Liverpool FC In-Depth Euro 2012 Preview

For all football fans who have found themselves at a loose end since Sergio Aguero kicked the last – decisive –ball of the Premier League season, Euro 2012 is now upon us. The 3 week long tournament begins in Warsaw on Friday with, co-hosts, Poland taking on, 2004 champions, Greece and there will be no shortage of interest for fans of a Liverpool persuasion with 8 current players and a further 10 former-Reds bound for Poland and Ukraine. Considering the change in progress at Anfield this season, there may also be a number of potential future Liverpool players to keep an eye on.

The addition of both Jordan Henderson and Martin Kelly to the England travelling party, at the expense of the injured Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill, means that there will now be a total of 6 Liverpool players in the England squad alone. Whilst the Premier League as a whole will supply more players than any other European league.

Here is a preview of the teams who will be competing and their expectations in Poland and Ukraine:

GROUP A

It is easy to see why, on paper, Group A is the most open of the 4 groups with four teams who will genuinely feel capable of progressing to the later stages. In theory that should make it the toughest to call and most evenly contested. The opening round of games may well prove decisive. However, Russia – with their experience, promise of goals and the knowhow of coach, Dick Advocaat – will be favourites to progress as group winners.

On the other hand, Greece would appear long shots to progress beyond the group phase. Despite being champions as recently as 2004, the Greek’s lack goals. Czech Republic may not be the side they once were a decade ago but they have aspirations of success. The Czech’s have the quality in midfield and out wide but may also struggle when it comes to finding the net. To that end, the host nation may have less concern. Poland have the goal scoring abilities of Robert Lewandowski in their ranks and, roared on by a partisan home crowd, may well earn themselves a place in the quarter-finals.

POLAND  (65)

Qualified as:  HOSTSCurrent Reds:  N/A
Ex-Reds:  N/A
Coach:  FRANCISZEK SMUDA
One-to-watch:  ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (Borussia Dortmund) – Top scorer for last season’s Bundesliga champions. He will carry the co-hosts main attacking threat.
Prediction:  QUARTER-FINALS

 

CZECH REPUBLIC  (26)

Qualified as:  PLAY-OFF WINNERS (v Montenegro)
Current Reds:  N/A
Ex-Reds:  MILAN BAROS
Coach:  MICHEL BILEK
One-to-watch:  THOMAS ROSICKY (Arsenal) – International veteran will be one of the most experienced players in the Czech squad and likely to be key to any success.
Prediction:  GROUP PHASE

 

GREECE  (14)

Qualified as:  GROUP WINNERS
Current Reds:  N/A
Ex-Reds:  N/A
Coach:  FERNANDO SANTOS
One-to-watch:  VASILIS TOROSIDIS (Olympiakos) – Captain of the Greek league champions, the attacking full-back is known for his driving runs and attacking threat from the flank, which are likely to be a key feature for Greece.
Prediction:  GROUP PHASE

 

RUSSIA  (11)

Qualified as:  GROUP WINNERS
Current Reds:  N/A
Ex-Reds:  N/A
Coach:  DICK ADVOCAT
One-to-watch:  ALAN DZAGOEV (CSKA MOSCOW) – Talented young player who currently plays in his native country. Should provide an important link between midfield and attack
Prediction:  QUARTER-FINALS

 

GROUP B

Group B makes a nice contrast to Group A. These so-called “groups of death” rarely live up to the hype but there is certainly no shortage of exciting match-ups to look forward to at an early stage in the competition. Denmark are clear underdogs, yet that it not due to a lack of quality in their team. In fact, the Danes possess plenty of up-and-coming talent and are currently ranked inside the worlds top—10. They may fancy their chances against Portugal – whom they finished ahead of in qualification – but progress seems very unlikely.

Netherlands will hope to start with a victory against the Danes and that could prove to be a platform to progress from the group. From experience, the Dutch are generally reliable when it comes to tournament football and, in the shape Robin Van Persie, they have a great source of goals, supported by an array of attacking talent. Reliability is something which is even more appropriately associated with Germany. The Germans have a blend of youth and experience with an abundance of creative talent. They will expect to progress from the group stage and, if so, they will be one of the favourites for glory.

