Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Euro 2008 tips and favourites

Northern Ireland fans will be watching the opening match of Euro 2008 with particular interest. World Cup qualifying rivals the Czech Republic kick off the tournament at tea time on Saturday with a match against co-hosts Switzerland. Although the Czechs are perceived to be a team on the wane, they are still strong contenders to progress from Group A which also includes Portugal and Turkey.

Group B similarly contains forthcoming opposition as a strong Poland team contend with Germany, Austria and Croatia for two quarter final slots. Although however intently GAWA members scout World Cup adversaries, there will still be a rueful element watching this tournament on TV, when with a little more attention we could have qualified.

I have opened a poll (on the top right of the page) giving you an opportunity to vote for your tip to win the competition. It’d also be interesting to know who you are supporting and your reason for lending a team your backing and/or tipping them.

It will not come as a huge surprise to anyone to discover that I personally will be cheering on Russia. Pat Nevin is backing Guus Hiddink’s side to get to the final, which would be an intriguing prospect as my girlfriend and I will be arriving in Moscow on the day it is to take place. His prediction should not be discounted. Russian football is buoyant at the moment and the team is strong in every department. Andrei Arshavin in particular provides the attacking craft which can transform contenders into champions.

I’m backing the Russians to qualify ahead of Greece and Sweden in Group D, although their other group-mates, Spain, are so mercurial that they will astonish no-one should they either win the tournament at a canter, or finish bottom of their group. With Liverpool’s number 9 spearheading the Spanish attack and Arbeloa and Reina also in the squad, they retain a certain amount of affection. Indeed Torres’ firepower will be pivotal; if David Villa and he gel then Spain may prove unstoppable.

Group C has acquired the ubiquitous ‘Group of Death’ sobriquet on this occasion. Two sides from France, Italy, the Netherlands and Romania will exit before the quarter final stage. I would contend that both France and Italy are potential winners, but Holland will not provide a sustained challenge on this occasion. They may account for either of the other two and qualify from the group, but there are too many mediocre players in the Dutch side for them to win it. In contrast, France has the potential star player in Ribery and the Italians’ lack of fire-power did not prevent them becoming World Champions in 2006.

Despite Garth Crooks suggestion that Poland are potential winners, Germany and Croatia look better bets as we return to Group B. The Germans have firepower in the form of Klose and Pidolski with Ballack and Schweinsteiger providing the ammunition. Meanwhile Croatia comprises one of the tournament’s dark horses.


Hernandez said...

No doubt Garth Crooks is trying to appear wise and unconventional in tipping Poland, seemingly on the logic that unfancied Greece won the previous tournament. Poland won't win it, and neither will Russia. The Russians will do well to qualify from their group. I am tipping the French to go all the way this time. They stuttered through their qualifying group and were beaten twice by the Scots, but in recent games they have gelled beautifully and in Ribery, Benzema and Nasri they have 3 potential stars of the tournament. If they can get through a tough group, I can't see anyone else beating them.

Ignited said...

I'll be backing Germany. Their effiencey will overcome all!

In saying that I think Russia will be putting their names forward as serious contenders.

Ribery - player of the tournament.

Hernandez said...

Should point out that Arshavin is suspended for Russia's first two games.

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