After watching Poland, Greece, Russia and Czech Republic get underway yesterday, Day 2 of Euro 2012 has some mouth-watering football for onlookers to enjoy. Labelled the ‘Group of Death’, every point will count in this pool, and one of the eventual qualifiers could well go on to win the tournament. Today sees Netherlands take on Denmark, and Germany go head-to-head with Portugal.
Netherlands are some people’s favourites to win this summer’s tournament after coming close in Euro 2008 and the 2012 World Cup, and the Dutch side should provide a few goals given their attacking talent. The likes of Robin van Persie, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Rafael van der Vaart are as good an attacking unit as any team in the tournament; Bert van Marwijk has the dilemma of whether he can play them all.
The Oranje were never in doubt of qualifying, and won all of their pool games except the last one against Sweden. Huntelaar ended up as the qualifying campaign’s top goalscorer with 12 strikes, and a number of big wins grabbed the headlines. Despite all their potency going forward, their backline may well come under pressure. Although they do have some experienced campaigners, they lack a real commanding presence and a bit of pace.
Denmark will look to their surprise 1992 triumph in the European Championships as inspiration this summer, but in reality if the Scandinavians get out of this group they will have done exceptionally well. Morten Olsen’s men are not expected to shock too many people this summer, and as such have low expectations and little pressure on their shoulders.
The Danes did overcome Portugal to top their qualifying pool, and as such should not be underestimated. Olsen’s men have a crop of younger players coming through the ranks, with Christian Eriksen looking to translate impressive performances for club Ajax onto the international stage. Nicklas Bendtner will lead the line for Denmark, but captain Daniel Agger may be their most important player in looking to block out a potent Netherlands attack.
This will not be the rout that impartial onlookers crave for, but anything other than a Netherlands win would raise some eyebrows.
Germany vs Portugal
Germany are rightly being touted as one of the teams to beat this summer, and looking at their squad the ability is there to see. Joachim Low’s men won all of their qualifying fixtures and are blessed with experience and prodigious talents coming through the ranks.
Despite having the youngest average squad age, the Germans have vast experience in the form of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Phillipp Lahm, amongst others. Add to this the sheer ability of Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze and Mats Hummels and it looks like a tournament-winning team. The only setback for Low’s men was the shock 5-3 defeat to Switzerland in a pre-competition friendly that they will look to forget about and move on.
Portugal have an unpredictability about them, and blow hot and cold dependant on the mood of their main players. Paulo Bento has inherited a squad with a number of older players outgoing, and as yet the Iberian side have not hit their straps under the forward midfielder. A second-place finish in the qualifying campaign and a recent 3-1 home defeat to Turkey has the nation’s fans worried.
Despite this, Portugal have the immense talent that is Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid attacker has had a record-breaking season for Los Blancos, and as such will instil fear into all opponent defences this summer. With the likes of Joao Moutinho and Nani supporting him, and Madrid defensive team-mates Pepe and Fabio Coentrao at the back, Portugal have good players and could cause an upset despite poor recent form.
Ronaldo and co will be motivated to lay a marker down, but the collective ability of the Germans may be just too much for Portugal. One thing is for sure – it is set to be a captivating night of football.