Home > Football > Euro 2012 Preview: Group B

Euro 2012 Preview: Group B

Every major tournament has a so-called ‘Group of Death’ and in this summer’s European Championships it is undoubtedly Group B. All four teams are in the top ten of FIFA’s World Rankings, with three of them in the top five. All four teams possess a wealth of attacking talent, but have also displayed defensive frailties in the recent past. This group looks set up to be the pick of the four and two very strong teams will be on the first plane home. The question is who?

Denmark

Manager: Morten Olsen

Captain: Daniel Agger

Star Player: Christian Eriksen

Denmark qualified for the championships as winners of a competitive group that included Norway and Portugal. The Danes lost just once during qualifying, away to Portugal, but for the most part impressed. They scored 15 goals in eight games and conceded just six, good form by anybody’s standards.

Morten Olsen is able to call on a vastly experienced squad, much of which plays in Europe’s top leagues, and in Christian Eriksen, Simon Kjaer and Nicklas Bendtner, he has a trio of highly talented youngsters who may just be ready to prove themselves at the highest level. Bendtner is never going to win any awards for his consistency, but at his best he can give any team problems. A return of 18 goals in 48 games for Denmark is more than respectable and his ability to hold up the ball and bring others in to play will be a key feature of Denmark’s play. Eriksen has long been touted as one of the hottest prospects in European football. The 20 year old Ajax midfielder is technically superb and an excellent exponent of set pieces. While he may lack goals, he creates plenty for his teammates and he will need to be at his creative best if Denmark are to progress from this group.

Christian Eriksen is in the shop window this summer (This image is the property of Getty Images)

With the high level of opposition they will face in the group stage, the Danes will need a watertight defence and 23 year old Kjaer will need to be on top form alongside Daniel Agger. He disappointed during a loan spell at Roma last season and will need to improve. If Denmark’s defence is not at its best, they will fall at the first hurdle.

Olsen’s men play as a well-organised team and players like Bendtner and Eriksen add a touch of class. I do however believe that they have been unfortunate to be drawn in a group with three other top teams and that they will fail to progress from the group.

Sport Report Verdict: Group stage elimination

Germany

Manager: Joachim Löw

Captain: Philipp Lahm

Star Player: Mesut Özil

Germany go in to the tournament as one of the favourites and rightly so. Jogi Löw’s men breezed through qualifying, winning all ten games in a group that included Belgium and Turkey. In doing so, they scored 34 goals and conceded only seven. The three leading scorers in the qualifying group were all German (Klose – 9, Gomez – 6 and Özil – 5), proving right the view that they are very much an attacking team. Add in the likes of capable scorers Lukas Podolski and Thomas Müller and you have a picture of an extremely dangerous side.

The Germans finished as runners up four years ago and have been the third placed team at the last two World Cups. Many of the players in those three squads remain, but newer entrants such as Özil, Müller, Mario Götze and Toni Kroos have brought further talent to the team. Real Madrid midfielder Özil has enjoyed the best two seasons of his career since the last World Cup and has proved he can cut it on the international stage. He will be the creative force in a midfield that will be anchored by Sami Khedira and the presence of an in-form Bastian Schweinsteiger to conduct proceedings should mean that 23 year old gets something of a free role. If he does, he could wreak havoc just as he did against England two summers ago. Borussia Dortmund Wunderkind Götze is the most exciting young talent in Europe in my opinion and looks in good form having recovered from injury to return at the back end of last season. The 20 year old is likely to be used as an impact substitute. Not many teams have such a luxury.

Mesut Özil is capable of creating and scoring goals (This image is the property of AFP/Getty Images)

In Podolski and Miroslav Klose, they have players who have a proven record of scoring goals in major tournaments and fellow striker Mario Gomez will be eager to prove his worth following a 41 goal season for Bayern Munich.

