bill-swift - June 20, 2012
So, there you have it. The group stages of Euro 2012 have been completed. There have been some tremendous moments over the last 11 days from the 16 nations involved with only Holland and Ireland truly giving terrible accounts of themselves with dire and tepid displays.
Many sporting pundits have even labelled this Championships the best in the tournaments history with there still yet to be a 0-0 stalemate in any encounter.
But what else has happened so far in Poland and Ukraine? Well, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored one of the greatest ever European Championship goals against France but it wasn't enough to get Sweden through. Cristiano Ronaldo put in a superlative solo performance against the Dutch to help Portugal defeat their Northern European neighbour.
Greece defied the odds again, as they did in 2004, to squeeze through Group A with their only victory of the tournament. And England's two banks of four have miraculously stifled and stuttered their opposition to get the team to top of Group D.
This has now set up some splendid quarter final contests and it's impossible to predict how they might pan out, well all except for the fact that the Germans will end up in the final. Check out below for a preview to these games, where all of my predictions will almost certainly be wrong. You can't blame a guy for trying though.
Czech Republic vs Portugal
After being despatched quite easily by a rampant Russia in their opening group game the Czech's have since recored two victories over the Greeks and Polish and will go into Thursday's game with confidence. However with Tomas Rosicky still being a doubt and their lack of a quality striker still being blatantly obvious you can't help but feel like Portugal will have the strength to easily defeat Michal Bilek's men, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo now hitting top form. Portugal to win 3-1.
Germany vs Greece
You've got to hand it to the Greeks, no-one gave them a cat in hells chance of reaching this part of the tournament. But despite two woefully average displays against the Polish and Czech's they somehow find themselves up against one of the favourites for the tournament. They can't sneak through again? Can they? No, they can't. Germany have been at their efficient best over the last three games and they don't look like slipping up now. Germany will steam roller their debt-ridden nemesis' 4-0.
Spain vs France
Well, well, well. Look how quickly the tide has turned in on Spain. Gone are the superlatives and accolades thrown at Del Bosque's men pre-tournament. Instead, people are now calling them boring and branding his choice to play without a recognised striker as ludicrous and the decision to start with Fernando Torres as even more peculiar. The fact is though that they still keep the ball a hell of a lot and France have looked rather suspect in defence especially against Sweden but I can't see the Spanish getting beyond the Portugese in the Semis. They'll still defeat France 2-1 though.
England vs Italy
Roy Hodgson has drilled into his England players a team ethic and desire not seen from the three lions for over a decade now and have over achieved to reach the knock-out stages. Or have they? A team that possesses a spine of players which include Hart, Terry, Gerrard and Rooney could never be bad especially when you compliment them with the likes of Parker, Cole, Young and Welbeck. England under Hodgson look well drilled and focused despite not looking overly in control of the ball at times but they have the capability to sneak a goal at any moment. The Italians have overcome the furore surrounding their national game before the tournament to reach the Quarters but I can only a see a tight and nervy encounter between the two sides on Sunday. It'll go to penalties with England coming out just on top come the last spot kick.
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