Friday, June 06, 2008

Euro 2008 Preview: The woulda, coulda, shouldas


#8 - Switzerland

It’s not the most inspiring host pairing at Euro 2008. The Austrians, as outlined earlier, are a disaster and the Swiss are…disappointing.

Two years ago it was so much different. Switzerland had just exited from the World Cup having not allowed a goal in regulation play (yes, soccer haters, it is possible to be eliminated from a tournament without scoring. We get it. The game’s low scoring). Since then, however, the seemingly promised breakthrough hasn’t materialized.

Injuries have been a problem. Blaise N'Kufo, Steve von Bergen and Fabio Coltorti--all projected to be key players-had to leave the team prior to the tournament. Hot and cold Alexander Frei will need to get on a goal scoring streak if the Swiss are going to get anywhere in this tournament.

But, they are at home, which usually counts for something. Played anywhere else in the world, the Swiss are a solid third place pick. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Prediction: Second in the group and a quarter-final exit.

#7 – Portugal

Portugal’s chances can be summarized in three ways:

1) Cristiano Ronaldo

2) Cristiano Ronaldo

3) Cristiano Ronaldo

He’s likely the best European footballer in the world, certainly the best at this tournament. The question is can a one-man show win a championship? History says no. So, then, Portugal’s fans must hope that a fourth part of the equation emerges.

Deco? Maybe, but his current form says otherwise. Ricardo? Perhaps, but can a keeper really be the difference maker? So, it all comes back to Ronaldo, who has played an awfully lot of football. And, who may be distracted by his possible move to Real Madrid.

Prediction: A shocking quarter-final defeat after winning the group.

#6 – Greece

It’s become a sexy pick to put Greece at the bottom of its group, forever proving that the 2004 win was the result of dumb luck. But, those predictions are ignoring the 33-points the Greeks put up in qualifying for the tournament, and the fact that the team returns almost in its entirely.

It’s a sports cliché to suggest that a defending champion should be favoured until someone proves things otherwise. But there is some truth to the idea that Greece’s championship run in 2004 can help them now.

Should they be favourite to repeat? No, but they won’t be a push over either. Expect Greece to play the same way it did four years ago—organized and disciplined. It will look to steal a goal off a set piece and it will defend you straight into madness.

Prediction: Greece will come much closer than most expect in defending its title, losing in the quarters on penalties

#5 Spain

Stop me when you’ve heard this before.

Spain is immensely talented, drawing most of its stars from what is arguably the most skillful league in the world. The Spaniards have no real weakness. They can beat you in a lot of different ways and should be considered a likely pick to win the tournament.

All of that is true. There is, however, one caveat. It’s Spain. Spain always finds a way to lose.

To borrow from another sports mythology, this Spain doesn’t have John Elway. Only a whole bunch of Jim Kellys.

Prediction: A crushing quarterfinal defeat after tantalizing play in the group stage.

1 comment:

Krister said...

Personally I think this is the year Spain goes to the next level. Unlike Ronaldo, ehr, Portugal, Spain is too loaded with talent and, I think, who have what it takes to work together for better results.

Favourite personal story about Spain. Besides being a sports fan I am a music fan - all things except C&W. Was at an opera performance with Placido Domingo (he makes Pavarotti become the Leafs of opera) and was sitting so I could see the side part. Turns out that there was a guy there holdin gup signs that gave scoring updates of Spain's game to Domingo while Domingo was on the stage. Can't remember if it was Euro or World Cup but either one. The finale was great - but then Spain won the game!