Euro 2012: Group B Preview
The label “Group of Death” is thrown around at every major football tournament, but Group B is loaded. All four teams are ranked among the top-10 teams in the world, and have been to at least a Euro final within the last 20 years.
Denmark were the 1992 champs; Germany won in 1972 & 1980 (as West Germany), and in 1996; the Netherlands were the 1988 champs; and Portugal were runners-up in 2004.
It would not be surprising to see any of these teams reach the final at Olympic Stadium on July 1st.
The 2010 World Cup runners-up travel to Poland and Ukraine this summer as one of the pre-tournament favourites, thanks partly to the array of world-class players, but also due to the Dutch side’s excellent form in the build-up to Euro 2012.
Bert van Marwijk’s charges won nine of their ten qualifiers, and finished as top scorers in their group with an impressive 37 goals. And, in Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – who finished top of the goalscoring charts with 12 goals – the Netherlands have one of the most prolific strikers in all of Europe.
Doubts over Huntelaar’s inclusion in the starting line-up only emphasises Holland’s wealth of attacking options, with Robin van Persie – who also comes into the tournament off the back of his greatest ever domestic campaign with Arsenal – set to lead the line this summer.
Supported by the likes of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben, Holland certainly don’t lack creative flair in the final third, and providing they can progress from the most difficult of the four groups, will fancy their chances of going all the way this year.
Bert van Marwijk is often criticised for his over-cautious and pragmatic approach, with calls from the Oranje Army to release the shackles from his attacking talents. However, the 60-year-old boasts a wealth of experience, and will be forced to call upon it when faced with a number of difficult selection dilemmas.
If they have a weakness, it is in defense – but Holland have more than enough firepower to account for giving away a few goals here and there. They should vie for first in the group with rivals Germany, and would be disappointed not to reach the final.
World ranking: 4th
V Denmark – June 9, Kharkiv
V Germany – June 13, Kharkiv
V Portugal – June 17, Kharkiv
Denmark may have only scored 15 goals in qualifying, but they still finished above Group B rivals Portugal to secure their place at Euro 2012 this summer.
Morten Olsen’s side could well be the dark horses of the competition, with few giving them much hope of making it past the group stages. However, nobody predicted the success they would have at the European Championships in 1992, and the Danes will be looking to emulate that feat in Poland and Ukraine.
Christian Eriksen has already made a name for himself as one of the brightest young prospects in all of Europe. The 20-year-old Ajax attacking midfielder will look to provide the creative spark for Denmark as he sits in the whole behind the front line.
Similar in playing style to fellow countryman Michael Laudrup, big things are expected of Eriksen. However, Olsen will hope the pressure of expectation will not thwart the talented teenager as he looks to find the right balance between youth and experience in his squad.
Martin Olsen has been in charge of the national side since 2000, having previously won club trophies in Denmark and Holland. The 62-year-old’s 12-year reign has been freshly maintained with the constant influx of new players.
As he leads the Danes into his fourth major tournament, he will be hoping to lead them to success.
As always, Denmark as a team is stronger than the sum of its parts. They were impressive in qualifying, and will not be intimidated by their seemingly impossible draw. If Bendtner produces, the Danes will progress.
World ranking: 9th
V Holland – June 9, Kharkiv
V Portugal – June 13, Lviv
V Germany – June 17, Lviv
After a perfect qualifying campaign with 10 victories from their 10 games, it’s no surprise that the runners-up from four years ago head into this summer’s tournament as favourites.
Germany have strength and depth throughout their squad, and having improved steadily under the stewardship of Joachim Low, there is a feeling that Euro 2012 is their time to shine, with the players, the experience, and momentum to go all the way this year.
Mario Gomez finished this season as the Champions League’s joint-top goalscorer for losing finalists Bayern Munich, and is one of the leading contenders for the Golden Boot in Poland and Ukraine.
However, the Germans also boast one of the finest goalkeepers in Europe in Gomez’s club teammate Manuel Neuer, who could prove vitally important as they look to nullify the attacking threat of Holland and Portugal in the group stages.
Meszut Ozil is another player in fine form, having come off the back of a La Liga title winning campaign with Real Madrid, and will be seen as the primary creator of chances for the forward line.
Since being promoted from his position as Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant, Joachim Low has successfully transformed the latest group of German players into a genuine international force to be reckoned with.
Having added to the national team’s strong core of players like Phillip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Miroslav Klose, Low has promoted a number of exciting youngsters including Mats Hummells, Marco Reus, Toni Kroos, and Mario Gotze.
Outside of Spain, they probably have the best combination of talent and experience in the tournament. The Germans rarely fail to progress through to the knock-out phase, so expect a top-two finish in the group and at least a semifinal appearance.
World ranking: 3rd
V Portugal – June 9, Lviv
V Holland – June 13, Kharkiv
V Denmark – June 17, Lviv
When Paulo Bento took the national team job, Portugal had taken just one point from their first two qualifiers. However, after successfully steering them to five victories from their last six games, they beat Bosnia in the play-off to secure their place at Euro 2012.
Perhaps being the underdog works in the Portuguese favour – they will certainly be hoping so as they are currently ranked the third best team in their group behind Germany and Holland.
Cristiano Ronaldo has always struggled to replicate his impressive club form for his country, but with seven goals in eight competitive games under Bento, the Real Madrid forward is close to realising his full potential.
Portugal can also turn to Manchester United winger Nani and Chelsea midfielder Raul Meireles to add further creativity while Joao Moutinho will also add much needed steel to the midfield.
The 42-year-old has reinvigorated the Portugal side, bringing the best out of the country’s star players despite his relative inexperience as a manager. Formerly a teammate of Ronaldo at Sporting Lisbon, Bento is only in his second job, but could see his stock rise considerably with success in Poland and Ukraine.
In the past, the Portuguese have melted under immense pressure at major tournaments. Perhaps a maturing Ronaldo and limited expectations could make them this year’s surprise team.
World Ranking: 10th
V Germany – June 9, Lviv
V Denmark – June 13, Lviv
V Holland – June 17, Kharkiv