One team who may stand in the way of that, though, is Portugal. Under other circumstances the Portugese would be a certain presence in the knock-out phase. However, if defeated by Germany in the opening game and unless Christiano Ronaldo is able to inspire, the Portugese may be on their way home early.

 

DENMARK  (10)

Qualified as:  GROUP WINNERS
Current Reds:  DANIEL AGGER
Ex-Reds:  CHRISTIAN POULSEN
Coach:  MORTEN OLSEN
One-to-watch:  CHRISTEN ERIKSEN (Ajax) – One of the most prized young talents in Europe at present. He will add much needed flair to a Danish team which will need it if they are to progress from a tough looking group.
Prediction:  GROUP PHASE

 

GERMANY  (2)

Qualified as:  GROUP WINNERS
Current Reds:  N/A
Ex-Reds:  N/A
Coach:  JOACHIM LOW
One-to-watch:  MESUT OZIL (Real Madrid) – The German squad is full of exciting, young talent but the Real Madrid star, in the role of playmaker, may just prove to be the key man.
Prediction:  WINNERS

 

NETHERLANDS  (4)

Qualified as:  GROUP WINNERS
Current Reds:  N/A
Ex-Reds:  DIRK KUYT
Coach:  BERT VAN MARWIJK
One-to-watch:  ROBIN VAN PERSIE (Arsenal) – His goals in the Premier League last season cannot be ignored and if he can reproduce the same devastating form it will offer a significant boost to the chances of Dutch success.
Prediction:  SEMI-FINAL

 

PORTUGAL  (5)

Qualified as:  PLAY-OFF WINNERS (v Bosnia)
Current Reds:  N/A
Ex-Reds:  RAUL MEIRELES
Coach:  PAULO BENTO
One-to-watch:  CHRISTIANO RONALDO (Real Madrid) – has not regularly reproduced his club form on the international stage in the past but, if Ronaldo is on form, he has the talent to transform the Portugese from potential also-rans into genuine contenders.
Prediction:  GROUP PHASE

 

GROUP C

Both Spain and Italy will be expected to progress from Group C. Spain, in particular, will be amongst the strong favourites for outright victory in Poland & Ukraine. The quality and depth throughout their squad dictates that anything less than qualification from the group stage would be a major shock. Whilst Italy have the pedigree to consider their chances of progressing to the knock-out stages to be equally as favourable, a defeat to the Spanish in their opening fixture may open the door for either Croatia or Ireland to challenge their right to the second qualification berth in Group C.

Ireland, appearing in their first major international tournament for a decade, will have high hopes of causing an upset or two, despite being unfancied. The Euros may well be better off for the presence of the Irish but chances of progression. Victory over Croatia in their opening game – a must if they have aspirations of qualification – will be a difficult task in itself. Hopes are not particularly within Croatia ahead of the tournament but Slaven Bilic’s team still possess the kind of quality in key areas which will give them a chance of progress to the Quarter-finals.

CROATIA  (8)

Qualified as:  PLAY-OFF WINNERS  (v Turkey)
Current Reds:  N/A
Ex-Reds:  N/A
Coach:  SLAVEN BILIC
One-to-watch:  LUKA MODRIC (Tottenham Hotspur) – A talented playmaker, who has lit up the Premier League at times, Croatia will need him to be at his best if they are to progress from the group stage.
Prediction:  GROUP PHASE

 

ITALY  (12)

Qualified as:  GROUP WINNERS
Current Reds:  N/A
Ex-Reds:  N/A
Coach:  CESARE PRANDELLI
One-to-watch:  GIORGIO CHIELLINI (Juventus) – Italy’s main strength is likely to be in their defensive solidity. Chiellini will be central to that, as well as being one of the more experienced players in the squad.
Prediction:  QUARTER-FINALS

 

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND  (18)

