Nobody’s going to deny it – there are some absolutely terrible groups in Euro 2012. Fortunately, Group B isn’t one of them. Anything that features the World Cup runners up and then a Germany side that’s basically the Real Madrid equivalent to Spain’s Barcelona and then Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal has to be interesting, almost by default.
Out before it starts
Sorry, Denmark. You’re not a bad side, and you did finish above Portugal in qualifying Group H, putting in some great performances along the way (especially the 2-1 home win in Copenhagen which sealed passage to the finals). You deserve higher than pot four status, and better than being put into this group. But even if Denmark were able to overcome Portugal again, which isn’t particularly likely, they’ll then have to knock out one of Holland or Germany. Call me a pessimist, but I’m not seeing it.
Medal of honour
If Portugal ever play coherent football, watch out. They’ve got some fantastic players, but for whatever reason never seem to advance much beyond ‘dark horse’ candidates for major competitions. That could have changed this summer, with Cristiano Ronaldo in something approximating the form of his life, but both teams above them are just as good as Portugal on paper and can actually back that up with performances.
Advancing to the Knockout Stage are…
Netherlands and Germany. These two are the strongest teams in the group, and two of the best three sides in the whole tournament. However, they’re not locks to go through. The fact that they have to play each other means that a slip-up by either side against Portugal will make the situation very dicey indeed. If there’s any team that could be crippled by fitness problems, it’s the Netherlands.
Player to watch
Just one player? It’s tempting to pick Arsenal and Holland striker Robin van Persie, but the likelihood of him staying healthy for the next seven months seems dubious at best. Instead, we’ll take the easy option – it’s Ronaldo, who is matching Lionel Messi in La Liga with a series of stunning performances, and could easily be celebrating a league championship by the end of the season. He might be annoying, but he’s a phenomenal all-round footballer.
All of them? Every game in this group matters. Every team has at least one world-class player. If you had to pick one, it’d be the Germany-Netherlands match on Wednesday June 13th. With the traditional rivalry between the two countries and the way that group is set up, that game has the potential to be a classic. Both sides will need three points, and each will probably be happy to deny the other of the opportunity to advance.