Friday, July 19, 2024

Lee’s Euro blog: Group B and C

Our very own Henry Winter has been busy again. This time it is Lee’s thoughts on group B and C . Just a quick 5300 words


With the scintillating analysis of Group A completed, I can move on to the rather boring Group B. Forget watching Ronaldo, Robben, Ozil, Muller and co, the footballing feast of Hubnik and Katsouranis is primed to be the highlight of the tournament.

Thankfully though, group B has the delights of Nicklas Bendtner to make up for the rest of the utter dross. With that warm cuddly feeling now in place, let’s begin with the deadly striker’s very own nation. It’s DENMARK!!!

Ahhhhh the Danes, certainly not Great, that’s for sure! Let’s face it, any international team containing Christian Poulsen is destined to struggle in reality. In fact, the much maligned former Liverpool man looks like he’d be better equipped to enter ‘Eurovision’ with his 90s hair style. However, the nation itself can look back to the 1990s with fondness as that was when Denmark actually went and won the European Championships in 1992. Back then, a combination of a defensive playing style and talent such as Brian Laudrup and Peter Schmeichel was the catalyst for success.

Nevertheless, the Danish squad contains a combination of names that will be familiar to most. However, for every Daniel Agger, there is a Dennis Rommedahl and that perhaps sums up best the problems facing Denmark in what is a strong group.

Manager Morten Olsen celebrates his 176th anniversary……. in charge of the Danes this year and had kindly agreed to step down after the tournament before declaring he would remain in charge for the 2014 World Cup campaign. The tease!!!!!! In fact, I’m being quite harsh on Denmark. Olsen has actually done a fairly tidy job. Although they haven’t ‘done a Greece’ (don’t make me say the year!!!) so to speak, they have consistently performed well in qualifying and have suffered some pretty rotten draws in major tournaments, much like this one.

One bright spark for Denmark however is the emergence of young talent Christian Eriksen. The 21 year old Ajax midfielder has been of rumoured interest to the majority of Europe’s top clubs and has impressed immensely in friendly matches against England and Scotland over the past year. Nevertheless, his return of just two goals in 21 caps is a stat that he will probably want to improve throughout his inevitably long career.

With some tough games on the horizon, I imagine Olsen (or ‘Capello’s grandad’ as I like to call him) will stick to his 4-2-3-1 formation. This employs two defensive midfielders sitting behind Christian Eriksen who is then free to support Bendtner in attacking movements. The two wide men are also critical to Denmark’s play and it is expected that 114 cap Dennis Rommedahl will take up one spot whilst the experienced Thomas Kahlenberg is expected to get the nod on the opposite flank.

Capello’s grandad himself!


This is probably the easiest no I have given so far. It’s no disrespect to Denmark as they are nowhere near the worst team in the competition. Unfortunately though they have drawn a fairly horrendous group which their band of honest, but overall, relatively average collection of players won’t have enough to qualify from. The one bright spot is that the Danes managed to beat Portugal in qualifying and will fancy their chances of possibly giving themselves one of their needed two victories to progress. Realistically though, their lack of fluidity compared to some of the other nations will see them on an early flight home.

Next up is a team who if they were English, would be classed as a nation who have bottled every major tournament in the last 14 years during the final stages. As they’re German though, it is appropriate to say that you can guarantee that they will be ‘there or there about’ come the end of the tournament. It’s 99% certain semi finalists, GERMANY!

The Germans…….. Even when they are rubbish, they still manage to be good. Take 2002 for example where they were completely written off only to make the final where they bottled….. (ahem) lost gallantly to a Ronaldo inspired Brazil. Roll on 10 years and a near completely new crop of players has the world sitting up and taking note again.

Yes, the side that sparkled in 2010 did so again in qualification for the 2012 Euros with a perfect 30 points from an available 30. Despite tricky opposition in the shape of Turkey and Belgium, Germany barely blinked as they eased their way to Poland/Ukraine.

The chosen squad for the tournament contains no real surprises. What strikes me instantly however is that all but four of the 23 man party are registered to a Bundesliga club. The German league is not considered in the same bracket as England, Spain and Italy in some quarters but this alone shows that there are some very talented players plying their trade in this division. Anyway, that argument is for another time.

