Euro 2012 Group B Preview

Euro 2012 Group B Preview

  • Posted by Geoff Reid
  • On June 6, 2012
  • Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bert van Marwijk, Carlos Queiroz, Christian Eriksen, Cristiano Ronaldo, Denmark, Euro 2012, Germany, Holland, Joachim Loew, Joris Mathijsen, Jose Bosingwa, Lukas Podolski, Maarten Stekelenburg, Mario Gomez, Martin Olsen, Mesut Ozil, Nicklas Bendtner, Paulo Bento, Pepe, Portugal, Wesley Sneijder

Germany appears to be the favorite in this tough Group B. (Getty Images)

By Geoff Reid

Group B
Two years ago, the Dutch came mighty close to becoming World Champions, and would have been worthy winners had they beaten the Spanish in South Africa. They just didn’t quite get the luck they needed then, and are hoping they can go one better this summer in these European Championships. By looking at qualifying as a measuring stick to go off of, scoring 37 goals in 10 games says they clearly know how to score goals. The weakness is at the back for the Oranje, with the best center back being Joris Mathijsen who has never been spectacular, and goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg will have to be at his best this tournament. If you think about it, if the Dutch protect their own end long enough to score one or two at the other end, then they have every chance of repeating their success from Euro ’88 all them years ago. The three key players to the team are Arsenal Robin van Persie, Bayern Munich midfielder Arjen Robben, and Inter Milan playmaker Wesley Sneijder and if all three are in top form, they’re nearly unstoppable. Van Persie especially 37 goals this past season in all competition for the gunners will need to duplicate his club form. The formation will be a standard 4-2-3-1 with the defenders defending, the holding midfielders holding, and the attacking midfielders and attackers attacking. Manager Bert van Marwijk does have some cracks in his side, but this team is good enough to paper over the cracks.

The Danes have an interesting story behind them, as no other country has lost more matches at the European Championships then the Scandinavians, but no other country has won the tournament in extraordinary circumstances then them either back in the 1992 tournament. Back then, they didn’t even qualify outright, but with a civil war going on in the old Yugoslavia at the time, Denmark were a last minute replacement, and their run to beat Germany in the final that year, a repeat this time around is highly unlikely. They do have that feel for upsetting the established order though. While in this ‘group of death’ group B is proclaiming to be, there’s no reason why Denmark can’t get out of it. They were drawn in the same qualifying group as Portugal, and won the final qualifying match against them 2-1 to top the group, so why can’t it happen again? In midfielder Christian Eriksen, Denmark have one of Europe’s top young talents being schooled in the Ajax system. At only 20, he was named Dutch football talent of the year, and Danish player of the year in 2011. Liverpool defender Daniel Agger has all the talent in the world, if only it wasn’t for his injuries which seem to have plagued his progress, he would be classed as one of the greatest defenders in Premier League history. One question mark for the Danes will be who plays in goal? Thomas Sorensen was the clear first choice but after picking up a back injury versus Brazil sidelined him for the tournament. Tactically they can also be very flexible. Usually it’s a 4-3-3, but can also switch to a 4-2-2-2, and with big man up front Nicklas Bendtner should Martin Olsen’s side need to go route one and play the long ball he is a useful outlet.

At this current moment, the favorites are the Germans, and that’s not a tag they’re unfamiliar with either. What’s interesting is this particular group is the youngest side they’ve sent to the Euros, and pundits back in Deutschland believe it’s the most talented too. That is one massive statement, claiming this current group of players are more talented then the ones who’ve won the tournament multiple times in years past. And why shouldn’t confidence be high? Qualifying was a stroll in the park for Joachim Loew’s side winning all 10 group games in the process. Even a tough draw in this group has not brought the publics confidence in these lads. The pressure will be on though, as anything short of winning the tournament will be classed as a failure. The midfield will be built around Real Madrid player Mesut Ozil, who has turned into one of the finest midfielders in the game, and at 23, still has his best years ahead of him. Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has had an up and down season, while suffering heartbreak only a few weeks ago in the Champions League final against Chelsea. This tournament could change it all for him though, and the team plays well when he does. Striker Lukas Podolski had a fine season with FC Koln in the Bundesliga, which sealed a summer transfer to Arsenal. He could be deployed as a wide player on the left where he was been shown to be very effective. One big question is who does Loew go with up front, Mario Gomez, who has scored 41 goals in all competitions for the Bavarians last season, or veteran Miroslav Klose who missed the last few months of the season with Lazio with an injury? On paper, Gomez is the better option, but Klose has always been a favorite of Loew’s, and has always been a man for the big occasion scoring goals when it matters most. While Loew has experimented with 4-3-3 and 4-1-4-1 systems, it looks as if the 4-2-3-1 system best suits his side, but also being as how deep this squad is, their is that sense of tactical flexibility as well.

At one point, it looked like the Portuguese would struggle to qualify for the competition when drawing with Cyprus 4-4, then losing the second qualifying game to Norway 1-0. Out went former New York MetroStars manager Carlos Queiroz, and in came Paulo Bento, who at 42, is the youngest head coach at the European Championships. Even though experience may not be on the managers side, he is not afraid to make the big decisions after dropping Chelsea defender Jose Bosingwa, and Real Madrid defender Ricardo Carvalho permanently, as well as releasing pressure on the key player for the Portuguese, one Cristiano Ronaldo by putting him back on the right side of midfield instead of up top. The two are former teammates years ago at Sporting Lisbon, and the players support of the coach has installed confidence in the rest of the remaining squad. If Ronaldo shows anything like his form for Real Madrid, then anything is possible for this team, and they can certainly get out of this group. While he’ll be on one wing, the opposite side will be Manchester United midfielder Nani who is very similar to Ronaldo in how he plays the game, and after missing the World Cup two years ago due to an injury sustained in training, he is now desperate to show what he can do in this tournament. Pepe will be anchoring the back line, and if they can keep their heads and not get silly yellow and red cards then they can be very solid. Another question will be how often will 20 year old striker Nelson Oliveira from Benfica play? No experience with one cap to his name officially, he yet could play an important role off the bench if attackers fail to impress. Bento is an attack minded coach who favors a 4-3-3 with full backs getting forward all the time, which in turn moves Ronaldo to the center, and allows box to box midfielders Raul Meireles, and Joao Moutinho to get forward as well.

June 9th: Netherlands 1-0 Denmark
June 9th: Germany 2-2 Portugal
June 13th: Denmark 1-2 Portugal
June 13th: Netherlands 1-2 Germany
June 17th: Portugal 2-3 Netherlands
June 17th: Denmark 0-2 Germany

1. Germany 7pts
2. Netherlands 6pts
3. Portugal 4pts
4. Denmark 0pts