Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Euro 2008 Preview: Group D

Greece, Russia, Spain, Sweden

Spain ought to win the group easily, but every time you make a prediction like that about Spain, they tend to collapse like an overly intricate passing move, so who knows. Originally I would've picked Sweden to be the second team to go through, but after thinking about it a bit more I'm not so sure. I think Russia could be a real surprise this time, and I'm not just saying that because they knocked England off in qualifying. And, you know, Greece *are* the defending champions, even if they do play like the Bolton of Europe. Spain and Russia, though, if I had to call it.

GREECE
FIFA rank: 8
Odds of winning: 22-1
Coach: Otto Rehhagel
How they got here: Finished first in their qualifying group, ahead of Turkey
Past record: Beat Portugal to become Euro 2004 champions, but didn't qualify for the World Cup in 2006
Questions to ask:

  • Will their obdurate style work for them again this time, or will the other teams have come up with a strategy to break them down?
  • Can midfielder Giorgios Karagounis and striker Fanis Gekas provide the spark to complement that defensive strength?
  • How *did* they manage to win in 2004? Really now.
Why to cheer for them: You've had one too many shots of ouzo. Opa!

RUSSIA
FIFA rank: 25
Odds of winning: 28-1
Coach: Guus Hiddink
How they got here: Finished second in their qualifying group, thanks to England's incompetence
Past record: Bottom of their group at Euro 2004; didn't qualify for the 2006 World Cup
Questions to ask:
  • How much will they miss playmaker Andrei Arshavin, who's suspended for the first two games thanks to an idiotic yellow card against Andorra?
  • Will Igor Akinfeev's quality in goal make up for the fact that the defence in front of him isn't all that good?
  • Could the magical Guus Hiddink effect come into play here? First South Korea, then Australia, now Russia…
Why to cheer for them: Out of gratitude for bringing an end to the misbegotten reign of Steve McClaren.

SPAIN
FIFA rank: 4
Odds of winning: 5-1
Coach: Luis Aragones
How they got here: A few stutters along the way, but ended up top of their qualifying group
Past record: A disappointing third in their group at Euro 2004; lost to France in the Round of 16 at the World Cup in 2006
Questions to ask:
  • With the massive amounts of talent in the team (Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi, David Villa, Andres Iniesta – really, I could just run through their whole lineup), is this finally the year that they shake off their reputation as the world's biggest chokers?
  • How will mad-as-a-hatter Luis Aragones manage to fit all that talent onto the pitch at once? (He's already made one possibly dubious decision by axing Raul from the squad.)
  • Will Iker Casillas finally have an aneurysm when faced with a defence even more dodgy than the one in front of him at Real Madrid?
Why to cheer for them: You're a Liverpool fan who'd like to see your players actually win something this year

SWEDEN
FIFA rank: 23
Odds of winning: 33-1
Coach: Lars Lagerback
How they got here: Qualified second in their group, behind Spain
Past record: Lost in the quarter-finals to Holland at Euro 2004; lost to Germany in the Round of 16 at the 2006 World Cup
Questions to ask:
  • What kind of a boost will they get from the return of veteran Henrik Larsson?
  • Will Zlatan Ibrahimovic produce the brilliance necessary to drag his team out of their usual so-so performance, or will he be infuriatingly crap as he so often is for Inter?
  • Will Freddie Ljungberg and Olof Mellberg get into a training-ground fight yet again? And if so, can they sell tickets?
Why to cheer for them: They probably have the best-looking female fans, if you're into that sort of thing. I'm just saying.

1 comment:

jenner said...

HEY, another football fan named Jen in Toronto...nice...LOL

PS now that England's out, GO SWEDEN! :P