Now, that we had a look at Group A, here’s a look at Group B, also the group of death, with three of the strongest international teams, Netherlands, Germany and Portugal, along with the dangerous Denmark.
Sprinkled with a fine array of talent, the Dutch side will go into this European championships as the favorites. The Dutch breezed through their group, winning 9 of their 10 games, scoring 37 goals in the process, and conceding just 8. This also included a 11-0 trouncing of minnows San Marino. The Dutch forward line is intimidating to any opposition. Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart and Ibrahim Afellay are all world class talents, while strikers Robin van Persie and Klass Jan Huntelaar, have just finished top scorers in the English and German leagues respectively. van Persie scored 6 goals during qualifying, while Huntelaar netted 12 times. Defensively, the Dutch can be a bit vulnerable, but Maarten Stekelenburg is one of the most reliable keepers in Europe. Their back also is world class, in Premier League shotstoppers Michel Vorm and Tim Krul. Highly rated Gregory van der Wiel, Everton’s John Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen are experienced customers, while Wilfred Bouma and young sensation Jetro Williams will be vying to play left-back. Mark van Bommel captains the side, and will be ably partnered by Nigel de Jong in defensive midfield. With backup like Luuk de Jong, Dirk Kuyt, and Khalid Boulahrouz, the Dutch look formidable.
Prediction : Will have to be at their best to get out of the group of death, and look real contenders to go on and win the whole thing.
The Danes have surprised Europe with their performances during the qualifying stages, where they finished top of their group, consisting of heavyweights Portugal, and tricky sides like Norway, Iceland and Cyprus. With points equal on final day of qualifying, Denmark beat Portugal 2-1 at home, in a strong performance to qualify automatically. With Stoke City keeper Thomas Sorensen ruled out, it will be a battle between Manchester United’s Anders Lindegaard; Kasper Schmeichel, son of the legendary Peter Schmeichel, and Evian keeper Stephan Anderson. Christian Poulsen, Thomas Kahlenberg and Dennis Rommedahl are all experienced customers, while young Niklas Bendtner has scored some crucial goals for the national side. Christian Eriksen has been impressive for his club Ajax, scoring 8 and creating 21 and has been on the radar of top clubs in Europe for some time now. Daniel Agger, coming off an impressive season for Liverpool, captains a side which is balanced on youth and experience. They have, however, been drawn into the Group of Death, and hot favorites to crash out of the tournament at the earliest.
Prediction : Despite a decent enough squad, the Danes do not have enough to counter the likes of Netherlands, Portugal and Germany. But, then the Danes are famous for surprises. Remember Euro 1992?
The well oiled German machine will be looking to put behind the heartbreaks of finishing 3rd in the World Cups of 2006 and 2010, and runners up in Euro 2008, to finally stamp their authority on the continent. Highly talented, young, confident and brash, the Germans have got all the ingredients to win it all. Young keeper Manuel Neuer has a strong defensive unit ahead of him. Captain Philip Lahm and Per Mertesacker are already veterans, with nearly 80 caps, while Bayern centre backs Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng could form a partnership at the international level as well. Germany’s midfield is nothing short of world class. Stars of World Cup 2010, Real Madrid midfielders Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil have been impressive. Ozil arrives on the back of an immensely satisfying season, where he racked up 24 assists. Bayern pair Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Muller, too are exceptional and disciplined midfielders. Dortmund’s Lars Bender and Mario Gotze, and Bayern’s Toni Kroos complete an enviable midfield. Up front, Germany’s all time top scorer Miroslav Klose will be probably playing in his last major tournament, and will look to sign off with a win. Partnering him will be either Lukas Podolski, who has a record of 43 goals in 97 games, or Bayern frontman Mario Gomez, who, despite his profligacy, is one of the most lethal strikers in Europe.
Prediction : My favorites to win, but could the effect of losing the Champions League final take an effect on Bayern’s players?
The Portugese are usually tagged as the ‘perennial under performers’, at the international level, despite possessing a highly talented squad. The stars of yesteryear, Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Pauleta, Nuno Gomes and Maniche have been replaced by an exciting squad, consisting of possibly the best player on the planet, Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United winger Luis Nani and the Besiktas duo of Hugo Almeida and Ricardo Quaresma. Despite boasting such a wealth of talent, the Portugese have failed time and again to succeed at the international stage. They came second in their group, after losing the last match to Denmark, which meant they faced Bosnia in the playoffs, whom they duly beat 6-2 over two legs, all goals coming in the second leg at home. Real Madrid’s defensive duo of Pepe and Fabio Coentrao, and Zenit’s Bruno Alves will be among the first names on the sheet, but the Portugese still lack defensive steel. Chelsea midfielder Raul Meireles comes into the tournament after a mixed campaign with Chelsea. He will be partnered by Porto’s Joao Moutinho, and we could see Nani and Quaresma on the wings. Up front, Zaragoza forward Helder Postiga will be joined by none other that Cristiano Ronaldo himself, who will be looking to add to his list of personal honours with a silverware on the international level.
Prediction : Strong contenders for the title, but I think they may end up 3rd in the group stages.
Jai Arsenal 🙂