Group B at Euro 2012 is the proverbial “Group of Death.” In FIFA’s latest world rankings, all four of the teams are ranked in the top 10. Germany (3rd), Holland (4th), Denmark (9th), and Portugal (10th) make up this brutal foursome that will wage battle on the pitches in Ukraine and Poland over the next week and a half. All four of these teams have stellar offensive capabilities and all four of them have decent defenses. This group is going to come down to the star players for each team and how they perform when the pressure is on. I am going against many of the prognosticators here with a bold predicted order of finish.
Predicted Order of Finish- Holland, Portugal, Germany, Denmark
Holland- Holland (Netherlands) has had some problems as of late during friendlies played before the tournament, but when the tournament gets under way, expect the Dutch to come out flying. Robin Van Persie (Arsenal-England) has been in fantastic form this season. He won the Golden Boot as the English Premier League’s leading scorer. He can score with either foot, is lethal with the ball at his feet, excels at free kicks and is an aerial threat in the box. He is the total package. Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan- Italy) and Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich- Germany) are the playmakers the Dutch will count on to feed Van Persie throughout the tournament. Sneijder is the central midfield maestro who controls the game with possession play and deft passing. Robben is the creative genius on the wing who can score and cause major problems running at his opponents with the ball. These 3 will wreak havoc if given space and time to operate.
Defensively, the Dutch still have to figure out their back four. Starting center back Joris Mathijsen (Malaga- Spain) will miss the first game against Denmark with a hamstring injury. This leaves a huge void in the middle of their defense. John Heitinga (Everton- England) will have to organize the defense in his absence and shepherd either Wilfred Bouma (PSV Eindhoven- Holland) or Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord- Holland) through some tough moments in this game. Attacking wing back Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax- Holland) provides pace both offensively and defensively for the Oranje.
In net, the Dutch are banking on Maarten Stekelenberg (AS Roma- Italy) . He is a solid goaltender, but might not even be the best on his team (Tim Krul- Newcastle- England, Michel Vorm- Swansea- England). Stekelenberg will have to be very, very good to get through this offensively loaded group.
Key Game- Germany (June 13th)- Their hated rival provides them with their stiffest test. Germany wants to continue their mastery over the Dutch and will need at least one point here to get through.
Outlook- I think the Dutch will win two games and draw one to go through with 7 points. They have too much offense for Denmark and Portugal and just enough to hang with the Germans. The big question is their defense. I think they have issues without Mathijsen, but have enough to go through.
Portugal- Saddled with the word potential for so long, Euro 2012 will be Portugal’s breakout year. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid- Spain) and Nani (Manchester United- England) might be the two most talented players in this entire tournament and that is saying something. Both are magicians with the ball, possess blistering pace and can finish with class.
Portugal’s strikers Hugo Almeida (Beskitas- Turkey) and Helder Postiga (Real Zaragoza- Spain) must help by putting balls in the net. The two strikers are the biggest question mark for Portugal and need to play well for them to have a chance to advance.
Portugal’s Joao Moutinho (Porto- Portugal) will be the Geppetto of the offense, pulling the strings letting Nani and Ronaldo loose on their opponents. Raul Meireles (Chelsea- England) will be the defensive midfielder who will be responsible for stifling any counterattack from these potent offenses and he will have to make his presence felt without picking up senseless bookings along the way.
Defenders Pepe (Real Madrid- Spain) and Bruno Alves (Zenit St. Petersburg- Russia) will have to be rock solid in defense. If they can prove they can hold the line, wing back Fabio Coentrao can move forward and provide assistance to the offense, giving them an outlet who can deliver precise crosses into the 18-yard box.
Goaltender Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon- Portugal) will have to be a difference maker as he will face many shots on a nightly basis during pool play.
Key Game- Denmark (June 13th)- Lose to Denmark and go home. I know that’s harsh, but the Portuguese need to come out desperate and play like it all depends on this result. They need three points badly from this game and if they can manage a victory here and put three points up in the middle of group play, it will put tremendous pressure on the loser of the Holland/Germany game on the same day.