Manager Joachim Low has a wealth of talent to choose from to line up in his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. You would expect the likes of Neuer, Lahm, Badstuber, Schweinsteiger, Muller and Ozil to be the definite starters in the team. There are a series of battles emerging for some of the other starting spots.
Round 1. Per Mertesacker vs Mats Hummels: Verdict: You’d imagine the young Dortmund defender will get the nod to play at centre back over the recently injured Arsenal man.
Round 2. Sami Khedira vs Toni Kroos: Verdict: Kroos has been in fantastic form for Bayern Munich since the 2010 World Cup but you’d imagine Khedira may just get the nod here.
Round 3. Mario Gomez vs Miroslav Klose: Verdict: Gomez is a goal machine but does have the tendency to go awol on occasions when it matters. Klose has played his best football for his national side. Due to age, Gomez may just take the starting spot.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned Jerome Boateng, Lukas Podolski or teen sensation Mario Gotze. The scary propsect is that the core of this team is going to be around for the next ten years.

Mario Gotze – The next big thing???

WILL THEY QUALIFY???????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Make no mistake about it, the Germans would be the favourites for the tournament if it wasn’t for the sheer domination of Spain over the past four years. Despite a tough group, it would be a massive shock if they failed to reach the quarter finals. With many of the stars of the 2010 World Cup having gained masses of experience at top European clubs over the past two years, the Germans are in a fantastic position to have a real crack at winning this thing. However, winning the group is key to avoid a surefire meeting with the spanish until the final. So if it wasn’t clear enough already, yes, they will qualify, most likelyin style.

I hope you’re not getting sleepy there. Stick with me. Up next is a country responsible for Ryan Babel, Marco Boogers and Winston Bogarde. Yet they claim to embrace a concept known as ‘Total Football’. Preposterous! It’s the Peter Pan sequel that never was. It’s the NETHERLANDS!!!!!!!

I will never make that Peter Pan joke again. Promise!
We all love the Dutch don’t we. It must be that addictive ‘acsheeent’ or the ‘Steve McClaren’ as it was known briefly in England. In reality though, they’re just a little bit cooler than us aren’t they?!! In tandem, the Dutch football team are also widely admired despite Mark Van Bommel and Nigel de Jong’s two man assault on the reputation during the 2010 World Cup final.

The dutch breezed to qualification with just 1 defeat in their 10 matches. They also registered their largest ever victory during the campaign with an 11-0 victory over the hapless San Marino. A repeat of this against any of the sides in their group is just a little bit unlikely.

Manager Bert van Marwijk took over from icon Marco van Basten in 2008 and led the dutch to the final of the 2010 World Cup. However, the 60 year old did not necessarily continue with the nation’s brand of ‘total football’ that Van Basten embraced. Van Marwijk instead has adopted a disciplined pressing game that enables the Netherlands to retain possession quicker before exploiting the width of the pitch. This tends to be carried out in his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation with holding bulldogs Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel patrolling the centre of midfield.

Elsewhere, the Dutch have more quality in the goalkeeper position than they have done for a number of years. Premier League stars Tim Krul and Michel Vorm will be putting pressure on the current number one Maarten Stekelenberg. The defence as always is a slight concern with a lack of real top class players at centre or full back. Nevertheless, this seems to always be somewhat overplayed as the likes of Heitinga, Mathijsen and co tend to form a strong unit.

As always, the Dutch have a vast array of talent going forward. In particular, Robin Van Persie and Klaus Jan Huntelaar have both been in electric form domestically. Nevertheless, there is a concern that some of the nation’s bigger names have been out of form at club level. Wesley Sneijder arrives off the back of a disappointing season for Inter Milan whilst Dirk Kuyt struggle to nail a regular spot at Liverpool. Arjen Robben’s confidence also must be dented after missing a penalty in two cup finals which played a big part in Bayern Munich failing to win either trophy. Alongside this, the likes of Nigel de Jong and Ibrahim Afellay have been out of favour for their club.