If the Germans do have a weakness, it is in defence. Per Mertesacker has only just returned from a serious ankle injury and although undoubtedly talented, Mats Hummels and Benedikt Höwedes remain relatively untested at this level. They should however, be solid enough and the

Löw’s biggest problem may well be deciding on a best eleven, but that is a nice problem to have. The talent in the German squad, coupled with their trademark discipline and organisation, should see them competing right to the end of the tournament.

Sport Report Verdict: Group winners

Netherlands

Manager: Bert van Marwijk

Captain: Mark van Bommel

Star Player: Arjen Robben

Much like Germany, Netherlands eased through qualifying, winning nine of their ten games. The Dutch found the net 37 times and conceded only eight and this has made them one of the bookmakers’ favourites.

Bert van Marwijk’s team were losing finalists in South Africa two years ago and many of that squad will be in Poland and Ukraine this time around. The likes of Robin van Persie, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Arjen Robben are at the stage of their careers that is traditionally seen as a player’s peak, but also have great experience at international level. Not many active players have more caps than captain Mark van Bommel and Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder are also proven performers at this level. Ibrahim Afellay, Luciano Narsingh and Kevin Strootman add youth to what looks on paper like a very well-balanced side.

While the hero of two years ago Sneijder has struggled to maintain the form he showed in the run-up to and during that World Cup, van Persie, Huntelaar and Robben are all coming off outstanding seasons for their respective clubs. Van Persie netted 37 times for Arsenal, while Huntelaar scored 48 times in 47 appearances for Schalke. Robben scored 19 from his position out wide on the right and this may give van Marwijk a headache.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored 12 goals in qualifying but is far from a shoe-in for a starting place (This image is the property of Proshots)

The Dutch have often played with just one striker and van Persie seems to have gotten the nod in the recent past. Huntelaar was the top scorer during qualifying, netting 12 times so he cannot be discounted. Either way, the Netherlands should not be short of goals this summer.

Like group opponents Germany, their weakness looks to be at the back where players like Khalid Boulahrouz, Joris Mathijsen and Wilfred Bouma are perhaps less capable than their attacking counterparts, but they are a well-drilled side and should have too much talent to fall at the first hurdle.

Sport Report Verdict: Group runner-up

Portugal

Manager: Paulo Bento

Captain: Cristiano Ronaldo

Star Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Once again, we are heading in to a major tournament not really sure what to expect from Portugal. On paper, Paulo Bento has a talented squad. Cristiano Ronaldo would walk in to any team in the world and the likes of Nani, Raul Meireles and Fabio Coentrão would be the envy of many teams. However, despite five goals from Ronaldo and four from Nani, the Portuguese failed to impressive during qualifying, just sneaking in to the playoffs on goal difference, where they defeated Bosnia-Herzegovina 6-2 on aggregate.

Paulo Bento’s men have not won since then, drawing 0-0 with Poland and Macedonia, before losing 3-1 to Turkey on Saturday night (2nd June). This lack of form has seen confidence among fans reach new lows and they were in fact booed after the abject display against Turkey. Bento has warned that star man Ronaldo cannot win the Group of Death singlehandedly

Portugal will need Cristiano Ronaldo to be on top form if they are to progress (This image is the property of The Guardian)

In Ronaldo, Nani, Meireles Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida, Portugal have players capable of scoring goals. Manchester United winger has also shown that he can make goals, but the fact is that the Portuguese have too many inconsistent performers. Joao Moutinho and particularly Ricardo Quaresma have never really delivered on undoubted talent and therein lies the problem. The defence is also far from tight, conceding 12 goals in eight games during qualifying and these factors combined will prove Portugal’s undoing. Had they been drawn in a weaker group, the attacking flair of Nani, Ronaldo et al. may have been enough to see them sneak through, but with Germany and the Netherlands standing in the way, I see Portugal being eliminated at the first stage.

Sport Report Verdict: Group stage elimination

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Categories: Football
  1. June 5, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    I have to say that considering how well Denmark have done it was a really tough draw for them getting Group B. Aside from Bendtner who we already know so much about, where else is the strength in depth to the side? there is Eriksen, and whilst being one of the coveted promising youth players of european football i dont think he’s quite at the level to propel himself as a true talisman, certainly not enough to carry the side beyond qualification from this group.
    Germany and Netherlands both have a much stronger makeup in terms of squad strength, considering how well the opposition knows each other, if you can deal with Eriksen and Bendtner from the side, who else do Denmark have to score them goals or win them the game?