Qualified as:  PLAY-OFF WINNERS (v Estonia)
Current Reds:  N/A
Ex-Reds:  ROBBIE KEANE
Coach:  GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI
One-to-watch:  ROBBIE KEANE (LA Galaxy) – Despite now playing his football in the US, the Irish captain will remain key to his nation’s hopes. Likely to play in a deeper role; adding goals and experience.
Prediction:  GROUP PHASE

 

SPAIN  (1)

Qualified as:  GROUP WINNERS
Current Reds:  PEPE REINA
Ex-Reds:  FERNANDO TORRES, XABI ALONSO, ALVARO ARBELOA
Coach:  VINCENTE DEL BOSQUE
One-to-watch:  XAVI HERNANDEZ (Barcelona) – there are almost too many potential candidates but Xavi will surely prove key to Spain’s hopes of achieving a unprecedented third successive international triumph.
Prediction:  RUNNER-UP

 

GROUP D

France will be favourites to top Group D. Expectations of French success are not particularly high but there is little doubt that they have the necessary strength and quality in all areas of the pitch. France also appear far more settled under the stewardship of Laurent Blanc and may well be in with a chance of their first international honours since 2000.

Another team for whom expectations are, unprecedentedly, low is England. England are sure to be far more pragmatic under Roy Hodgson and do not appear capable of challenging to win the tournament. The prospect of defeat in their opening game could leave England with work to do. However, if they can avoid that, England still carry a goal threat and their saving grace may be found within a lack of quality amongst their opponents.

Tournament regulars, Sweden are not quite the reliable, solid team they once were. The Swedes may have more of an attacking emphasis than at times in the past but progress beyond the group stage would be considered a success. On the other hand, there will be high hopes amongst the Ukrainian public that their team can progress to the quarter-finals and beyond on home soil. That said, Ukraine appear to be hindered by a lack of genuine quality and some ageing stars. Their chances of qualifying from Group D would appear to be limited.

ENGLAND  (7)

Qualified as:  GROUP WINNERS
Current Reds:  STEVEN GERRARD, ANDY CARROLL, GLEN JOHNSON, STEWART DOWNING, JORDAN HENDERSON, MARTIN KELLY
Ex-Reds:  N/A
Coach:  ROY HODGSON
One-to-watch:  JOE HART (Manchester City) – Arguably the best player in the current England squad. Off the back of an excellent, title-winning season at club level, a solid performance from their goalkeeper would be a significant boost to a defence which has underperformed in the past.
Prediction:  QUARTER-FINALS

 

FRANCE  (16)

Qualified as:  GROUP WINNERS
Current Reds:  N/A
Ex-Reds:  ALOU DIARRA
Coach:  LAURENT BLANC
One-to-watch:  YANN M’VILA (Rennes) – One of the most sought-after young talents in Europe. If passed fit, the tough and commanding midfielder will provided a stable base from which the attacking talent in the French squad can perform.
Prediction:  SEMI-FINALS

 

SWEDEN  (17)

Qualified as:  BEST RUNNER-UP
Current Reds:  N/A
Ex-Reds:  N/A
Coach:  ERIK HAMREN
One-to-watch:  RASMUS ELM (AZ Alkmaar) – He will link up with Ibrahimovic and the other forwards and provide a threat from set-pieces. The tournament may just provide him with the opportunity to come to the fore.
Prediction:  GROUP PHASE

 

UKRAINE  (50)

Qualified as:  CO-HOSTS
Current Reds:  N/A
Ex-Reds:  ANDRIY VORONIN
Coach:  OLEG BLOKHIN
One-to-watch:  ANATOLIY TYMOSHCHUK (Bayern Munich) – One of the few players in the squad of genuine pedigree. He adds masses of experience and is the fulcrum of the Ukrainian midfield.
Prediction:  GROUP PHASE

 

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  • Chewbazza

    Though not a player, worth noting that Smicer is the general manager of the Czech Republic team.

  • Jose Enrique’s Bicep

    Alou Diarra, the Red that was never a Red

  • Inteligent Man

    Lewandowski is destined for GREAT things – a top striker! Which intelligent manager has snapped him up this summer to make his team even stronger? Fergie of course!! Man Utd will take some stopping next season.