This is very tough. Star names can sometimes get in the way of rational thinking and I’m trying to look at this from a neutral balance. It’s not often that a major tournament goes by without a big name or two falling early. Will that be the Dutch this time???? Interestingly their final group match is against Portugal which could well be a decider for 2nd place. I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I think the Dutch are primed for an early exit. Form is very hard to predict with friendlies still to come but my gut feeling is telling me that the likes of Robben, Sneijder and co may disappoint. This is simply a feeling though so I fully expect people to disagree. I shall look back on this prediction with intrigue in a few weeks time.

So that leaves one team then. I suppose you’re wondering why I think PORTUGAL will progress to the final over the Dutch. I’m envisaging many sneers and eye rolls at the present moment. Let me try to make a well written case.

Cristiano Ronaldo.

Will they qualify??……..ok, ok!!!!!! In all seriousness though, Cristiano Ronaldo is a big part of why I think Portugal may upset the ‘apple cart’ (just imagine the choas of an unsettled apple cart, madness!). The Real Madrid striker probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves on occasions due to another freak of nature playing in La Liga. Despite excelling in England and Spain, Ronaldo has yet to sparkle on the international stage for Portugal with underwhelming performances at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup in particular. 32 goals in 88 appearances would be a respectable record for most strikers but you can’t help but expect just a little more from Ronaldo. Even so, at the age of 27 and having scored 60 goals in a single season for Madrid, surely the time to excel for his country is NOW!

Will we see a repeat of this???

Manager Paulo Bento took charge of the team following Carlos Querioz only leading the side to only 1 point from their first two 2012 qualifiers. Since then, Bento managed five wins from the remaining six qualifiers and triumphed 6-2 against Bosnia and Herzesomethingorother in a two legged play off.

Bento’s appointment appears to have brought a sense of quiet optimism. Gone are the ultra defensive tactics of Querioz. Whilst not exactly mastering the dutch copyrighted ‘total football’, the Portuguese appear to be a much more balanced outfit now capable of causing damage at the other end of the pitch. Granted they still include the pathetic excuse for strikers in Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida but it would appear that only one will be making the pitch at a time. To be fair to Postiga, his form has improved under Bento and he will likely start in a front three along with Ronaldo and dynamic Manchester United winger Nani. The nation will also be hoping that 20 year old prospect Nelson Oliveira gets the opportunity to show his potential at some point during the tournament.

A potential back four of Fabio Coentrao, Bruno Alves, Pepe and Joao Pereira has experience at the highest level whilst young goalkeeper Rui Patricio appears to have wrestled the number one jersey from Eduardo. The 3 man midfield is likely to contain the familiar ball playing names such as Raul Mereles, Miguel Veluso and Joao Moutinho. Unfortunately, Zenit St Petersburg’s attacking midfielder Danny misses the tournament due to injury.


I think they will although it won’t be easy. A tough first match against Germany is followed by a game against the Danes, who beat them in qualifying. If the Portuguese can come out of them two matches with three points, they will possibly be in a winner takes all situation against Holland. Both nations have world class androids in CR7 and RVP. It could well be down to whichever performs best on the day. Talk of this is quite premature. However, I believe that whilst this Portugal side won’t win the tournament, they have the potential to make more of an impact than they have done in previous years. And what a way to make your mark by knocking out the Dutch!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, even if you don’t necessarily agree with my opinions or analysis. If you do have an alternative opinion, please comment at the bottom of the blog or tweet me @leewilsonDRFC.

On that note, add me on twitter at the address above. I enjoy talking football with anyone so don’t be a stranger.

Group C will hopefully be up before the end of the week and is possibly my favourite group of the lot.

Peace out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


*Cue dramatic music*, the group of death is here!!! The battle is heating up. Now we mean business. Who will achieve their destiny??

For all the non fans of cliches, hi, welcome to my third blog on Group C of the 2012 European Championships. So far I have ‘expertly’ tipped four teams to progress and delivered the soul splitting verdict on the hopes of four other nations. It’s now time for ‘the group of death’ to receive the ‘Wilson treatment’.

Pretentiousness over, what can we expect to see in this group? Well, top players, organisation and a real battle for the top two spots. Let’s begin with a closer look at CROATIA!

