Coming up is the highly anticipated Euro 2012 and every football fan that is starting to feel the hunger from lack of Football is about to engross in a few weeks of International footballing drama.
Starting with the controversial side of the tournament, Racism will hopefully play no part, but it is sad before it has even began, player’s families and friends have been advised not to travel to the Ukraine to prevent anything that might occur speaks wonders for the level of doubt the Associations and Advisors have for the place. Not all Polish and Ukrainians are racists, but there is always a small minority there to spoil the party in any situation, whether its race gender or even if it’s just the team you support. Hopefully Racism won’t rear it’s ugly head this time.
Moving on to the football matters. Not one Nation has successfully retained the Euro Championship since it first started in 1958, but would it be wise to rule out Spain? They have dominated the sport for the past few years by winning the previous Euro’s as well as winning the World Cup two years later, but with their all-time goal scorer in David Villa injured, it seems to be a slight wobble before the tournament has begun. Their other forwards are not necessarily in the best forms of their life currently so someone will have to take a step up and take charge in Villa’s absence for them to move forward. That being said, the amount of quality in the Spanish squad, it would be foolish to write them off so early. There is a first time for everything regarding the retainment of the Championship and there is no better team to do it than Spain.
The teams I feel with problems at the moment going into the Euro’s are: England, Ukraine, Italy and France. My reasons are as follows:
England: To lose a manager in the year of the tournament is bad enough, but for the FA to wait until a few weeks before the tournament to hire someone has pretty much handed England limited chance of any success. The new boss Roy Hodgson will have had no time to look over the amount of talent available that will best fit the tactics he wants to deploy. No doubt the tactics will be completely different to what the usual England set-up is used to, so the players will have to get used to the system quickly before the tournament begins. With Roy’s selection, you can tell he has mixed the ideology of the ageing current stars with the possible future England internationals by having youth with not much experience at this level before. I believe this is the perfect balance, especially for the youth. The method may not win anything this tournament, but the experience and lessons learnt by the youth at this tournament will be majorly beneficial heading into the next World Cup, which most of the aged squad won’t be at. If anybody calls for Hodgson’s head after this tournament, even if we don’t make it out of the Group stage, need a slap of reality. It was never going to be a success in such a short time frame. “But he left out top players like Rio, Richards and Carrick!” So? Richards and Carrick apparently turned down the chance to be on standby for England, so why should Roy pick someone who isn’t willing to be available for their country at any level? I would have done the same. The Rio situation, regardless of what Rio has said to the press, is probably down to footballing reasons. Yes Terry is not in the best situation off the field; but comparing the 2 statisically, Terry has scored 7 goals and made 2 assists this season, Rio has scored 0 as well assisting 0. In fact, the last time Rio scored was for England against Kazakstan in 2008! The last time he assisted was further back in 2007. Yes he can defend extremely well, but defenders need to have another string to their bow nowadays such as being able to score in set pieces etc. What about the other defenders? Joleon Lescott = 3 goals, 1 assist. Phil Jaglieka = 2 goals, 1 assist. Phil Jones (even though he is more utility man and also plays midfield) has scored 2, 3 assists. So in defence of Roy and the footballing reasons, he is within his right to pick the people he has. Nobody is guaranteed a call-up, Rio needs to realise that.
Italy: Another major scandal has occured in the Italian football leagues, but with the same problem as before. Match-fixing. It has horrendously affected the Italian team, who did seem to be recovering from the previous scandal a few years ago. This scandal will knock them back down again. Their last friendly before the Euros was a 3-0 battering to the Russians. All the italian legends seem to be a bit too old now and need to start bringing through youth, but it just seems to be the Italian way. Something needs to change drastically for the Italians for them to get back on the right path. There has even been suggestions of cancelling the Italian league so the match-fixing problem can be rid of once and for all. I’d be highly surprised if they manage to get out of the group stage that includes Spain, Ireland and Croatia, all good sides. You never know though, with players like Pirlo orchestrating in the middle of the park, anything can happen.
Ukraine: Ukraine are in a similar position to England in the sense of losing their manager so close to the tournament. The whole having to re-adjust the tactics, personnel and players, it can cause havoc for preparation. However, with Ukraine being a co-host of the Euros, they will have the backing of the country, the crowd, willing them on, giving a bigger boost to the team. It’s quite rare host nations do poorly in this tournament, with the last one consisting of another co-hosting situation of Austria and Switzerland, both failing to get past the group stage, also Belgium in 2000. So in a way, Ukraine (or Poland) could be considered as the Dark Horse.
France: France are not really having major problems as before, like the World Cup for example, with Laurent Blanc settling the whole situation down. This does not mean however that all is well. Just recently, Patrice Evra caused another stir in a friendly by wiping his bum with a team-mates football shirt, with all of it caught on camera. The french will not take that lightly, especially the support back home. It is something that unneccessarily needed, especially for Evra, who lead the team to strike against the former manager in the last tournament, he should be keeping his head down and playing it safe, as Blance will take nonsense from nobody. France do seem to be playing alright though, being unbeaten in their last 21 games, should prove that if small problems are clamped down quickly, they should be a candidate to go far.
Who do I think will win? Well you have the usual suspects of Spain, Germany, Netherlands, even Russia are looking quite strong. Portugal aren’t as strong as they used to be, in fact they only just qualified for this tournament. With the Portuguese also in the “Group of Death” along with Germany and Netherlands, I can only see one outcome.
If I was a betting man though, all the tough teams seem to be close together, facing each other in the Quarter finals too, so it could leave an opening for a Dark horse like Croatia or Italy to sneak in the back way and take the crown this year.
I think this year, however, will belong to the Germans.
…You watch, everything I said will be the complete opposite of what happens.