Tag Archives: Euro 2012

Spain set to achieve historic treble

Germany and The Netherlands are the other candidates to wrest its crown

Poland gets the honour of opening Euro 2012 on Friday against surprise 2004 winner Greece, but it would take a major upset to see either team or co-host Ukraine progress as far as the July 1 final in Kiev.

Instead, few people would disagree with UEFA president Michel Platini, who has predicted a repeat of the 2008 Spain-Germany final, as a major football championship goes behind the former Iron Curtain for the first time.

Holder and world champion Spain is aiming for an unprecedented three titles in a row for a European country, while Germany is intent on avenging its defeat in 2008 and two years later in the World Cup semifinal.

But some believe that La Roja’s fluid passing game, which wore down opponents in the past, is vulnerable.

Missing Puyol

Vicente del Bosque’s side is also missing talismanic defender Carles Puyol and all-time record scorer David Villa through injury, while question marks remain over the form of Chelsea striker Fernando Torres and Puyol’s Barca central defence partner Gerard Pique.

Young central defender Javi Martinez, though, believes they can make up for the absences of Puyol and Villa.

“Those who have been selected can do as well as they did, why not better?

“With the help of everybody, I think that their absence will not be noticed,” he said.

Germany, for its part, has looked like the natural heir to the Spanish crown after a young and vibrant team impressed at the 2010 World Cup and qualified for Euro 2012 with a perfect record.

Friendly defeats at home to France in February and in May to Switzerland, though, have raised last-minute doubts.

Mental strength

Questions have also been asked about whether the team’s Bayern Munich stars have the mental strength to pick themselves up not only from their Bundesliga and German cup final defeats to Borussia Dortmund and Champions League loss to Chelsea.

Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff — scorer of the golden goal that brought the country its last European crown in 1996 — has been trying to downplay expectations.

“‘Pride comes before the fall’ is our favourite saying these days,” said the 44-year-old.

“The confidence levels are high, but there is still a high rate of insecurity as to what the team can and can’t do.

“In 2006 (when Germany hosted the World Cup), it was unclear if the team could or would withstand the pressure. We went on to finish third, then at 2010 we had a very young team and we didn’t know if they would gel into a team.

“Now we know what is possible. However, we also saw this team in a different guise against France and Switzerland, but we know expectations are high amongst the German public.”

Should either Spain or Germany fail to shine, the Netherlands is obvious candidate to take advantage and add a second European title to the one it won in 1988.

The Dutch have no shortage of class, but as in previous major tournaments, they have a tendency to self-destruct.

This time round, coach Bert van Maarwijk’s decision to play one upfront could be the spark for dissent in the Oranje camp.

van Maarwijk has chosen Arsenal star Robin van Persie — fresh from 30 goals in the English Premier League — over Schalke 04′s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who top scored in the Bundesliga last season with 29.

Group of death

Any discord could be fatal in the so-called “Group of Death”, opening the door to out-of-form Portugal or solid, if unspectacular, Denmark.

Of the others, injury-hit England for once travels with such low expectations in Roy Hodgson’s first campaign in charge that even making the quarterfinals could be hailed as a success.

It faces two-time European champion and Group D favourite France, which arrives on the back of a 21-game unbeaten streak and with genuine hopes that it can go far in the tournament.

Certainly, it should aim to avoid making it three straight tournaments where it has failed to negotiate the group stage and for Platini, it is the dark horse, though, ghosts of the 2010 World Cup debacle still loom large.

“I think they’re a team that people will have to watch — if they get off the bus,” he joked, referring to the farcical scene in 2010 when they went on strike and refused to train.

 

[This article was originally published on The Hindu, WARSAW, June 8, 2012]