England supporters are likely to remember Croatia relatively well. They are a side however, that Scott Carson and Steve McClaren will probably want to forget as they effectively ended both of their England careers. Yes, that fateful match at Wembley that ended 3-2 to the visitors saw England fail to qualify for Euro 2008 giving the Croats the opportunity to prosper in their absence. And prosper they did as they won all three matches in the group stage, beating Germany along the way, before falling to Turkey on penalties in the quarter final.

Nevertheless, that appears to have been the high point of coach Slaven Bilic’s reign as a loss of form saw the side fail to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and struggle to 2nd place behind Greece in the 2012 qualifiers. Thankfully, they stuffed Turkey (ba-dum-tish) 3-0 which saw them book their place in ‘THE GROUP OF DEATHHHHHH’ *dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnn*.

Three big notable omissions from the squad are strikers Ivan Klasnic, Mladen Petric and Nikola Kalinic. The former two have struggled for fitness throughout the campaign and their absence is not a major surprise. However, former Blackburn striker Kalinic had been starting for Croatia in recent matches so his failure to make the cut is somewhat of a shock. As a result, Everton bargain buy Nikica Jelavic could start despite a below par international record of just 2 goals in 18 appearances. In his defence, the majority of them have been showings from the bench. Also in the frame up top is veteran Ivica Olic, former Arsenal predator Eduardo and Wolfsburg striker Mario Mandzukic. If I had to attempt to read Bilic’s mind, I predict he’ll start with Olic and Mandzukic up front such is his favour for the pair in previous matches.

As you bright sparks possibly guessed, a strike partnership sees Croatia line up in a traditional 4-4-2 formation. Despite struggling somewhat to overcome the retirement of the Kovac brothers (Niko and Robert, who sound as if they should be on Grand Theft Auto), Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric will be expected to dictate events in the midfield. It is expected that defensive midfielder Tomislav Dujmovic will partner him to add some much needed resolve in what looks to be a tough group. Captain Darijo Srna is also a certainty to add to his 90 caps from the right of midfield whilst Niko Kranjcar is likely to take up a position on the left.

Croatia’s version of the Mitchell brothers – Niko and Robert Kovac

The Croatians also have some very experienced players to call on in defence with Josip Simunic, Verdran Corluka and Danijel Pranjic among those selected. Unfortunately, centre back Dejan Lovren was a last minute withdrawal robbing the side of his experience.


There is no question that the Croats have a mass amount of talent and experience within this squad. But can they really overhaul Spain or Italy to qualify for the quarter finals?? Well, their first match is against the Irish. If they can win that, they’ll fancy their chances against an Italian side who they have not lost to in their last five meetings. This is also Slaven Bilic’s last tournament and he will be desperate to end on a high note after a disappointing couple of years. Although I think they have a great chance to cause an upset, for the sake of this blog, I’m going to have to stick my neck out and say that I think they’ll just miss out.

Next up is a side that wears possibly the tightest football shirts going. Along with being rather frightening when singing their national anthem, they have this habit of doing well in tournaments when you least expect them to. It can only be ITALY!

It shocked me to read that Italy have only won the European Championships once back in 1968. Since then, they have only reached the final once (back in 2000) and failed to qualify on four different occasions. However, there is perhaps some optimism that Italy can improve upon that record in Poland/Ukraine.

Following the disasters of Roberto Donadoni and Marcelo Lippi’s greedy attempt for a second World Cup triumph, former Fiorentina manager Cesare Prandelli took the helm in 2010. He comfortably guided the side to expected qualification beating the likes of Slovenia, Slovakia and Northern Ireland to top spot. However, it has been impressive to see Prandelli’s reshaping of a desperately aging and tired side. Gone are the Nestas, the Cannavaros, the Gattusos, the Zambrottas and the Camoranesis. What remains is a squad on paper (or a laptop screen…) that to the average football supporter won’t look that impressive compared to Italian sides of the past. However, if you dig a bit deeper, there is perhaps a new unheralded bunch ready to show the world that Italian football is not in decline.

The Italian line up is a tricky one to nail down. Although often appearing in a 4-3-3 (4-2-3-1) line up, there has been speculation that Prandelli may replicate the 3-5-2 formation that saw Juventus go a whole season unbeaten in Serie A. This would ensure that the three Juve centre backs in Chiellani, Barzagli and Bonucci would take up the positions they have played all season as opposed to Chiellani pushing across to left back in a four man defence.

