunification to represent Germany. I just puked in my mouth. I feel very old.

        Reply

        • Posted by dth on 2011/12/06 at 1:11 PM

          I thought Gotze and Schurrle entered the game at the same time, making them tied for the honor. (Schurrle’s a darn good player himself–he’s just not THAT good so he gets ignored a bit. Still, it’s insane that he’ll probably be a backup in Euro 2012. Another reason why I feel ze Germans are the best in the world right now.)

          Re: Goetze/Oezil: I think Loew has been experimenting with formations that incorporate both at the same time. Because why choose one or the other?

          Reply

          • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/12/06 at 2:36 PM

            Agreed on point above; he seems naturally two footed too. Will be interesting to see Low’s starting XI next summer.

            Gotze is probably the best young attacking player in Europe and he can’t even get in the German team. Add 2 more years playing together / top level experience and they’ll be frightening in 2014 and 2016.

            Reply

  4. Posted by dth on 2011/12/06 at 3:48 PM

    England: thinking different for 2012, clearly.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2011/dec/03/fabio-capello-england-euro-2012

    As we know, the problem is that England just haven’t been determined and fit enough. You look at an Emile Heskey or a John Terry and you say, “Look, you might be able to summon faeries and unicorns with your feet, but you’re a lazy lout who needs to get in shape.”

    Reply

  5. Posted by max merlin on 2011/12/07 at 9:08 PM

    Everyone always writes off Italy but this is a mistake as they are europes most successful team, they have recently had an embarrassing WC in south africa, their manager has brought in new young and hungry players. Past experience tells me its dangerous to write off the Italians, i really see them as a dark horse to win, it reminds me of 2006 when know one gave them a chance.

    As for our chances, France first will be tough but as long as we do not lose the game it should be ok. I think we should worry about getting through our tricky group and then concentrate on whether we have to face spain italy croatia or ireland in the quarters and if it is spain, then so be it, we have to beat the best to win. I have a sneaky feeling Spain may crash out in the group though, previous champions usually follow a winning streak with a bad tournament and i feel that its due soon for spain.

    Reply

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