Group A: Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic
It’s fair to say the host nation Poland would’ve taken this group if offered it before the tournament, and I feel they’ll progress from the weakest group of the tournament. The Borussia Dortmund duo of Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski are a threat, and in their recently friendly results they’ve not only put in good performances but achieved good results. Prediction: 1st.
Russia in 2008 lit the tournament up and despite some of their key players from that squad now the wrong side of 30 I still fancy them to qualify along with the hosts. With an attacking quartet of Andrey Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Alan Dzagoev they should score goals, and against defensive minded Greece and the Czech Republic that should be enough to see them edge through. Prediction: 2nd.
Czech Republic only had themselves to blame for failing to get out of their Euro 2008 group (letting a 2-0 lead slip against Turkey) and since then their squad has decreased in quality. Some of their under21 squad that did so well at last year’s Under21 European Championship are likely to be included; however I think they’ll narrowly miss out. Prediction: 3rd.
Since winning the tournament in 2004, Greece has unfairly received abuse for their defensive displays at both Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. To put it simply they lack any real goal scoring threat, meaning defensively they have to be strong. I don’t think they’ll be the whipping boys of the group, I expect all four teams to have a chance going into the final group game; however I don’t think Greece have enough about them to progress. Prediction: 4th.
Poland 1 Greece 1, Russia 2 Czech Republic 1
Poland 2 Russia 1, Czech Republic 1 Greece 0
Poland 2 Czech Republic 0, Russia 2 Greece 0.
Group top scorer: Pavel Pogrebnyak
Shock of the group: Poland to beat group favourites Russia.
Group B: Holland, Denmark, Germany, Portugal
Not only is Group B the strongest, it’s also the hardest to predict; however I’m tipping them to win it so I’ve got to go with them to top the group, Germany. Their squad has improved since a good run at the 2010 World Cup, and their knowhow at tournaments is vital. Joachim Loew has done a brilliant job with a young Germany and I think they’ll top the group. Prediction: 1st
After another brilliant qualify campaign Holland go into the tournament confident, and if they can keep their injury prone match winners fit I.E. Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie and Wesley Sneijder, then there is nothing stopping them winning the tournament. Despite a good defensive record at the 2010 World Cup, Holland’s suspect area is at the back, and for me come the latter stages of the tournament the brilliant sides will expose that; however I think they’ll progress, narrowly, through the group. Prediction: 2nd.
A hugely disappointing World Cup saw Denmark fail to get out a favourable group (Holland, Japan and Cameroon). However at Euro 2012 they’ve been pitted against three of Europe’s finest, and I can’t see them progressing. They did top their qualifying group, which included Portugal, and I think their qualifying counterparts out for the league’s 3rd spot. Prediction: 3rd.
Boasting Europe’s best player in Cristiano Ronaldo, many think Portugal could knock out one of the tournament favourites in the group stages; however for me the Portuguese camp is divided, with the likes of Ricardo Carvalho and Tiago retiring from international duty. On their day they could easily win the group, but for me they won’t. Prediction: 4th.
Holland 2 Denmark 0, Germany 2 Portugal 1
Holland 1 Germany 1, Denmark 2 Portugal 1
Holland 1 Portugal 1, Germany 3 Denmark 1
Group top scorer: Mario Gomez
Shock of the group: Denmark to beat Portugal
Group C: Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Croatia
There is only one side who are going to top the group for me and that’s the current holders Spain. Despite winning the World Cup they struggled to score goals, and with David Villa injured and Fernando Torres horribly out of form, their wastefulness could rear its ugly head; however their midfield is the best in the world and will send them through. Prediction: 1st.
There is always one group shock and I’m going for it here, I fancy Croatia to edge out Italy for the second qualifying spot in group C. I think they’ve got worse since their last European Championships; however they’ve a strong midfield and two good goal scorers in Eduardo and Nikica Jelavic and I think they’ll beat Italy in what’ll be the group game of these Championships. Prediction: 2nd.
Italy defended their World Cup throne with a whimper in the Summer of 2010, and despite a strong qualifying campaign where they only conceded two goals; and despite an overhaul of the old guard that were so poor in South Africa, I’ve just a hunch that’ll lose to Croatia. Prediction: 3rd.
Make no mistake about it the Irish deserve their place at the tournament; however in such a strong group I can’t see them finishing anywhere else but bottom. They lack real quality and when your best player is your goalkeeper you’re going to be in trouble. I think they might get a point against Croatia and Italy; however they’ll lose to Spain and two draws won’t see you through. Prediction: 4th.
Spain 2 Italy 0, Ireland 1 Croatia 1
Spain 4 Ireland 0, Croatia 2 Italy 1
Italy 2 Ireland 1, Spain 2 Croatia 1
Group top scorer: Nikica Jelavic
Shock of the tournament: Croatia to edge out Italy for second
Group D: Ukraine, Sweden, France, England
Patriotic? Maybe. Excited? Definitely. Optimistic? Yeah a little. Can we top the group? Yeah! Will we? That’s a totally different question all together. On paper it’s a nice group for us, and I expect us to beat Sweden and Ukraine who are both average sides. We need to top the group to avoid Spain in the quarters and I’m hoping that incentive will be enough for England to top the group even without Wayne Rooney for the first two games. Prediction: 1st.
I think France has put to bed the ghost of Raymond Domenech and under Laurent Blanc are a better side. Despite nearly letting qualification slip to Bosnia, they come to Euro 2012 with a brilliant squad for of fantastic individuals. If they play as a team they could even win it. I think they will narrowly lose top spot to England but will progress into the knock out rounds. Prediction: 2nd.
The tournament is the perfect end to a fantastic career for Andriy Shevchenko who has been Ukraine’s greatest ever footballer; however despite beating Sweden in their opener they won’t progress for me. If they weren’t hosting the tournament I don’t think they would have qualified, but home advantage means they should edge Sweden for third. Prediction: 3rd.
Sweden qualified as the best runners-up; however they won’t be getting second in this group. Zlatan Ibrahimovic aside they’ve got no world-class players and they’re better ones are ageing, they could get something on their day against all three sides in the group, saying that I don’t think they will. Prediction: 4th.
Ukraine 1 Sweden 0, France 1 England 1
Ukraine 1 France 1, Sweden 0 England 2
England 2 Ukraine 1, France 3 Sweden 2
Group top scorer: Karim Benzema
Predicted knock out rounds
Poland vs. Holland – Despite being the host nation, Holland should have too much for Poland and will win by a couple of goals.
Spain vs. France – I’ve got a sneaky feeling this would be a close one and Spain would edge through in extra time.
Germany vs. Russia – This is the stage of the tournament where Germany really get going and I fancy them to have too much for Russia.
England vs. Croatia – England to bury the demons of Euro 2008 qualifying with a narrow win.
Holland vs. Spain – A re-run of the 2010 World Cup final, and I fancy Spain to edge it again by a goal.
England vs. Germany – Ok this is when I wake up and realise England will be defeated. Germany by two goals.
A repeat of Euro 2008, simply because they are the two best countries in Europe; however Germany to win this one.
Top goalscorer – Karim Benzema, France
Player of the tournament – Mesut Ozil, Germany
Shock of the tournament – Croatia to beat Italy
First red card - Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Greece