Whatever occurs, it is pretty certain that Italy will field three central midfielders. This should include ever reliable defensive midfielder Daniele De Rossi, famous veteran kebab shop owner Andrea Pirlo and Riccardo Montolivo. The wide areas are unclear due to the formation uncertainties but it is expected that Napoli’s Cristian Maggio will play down the right whilst the left sided slot could fall to Claudio Marchisio or possibly even former Juventus man Sebastian Giovinco who has found himself at Parma (not literally…).

One lamb doner please…..

Nevertheless, the one area that could be the downfall of the Italians is up front. A combination of out of form players (Gilardino), devastating injuries (Rossi) and age (Del Piero) means that the striking options are limited considering the opposition. Veteran striker Antonio Di Natale gets another opportunity to transfer his domestic form to the international stage. Mario Balotelli has yet to shine for Italy and his inclusion could be a masterstroke or be responsible for an early exit, it really is that extreme! Possibly the most heartfelt inclusion goes to Antonio Cassano. The immensely talented striker suffered health problems late in 2011 and has only recently returned to playing. Even so, he’ll probably be in the starting line up come the opening match against Spain alongside either Balotelli, Di Natale or sitting behind both.


Although it’s stating the obvious somewhat, Italy’s campaign really could go either way. An opening match with Spain isn’t ideal and is followed up against a Croatian side who they have an appalling record against. It isn’t inconceivable to suggest that the azzurri’s campaign could be over after just two games. For what it’s worth though, I think they’ll qualify. Before researching Italy, I would have tipped them for an early exit. However, despite the possibility of a match fixing scandal emerging and injuries to key strikers, I think they have a fantastic manager in Prandelli and a squad in form. With the focus largely on Spain, Germany and the Dutch, Italy are more than capable of sneaking their way through the rounds unexpected and triumphing once more. Even if they don’t win it, I still think they can have an impression on the tournament to signal the true beginning of a new generation of players.

Now it’s the time of the blog where I could sit here and crack jokes about potatoes, leprechauns and Guinness. But i won’t because I am not in the slightest bit childish. Shame on you for expecting that of me. Supported by a sea of green (and red for the instant sunburn), it’s the Republic of Ireland!!

If you thought that England were a relatively rigid side, then wait until you see Ireland. Drilled by legendary manager Giovanni Trapattoni, the Irish eleven have become an extremely well disciplined outfit who are extremely difficult to break down. This was evident during qualification where they only shipped seven goals, three of which came in their only poor display at home to Russia. Trapattoni’s men eventually qualified via the play offs comfortably dispatching Estonia 5-1 on aggregate to reach their first major tournament since 2002.

Such is the familiarity within the ROI setup, there are no real surprises amongst the final 23 man squad. Disappointingly, young Wigan midfielder James McCarthy had to pull out of the squad for personal reasons whilst Keith Fahey and Kevin Foley miss out due to injuries. As expected, Sunderland breakthrough star James McClean has been called up. The wingers work rate and noticeable talent will likely endear him to Trapattoni although he may have to wait for his opportunity to start in the tournament.

James McClean…

It would be madness to suggest that the Irish will set up in anything other than the tried and tested 4-4-2 formation (or 4-4-1-1 if you’re being picky). From watching Ireland, this is an incredibly narrow system without the ball whilst wing play is utilised with it. This will see Damien Duff and most likely Aiden McGeady tasked with the responsibility to provide good service to the front two.

A potato…

Elsewhere, 116 cap Robbie Keane will spearhead the attack looking to add to his impressive 53 goals. The 31 year old’s partner is the one spot in the team that is effectively still up for grabs. Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, Jonathan Walters and Simon Cox are the four in contention. Personally, I can see the nod either going to the target man Doyle or the emerging Long. Defensively, injuries aside, a back four of Kelly, Dunne, St Ledger and Ward will line up marshalled by the excellent shot stopper that is Shay Given. The industrious, yet slightly uninspiring pair of Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews will complete the line up in central midfield.


