Coming into this Euro tournament, the pick of who was favorite to win was quite ambiguous. Germany’s youth was drawing plaudits, Spain’s victory at World Cup 2010 had them picked by many to steamroll the competition, and Netherlands dream generation was hitting their stride. However, much has changed since the prediction prior to the tournament.
The Orange are feeling Blue
The Netherlands was a favorite for this tournament and for good reason. Prior to the tournament, the Orange showed true class versus Northern Ireland as their wealth of talent became clear. Robin van Persie came into the tournament with his best scoring record of his career and for once he wasn’t being nagged by injuries, Klaas Jan Huntelaar was a scoring machine for Schalke in the Bundesliga, Wesley Sneijder was back on form with the new manager at Inter, and newcomer Ibrahim Afellay added great flair to the right side of the field that had so long been occupied by the engine Dirk Kuyt. Arjen Robben was coming off one of his worst performances versus Chelsea, but whenever he puts on his Netherlands shirt he is always a danger. Since stumbling versus the Danes, Holland has lost to Germany and now looks to Germany to beat Denmark and to themselves for strength through the adversity to beat Portugal (and heavily) in order to advance.
Hosts Doing Quietly Well
Before the tournament even began, Poland and Ukraine were drawing criticism for their incompletion of stadiums, extreme racist atmosphere, and their relatively inhospitable countries. Since then, they have impressed. Racism has been on the “dl” except for the Nigel De Jong incident, the stadiums look magnificent and the atmosphere that they foster is even better, and their welcome to people from all over Europe has been exemplary. Oh and did I mention their soccer teams are playing well too? With a win over the Czech Republic, Poland could advance out of their group and defy expectations. Ukraine secured a win over Sweden in the opening game with a blistering comeback and Andriy Shevchenko turned back the clock with his two headed goals. Now, Ukraine must defeat England in order to advance to the knockout round.
The embarrassment of World Cup 2012 will forever stain the history of the Les Blues, but since the firing of Raymond Domenech and the appointment of Laurent Blanc, France has started strong on the road to recovery. With a team focused around their attack of Franck Ribery, Samir Nasir, Karim Benzema, and Yohan Cabaye, France has thrown the old guard who embarrassed themselves and the Blue shirts they wore and ushered in a new era of beautiful football. Their game of possession football led by Nasri has impressed many and when a strike is needed their passing can literally cut up an opposing defense.