    Having said that, both Portugal and Denmark came from the same qualification group, and Portugal scored 6 more goals in qualifying than Denmark, but still finished 2nd behind them in qualifying, both sides enjoyed victories against each other on home soil so it will be interesting to see them play their game out on the 13th of June.

    Portugal have question marks themselves, conceeding 4 goals against Cyprus in qualifying and more recent below par performances have definately lowered the expectation of the side with so much talent, my one big question mark seems to be where the players will play or operate? With so many wide players why even use a one man system up front? This was the discussion last week with one of my friends, because of how mobile Ronaldo is would it of been worth it to push him through the centre in a 3 pronged attack, with Nani on one side and Varela on the other, this would mean they could still played Moutinho, Veloso and Meireles in the middle of midfield. The likelihood is that Bento will select Nani and Ronaldo either side with Postiga through the centre, having scored 3 times in qualifying and appearing already with 2 goals at the Euros he seems the more likely to be selected ahead of Almeida.

    Germany are an exciting prospect, because of their pedigree in major competitions and because of their previous exploits in this tournament, coupled with the creativity of Ozil and the finishing of Podolski, i also predict they’ll win the group, Germany have a great spine through the team and Podolski appears on the Euros all time scorers list with 3 already, providing he started where he left off he could well finish the tournament top goalscorer. Germany have since replaced Olly Kahn in goal with Manny Neuer, who i rate as the best goalkeeper in Europe right now.

    Netherlands are in many ways the side expected to do well, however after being one of the front runners at the last euros and falling to Russia in the quarters i predict a similar outcome this time round, whilst they might have experience i also think Van Bommel is at a point in his career where he’s playing beyond his age, whilst that might be good against the likes of San Marino, Hungary or Finland, i expect against stronger sides like Portugal and Germany it will be too much of a test for them, which already has question marks over the back four as you noted.

    I think Portugal will finish as group runners up behind winners Germany.

    • June 5, 2012 at 9:07 pm

      This is by far the most interesting group with four very good teams on paper. As I say though, I feel Netherlands and Germany are the class of the field here and will qualify.

      I agree completely with your comments about Denmark. I remain to be convinced by Eriksen, and Bendtner, well, we know how infuriatingly inconsistennt he can be.

      I actually think Germany will win the whole thing and I think they will win this group en route. Just too much quality throughout the squad. One or two question marks defensively and I don’t agree with Neuer as the best keeper in Europe. He is superb on his day, but he has too many ‘moments’ to be considered the best at this stage in my opinion. He is though, for the most part, solid and very capable of saving Germany if he needs to. I think Oezil will be the tournament’s outstanding player and I am backing Gomez to finish top scorer. Podolski may have to play wide left or even start on the bench. Loew’s biggest challenge is settling on a strongest 11. Whatever he decides, the Germans will not be short of quality impact players on the bench.

      I like the look of the Dutch although I definitely agree re. van Bommel. They reached the World Cup Final two years ago and most of that squad remains. In Huntelaar and van Persie, they have two players bang in form and Afellay has impressed in recent friendlies. The problem is that van Marwijk will probably have to settle for one of Huntelaar and van Persie with the Arsenal man likely to get the nod.

      Portugal are just a strange team to me. I cannot figure them out. They have talent but their form is patchy at best. They looked very poor against Turkey this weekend and scraped through qualifying (they only made playoffs on goal difference). They will really need Ronaldo to be on top form and he will need support from Nani, Postiga etc. I agree re. the formation Bento will go for, I think he will have those two out wide but I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes with the greater aerial threat and physical presence of Hugo Almeida through the middle.

      I think they would get through every other group but I can’t see them beating out two of the best three sides in the competition.

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