Group A: Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Greece
If there was any group that the door was as wide open as Charlie Sheen’s bedroom door, this would be it. With Greece still living off of their Euro 2012 win like college football teams do their “glory days” and the Czech Republic well out of their prime generation, Poland and Russia might have an easy stroll into the knockouts. Poland is sporting their best roster is quite some time with highly rated German Champion Borussia Dormund trio Jakub Błaszczykowski, Lukasz Piszczek and Robert Lewandowski in the field and the impressive, young Wojciech Szcezesny in goal. Meanwhile, Russia’s incredible depth of decent to above average players has them favorites for this group. If Andrei Arshavin can continue to show the form he showed at Zenit at the end of the year and if Alan Dzagoev can come good on his latent potential then Russia could make a run that is until they mean either the Netherlands, Germany, or Portugal in the knockouts.
Advancing: Russia and Poland
Group B: Germany, Denmark, Holland, Portugal
Group B boasts the group of death in this year’s Euros and the similarity between this year’s G.O.D and 08’s G.O.D is that the Netherlands are present in both. Coincidence? I think not. Someone all high and tidy must want to prove that Holland is for real. Let me confide in you sir that indeed THEY ARE. Holland must contend with fellow tournament favorites Germany and the enigmatic but fantastic (when on point) Portugal. Oh shoot! I did it again. I forgot to include Denmark. I apologize to any Danish fan out there but even you know that Bendtner’s Boys probably are not going anywhere except following the Danish strudel trail back to Copenhagen. Furthermore, Holland and Germany are pretty much home and hosed to go far in the tournament unless they stumble shockingly or Portugal finally shows the form that got them to 2006 World Cup semifinals.
Advancing: Holland and Germany
Group C: Spain, Republic of Ireland, Croatia, Italy
Come on! Can we just make Spain champions of this group already? In actuality, this group could prove quite difficult for the Spaniards. Croatia boasts a powerful starting 11 with a perfect balance between guile and grit, Ireland is consistent and doesn’t let many goals in (plus they have Robbie Keane and he plays in the MLS!), and Italy, although they are well past their glory years, have the Balotelli Brigade and many of the other young Italians with massive potential. Spain has the same ole’ squad centered around the experienced Pique, Xavi, Iniesta, and Puyol while Croatia, much like Belgium, has yet to be seen by many. Luka Modria, Niko Kranjcar, Ivan Rakitic, and Nikica Jelavic lead the way for Croats and if they are to advance their midfield must be hungry for the tackle because with teams like Italy, Ireland, and Spain they will have to dispossess….ALOT.
Group D: England, France, Sweden, Ukraine
Group D boasts some of the most hated people in world football. Or, should I say teams and people. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been on a tear since his move to AC Milan and Sweden will need him along with his strong midfield to rise to the occasion. England is much like Duke or Kansas in college basketball except they don’t anything like the two latter and just piggyback off of the best soccer league in the world. Looking at the England squad, no one stands out and yells “I will make a difference”. Wayne Rooney must sit out the first two games of the Euros deservedly and so new head-honcho Roy Hodgson must tamper with the striker position to find who works. Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard, and Gary Cahill have all been ruled out because of injury and Michael Carrick did not want to play because he “doesn’t enjoy being a squad player”. At least we know where Steven Gerrard will play? Or do we? France enters the tournament looking to shake their two previous miserable tournaments in Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010. Midfield and attack is where Les Bleus are strongest, with Laurent Blanc using a 4-2-3-1 formation to get as many attacking players into the game as possible. Yann M’Vila is a rising star and has made the holding midfield spot his own under Blanc, and he is ably supported by Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri, Florent Malouda, Yoann Cabaye, Jeremy Menez and Karim Benzema. In the back is where things get dicey with the likes of Roma’s Philippe Mexes and Valencia’s Adil Rami holding off impressive newcomer Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny from the starting XI. And following the injry of Bacary Sagna, Koscielny might get a consistent start anyway.
Advancing: Sweden and France