Outlook- This is the tournament in which the Portuguese come of age and do what many have expected them to do for years. They will shock the Germans in pool play, play the Dutch extremely tough and do just enough to advance into the quarter-finals.
Germany- One of the prohibitive favorites for the tournament, the German machine under manager Joachim Low rolls on. This team is loaded with talent. Up front, the Germans have a tough decision to make. Does Low go with veteran striker Miroslav Klose (Lazio- Italy), a proven scorer at this level, who at the age of 33, lacks pace. Or, does he decide to go with Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich- Germany), the talented, but mercurial striker who has not proven himself to be clutch in the biggest of games.
The midfield is anchored by Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich- Germany), the tough, talented distributor who will be responsible along with the uber-talented Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid- Spain) of providing many of the opportunities that the Germans will look to cash in on.
The defense is the question for me. Phillip Lahm (Bayern Munich- Germany) is very good as a wing back and is solid defensively. The center of the defense is what worries many. Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich- Germany) and Holger Badstuber (Bayern Munich- Germany) are susceptible to lapses and when you have attackers like Nani, Ronaldo, Robben and Van Persie that you are trying to defend, even the slightest mistake will end up in the back of the net.
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich- Germany) is one of the three best goalies in the world and he is the last line of defense for the Germans. I expect Neuer to be on top of his game during pool play.
Key Game- Portugal (June 9th)- If the Germans beat the Portuguese, they will go through with the Dutch into the quarter-finals. They will have to contain the high flying attack and to do that
Outlook- Germany will disappoint this time around and not advance. Klose will not be able to recapture past glory, Gomez won’t be able to get into the groove after starting on the bench and Ozil won’t be able to engineer enough goals to get the Germans by the Dutch and the Portuguese.
Denmark- It’s not that Denmark is a bad team. They just got slotted in the wrong group. The Danes are talented and have some players that can cause major problems for each of these teams in this group. But, do they have a player like the others have that can take over a game when necessary?
Up front, Nicklas Bendtner (Sunderland- England) is a threat to score a goal against the run of play. The extremely confident striker holds up play and then capitalizes on scoring critical goals. Christian Eriksen (Ajax- Holland) is the new face of Danish soccer and holds the hope of the small Nordic nation in his hands. He is one of the most sought after young players in Europe and must provide Bendtner with some support. Can Eriksen fill the role of star player during this tournament? It remains to be seen, but if he does, they have a chance to advance.
Dennis Rommedahl (Brondby IF- Denmark) will provide pace on the wing in the hope of finding Bendtner with searching crosses. In the middle, sturdy William Kvist (Stuttgart- Germany) will be charged with trying to slow down the ferocious attacks his team will face.
The defense will be under constant attack. Daniel Agger (Liverpool- England) and Simon Kjaer (AS Roma- Italy) will have to stem the flow of scoring chances and help provide the offense with a chance to score on headers from set pieces and corner kicks. Both are aerial scoring threats and have scored goals for their clubs over the past couple of seasons.
The Danish keeper Thomas Sorenson (Stoke City- England) will have to be the Danes best player for them to have a chance to advance. He has not been consistent enough for me this year to give me much hope that he will play above his abilities during this tournament.
Key Game- Portugal (June 13th)- If they beat Portugal, they have a chance of advancing. One point here may not be enough and the Danes could be involved in a high scoring game with the Portuguese.
Outlook- Unfortunately for the Danes, the just don’t have the firepower in my opinion to contend in the group. They will make it interesting and will play tight games in the group, but will not advance and will go home early from this tournament.
About the Author
Written by Michael Jenkins
I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. Graduated from THE University of Arizona. I now reside part time in San Francisco, CA. I am a diehard Phoenix Coyotes fan (season ticket holder since Day 1) and a diehard Chelsea FC fan. I am passionate, energetic and highly grateful to get the opportunity to work in this business again.