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Sunday, 17 June 2012

Euro 2012: We now resume our normal service

Well, rather shamefacedly, I have to admit that my predicting Denmark could win the tournament has been proven a little bit fanciful. Probably it was the sight of the Dutch being caught flat-footed, although subsequent games have shown just how abject the Netherlands were. In fairness, though, even Germany wasn't able to keep Denmark from scoring, so I think the Danes can go home with a sense of pride, at having given each of their rivals in the group of death a real challenge.

Germany, meanwhile, go on to face Greece in a rather topical-sounding matchup. Before anybody gets too cocky and says the Germans are guaranteed to roll over the Greeks, it's probably worth remembering that eight years ago Greece won the tournament by knocking some of the most-fancied teams, notably the Czech Republic, who were flying pretty high at that time.

Of course, it's also notable that this German team, despite not looking like the unstoppable juggernauts every imagines them to be every couple of years, has come through the group stage with a perfect record, a feat that has eluded every other team in this tournament. Despite jokes about Europe's economic situation, or Greece's record eight years ago, the Germans have to go into the next round as favorites to progress, and in my opinion, to win the tournament. Unlike some teams (COUGH Italy COUGH COUGH England), Germany is generally willing to go beyond what's asked of them rather than sit on a one-goal lead.

Watch me climb down from this prediction next week, of course.

Going home with the Danes are the Dutch, who are only saved by the Irish from being the worst team at Euro 2012 (Sweden having already scored more goals than the Netherlands). I haven't seen enough of them this year to say why exactly they've been so bad, but it could indeed be the hoodoo working on Arjen Robben of having lost in the Champions League final. Add to that the fact that Wesley Sneijder hasn't had the best season, and perhaps you begin to see why they've had such a tough time.

As for Portugal, I've seen even less of them than the Dutch, but I'm still not convinced by them. They may have one of the world's two best players in Cristiano Ronaldo, but I think the rest of the team isn't quite to his standard (and his finishing wasn't brilliant against Denmark either). I do think they'll make it past the Czechs, but I have trouble seeing them going much beyond the semi-finals.

Tomorrow, of course, we have another group of "anything-can-happen", as Italy looks to put the final nail in Ireland's coffin and Spain and Croatia conspire to knock Italy out (or so the Italian press will have us believe). I expect Italy to just squeak past the Irish, but as to whether Spain and Croatia will draw 2-2, I don't want to speculate. Whatever happens, it'll be ugly.