GOAL! Euro Cup 2012 Begins…
Europe celebrates the beautiful game once again. Four groups, sixteen teams, one road to glory. Euro Cup 2012 is finally here, kicking off on Friday, June 8 with Poland versus Greece and Russia versus Czech Republic.
Group A would be considered the most open group to win featuring the co-host country Poland, who will be looking for redemption after qualifying for their first Euro Cup in 2008 followed by their worst World Cup qualifying campaign yet in 2010. The dynamic, wild card Greece will look to better their second round performance at the past World Cup. Most experts would lean towards Czech Republic with the veteran Baros and Russia with young guns Arshavin and Pavlyuchenk advancing on to the next round.
The ‘group of death’ for this tournament has been designated to Group B with Netherlands and Germany, historical rivals meeting in the opening round June 9 and the two favourites to win the group, advance and possibly win the tournament. What makes this group ‘deadly’ are the other two teams: Portugal is a strong offensive team with superstars Ronaldo and Nani; then there is Denmark, a defensive team that sometimes is able to contain opponents. Look for Germany with the talent of Gomez, Podolski, Schweinsteiger and Klose and the Netherlands with the skills of Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder to both advance and meet later in the tournament.
Group C features up-and-coming Ireland and Euro Cup veterans Croatia. There is also another battle of historic rivals between Spain, defending World and Euro Cup champions, and Italy facing off June 10, both being the favorites to advance to later rounds. Spain, despite Villa and Puyol’s absence, are still one of the favourites to win the whole tournament with the likes of Ramos, Iniesta, Torres, Mata and goalkeeper Casillas. Italy again, begins another tournament following controversy and they of course won the World Cup that year of the 2006 Serie A scandal. The Italians are a young team but with the talented and unpredictable Balotelli, the ‘Azzurri’ are still a strong candidate to move on in the tournament as well.
The ‘D’ in group D could be for diamond, as in ‘diamond jubilee,’ with England roaring into the tournament on an all-time high with even greater expectations of Rooney, Gerrard, Walcott, Welbeck and the rest of the team. Another long-time rivalry will ignite June 11 between England and France, who boasts a list of talented players including Ribery, Malouda, Nasri and Benzema. These two teams should proceed to the next round but the rest of the group is quite competitive with Sweden, a solid team with height and the service of Ibrahimovic, and the other host country, Ukraine, who finished in the final eight in the 2006 World Cup.
The competition will be fierce as sixteen European nations begin their quest to reach the summit of the Euro Cup. The first round commences June 9 to June 19 and then the knockout stages begin with the quarter-finals June 21 to June 24. The semi-finals are June 27 and 28 and Canadians can celebrate the birth of Canada and soccer as the Euro Cup grand finale will be July 1. Overall, this tournament looks to be a phenomenal football feast for fans with the first round providing some great match ups and hopefully some fantastic finishes.
Written by Contributing Writer Daniel J. Joseph