I actually think the Irish could cause all three teams in their group problems such is the way they play. The opening game against Croatia is theoretically their most winnable. Following that, the Irish have Italy who they have fared relatively well against in recent years. Also, they have the advantage of Trapattoni’s italian roots to call upon. Spain are a difficult side for anyone to play against but they have struggled most against organised sides who don’t allow for space in behind the back four (see Switzerland at the 2010 World Cup). Despite this, I’m not going to back the ROI to progress unfortunately. Although defensively they are sound, I worry that if they concede, then that could well be match over. They will likely give it everything and whilst I see them possibly taking points from one or two teams, I imagine they will just fall short.

Finally, it’s the greatest underachievers at international level. This side has great individuals but just can’t seem to piece it all together when it comes to the crucial matches in tournament football. Well…, that is what I would have written had this blog been directed towards Euro 2008. Four years later, and this side has been dubbed by many as one of the greatest in international history. You decide whether or not you agree with that. It’s SPAIN!!!

If I had a pound for the amount of times I’d heard somebody state that ‘even they could manage Spain’…… Manager Vicente del Bosque has the luxury of world class players in every position and the current World and European champions are the favourites for the tournament with the bookmakers. But is everything as perfect as it seems??

Whilst this Spain team has been extremely successful, they are not unbeatable as results against Switzerland at the World Cup and England in a recent friendly have shown. Both sides impressively kept men behind the ball and picked their opportunities to commit men forward to counter attack. Once they had the lead, all efforts went into giving the Spanish no space in behind. It is a tactic which isn’t pretty on the eye but is extremely effective against Spain’s pass and move philosophy which attempts to draw players out of position. It appears the most successful way to beat Spain is simply to be disciplined and take your opportunities. Easy………


Although they have a ridiculous amount of quality, the Spanish do have injury concerns to key players. Star striker David Villa misses the tournament with a long term broken leg injury whilst inspirational skipper Carlos Puyol picked up an injury recently that has seen him not make the 23 man squad. Alongside this, right back Andoni Iraola had to drop out late due to injury whilst Cesc Fabregas makes the squad despite carrying a knock.

The loss of Puyol in particular looks to be significant. It is expected that Sergio Ramos, who has been playing at centre back for Real Madrid all season, will move across to partner Gerard Pique. This may leave a slight weakness in the full back positions with Juanfran covering at right back and the attack minded Jordi Alba at left back. The lone striker role looks to be a straight battle between the Fernandos (Torres and Llorente) whilst it is pretty certain that Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets will take up their positions in the central midfield area. Del Bosque has the option of Xabi Alonso for the extra midfielder whilst David Silva, Juan Mata, Pedro, Santi Cazorla and Jesus Navas provide the options out wide. Why am I listing them?? Because I don’t have a clue which option Del Bosque will go with. I’m sure the millions of potential Spain managers will have their own option though.


Something pretty out of the ordinary would have to happen for them not to. However, this isn’t an ideal group for Spain. The Irish will provide a similar test to that of Switzerland in the World Cup. As it’s the last game of the group, the Spanish will not want the pressure on for that one. The rejuvenated Italians will provide a stern test whilst Croatia have players capable of hurting them if they’re not on their game. The last few words there sum up Spain’s chances though. If they’re on their game, they should cruise through to the next round. If they start to feel the absentees and other key players go missing, then they may be involved in a group too tight for their liking. Personally, I can only tip them for progression.

Once again, thank you very much for reading this. I have to thank a number of people on twitter who have helped me out by sharing this blog with others.
@Joshcraske66, @Ahodgson72, @NickDRFCMurphy, @TommyA1990, @themikeajones, @Bt_1990 and @Im_1983 have promoted this the most and are all worth a follow for their football tweets.

Also, a big thank you to: @AFCB_Mark, @Kevin_Cannon, @Ryanstalley, @DaggerP64, @RobertJRayner, @OiOiCharls, @Oeuf29, @PaddyMacca88, @Merseyboynick, @EssexDaggerBC, @Jackpettican93, @Rachyyyy13, @Daveyfids and @MattStead91 who have all retweeted my blog and are all worth a follow.

Group D will be up before the tournament begins where I will be assessing England’s chances. Thanks all!!!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


More articles