While this is a Liverpool blog, and we will of course stay on top of any goings-on with our favorite club, it would be folly to not talk about and write about Euro 2012. We all love international tournaments, and it gives you a great excuse to take the afternoon off from work in the summer (or to not have a real job like myself). And for people like me who are fans of a terrible baseball team, it provides three weeks of distraction from that. And i couldn't be more grateful. So let's get to it: my smartass predictions for Euro 2012. Feel free to save these and beat me over the head with them when it's all said and done before they make me run. After all, I was the one for Japan's World Cup Preview simply wrote, "They're shite." How'd that work out?
Group A: Could this tournament kick off with two worse games than the two this group is going to cough up? While some will try and make a big deal out of Greece's miracle run eight years ago, they're a legitimately mediocre team and the only enjoyment they'll bring to anyone is the fact they have two Papadapouloses. So whatever. Should be easy meat for Robert Lewandowski in the opening match. When Poland grab those three points they'll get the home fans on their side and should find the one or two other points they'll need to get through the groups. The Russians will of course have their path to the quarters bought and paid for by Roman Abramovich. Eight years ago, the Czechs were probably the best team in Portugal, and had Nedved not gotten hurt in the 1st half against Greece they probably win the whole thing. But Nedved's long gone, Rosicky, Plasil, Baros are old, and their time has passed. Too bad, they were tons of fun once upon a time. Russia go through as winners, Poland as runners-up.
Group B: Ah yes, the Group of Death. I can't help but feel like an enigmatic Dutch squad is going to fuck up the opening match with a 1-1 draw against Denmark, really putting them behind the eight-ball in this group. Denmark, aside from the last World Cup, are generally pretty solid and don't give anything to anyone. The past two tournaments, Portugal was really talked up as a threat, and they were utterly, hilariously terrible for most of them, going out in the first knockout game in each. I feel like with everyone over them now, they're going to do something stupid. And in the Euros, one terrible team seems to find its way to the semis. Holland in Portugal 2004 were dire but found a way there before getting found out against the hosts. Russia in Switzerland weren't much better and they found their way there. I feel like this is what Portugal will do simply because no one wants them to. Oh, and there's that Ronaldo guy who carried them to a World Cup semifinal pretty much by himself before.
And then there's the Hun. I just can't see anyway around them winning the whole thing. They're loaded up front and in midfield, and their somewhat dodgy defense might not matter when a truly awful footballer is banging in the goals up front as always happens with them. Be it Podolski, Gomez, or Klose, who all can barely tie their shoes or stand up straight at club level, one of them will turn into a mutant when putting on the national team shirt. Always happens. Helped that Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Kroos, and Gotze will be presenting them chances a confused sloth could finish. Oh, and they're essentially playing at home, as uncomfortable as it is to say that about Poland and Germany. Awfully scary.
Group C: Merely due to age or fatigue, this is probably the end of this Spanish Era. Shame, but we'll be talking about it in hushed tones for a long time. They have been a joy. But with Villa out, their surest goal-threat is gone. Llorente isn't proven at this level, and Torres can be hit and miss on the international stage. At some point they're going to have to eke out a 1-0 win, but I don't know who gets that goal any more. Unless Xavi and Iniesta can find an eighth wind. Oh look, match fixing scandal in Italy. So that means they win it, right? Maybe, though whoever thought that Cassano and Balotelli in the same squad shouldn't be on 24-hour television is an idiot. They'll get out of the group and smack around whoever comes out of Group D, but that's probably it. I keep waiting for Croatia to be as good as they keep hinting they could be, and I'm tired of waiting. Modric will work some magic and there's goals here with Jelavic or Kalinic or Eduardo, but not enough. Ireland will of course bring the party, and not much else. But that'll be enough for everyone. They still give Robbie Keane a game, for fuck's sake.
Group D: There was a time when I was a rabid England supporter. I don't know if it's being disenchanted with the media there, or getting farther and farther away from when I lived there, or the fact that the team has become a pure sitcom. I still want them to do well, but it doesn't affect me to my soul any more. Which is good, because this version of the England team blows. Injuries have ravaged a squad that was already going to struggle to get out of the group. We can look forward to Gerrard trying to do it all himself, just like South Africa. But then we'll look around at his teammates, and forgive him for it. Maybe Ashley Young can break out at this level, maybe Rooney returns just in time to fire them to the quarters, maybe maybe maybe. But as long as John Terry is starting, and he will, they'll give up enough goals to send them home early.
I'd like to believe France will continue to be French, just as they were in South Africa. But Lorent Blanc has sorted most of that out, and there's too much here to not see them get out of the group. Sweden will be functional as they always are, and Ibrahimovic will score one goal that'll floor you, then disappear for the rest of the tournament. Coin flip who goes behind France to get defenestrated by Spain in the quarters.
Knockout Stages: The Germans will dispatch the Poles at home in a match we all hope will go peacefully. Portugal will beat Russia in an utterly terrible match. Spain whacks Sweden, and the Italians put out the French on penalties. From there, Spain will just barely get by a dogged Portugal side to put them out in consecutive tournaments, but not look good doing it. The Germans outlast the Italians. And then the Germans are third time lucky against Spain in a tournament. And none of us will like it very much.
Top Scorer: Whatever German can stand still long enough to have their midfield ping the ball off of him repeatedly into the net like bumper pool.