If the World Cup is fútbol’s version of an entrée, then the 2012 UEFA European Football Championships (or “Euro 2012,” for short) will make for some damn good hors d’oeuvres.
Played every four years, the tournament pits the continent’s best international sides for the honor of hoisting the Henri Delaunay trophy.
The 14th installment of the Euros will be co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, and the action begins on Friday, June 8, with the final set for Sunday, July 1. Although we won’t be seeing Messi, Chicharito or Neymar, Europe has plenty of great teams and players to offer. So without further ado, here is Being Latino’s Euro 2012 preview, beginning with a breakdown of the Group Stage.
Group A: Czech Republic-Greece-Poland-Russia
Probably the toughest group to pick, I could see any of these four teams advancing. But, I think Poland wins the group (spurred on by their home-field advantage), and the Czechs also advance.
Group B: Denmark-Germany-Netherlands-Portugal
This is, hands down, the toughest group of the four (thereby earning the standard, non-PC “Group of Death” tag). In any other group, the Danes and the Portuguese would have a chance to advance, but it’ll be the Dutch and the Deutsch advance.
Group C: Croatia-Ireland-Italy-Spain
Defending European (and world) champion Spain will win this group rather easily. While Italy isn’t favored to win the whole thing, they should make it out of the group.
Group D: England-France-Sweden-Ukraine
England, plagued with injuries and suspensions, will struggle to advance. Co-hosts Ukraine will be helped by their home supporters, but it won’t be enough to get them through either. France, one of the most talented teams in the tournament, will win the group, and Sweden will be the other team to advance.
Players to watch
The casual fan knows plenty about guys like Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Robin van Persie, but I want to focus on some younger players that should breakout this summer:
- Mario Götze (Germany): There is no better word than wunderkind to describe the German teenager. The “German Messi” already has two Bundesliga (German league) titles to his name.
- Christian Eriksen (Denmark): Another young attacking midfielder, the 20-year-old is the reigning Danish Player of the Year.
- Yann M’Vila (France): He’s coming off a sprained ankle, but if healthy, the defensive midfielder will play a huge role for Les Bleus.
- Robert Lewandowski (Poland): Along with Götze, the striker was a big reason why Borussia Dortmund won the last two Bundesliga titles.
Spain looks to win their unprecedented third consecutive major international trophy, and although they have one of the best midfields of all-time, I don’t think La Roja have the defense or attacking options to win it all.
France is loaded with talent, but post-Zidane, it’s hard to trust Les Bleus.
That sets up an all-Group B final on July 1 between the Netherlands and Germany. Die Mannschaft rarely disappoint in international tournaments, but it’ll be the Dutch who are crowned 2012 European Champions.