On June 9th 2012, a star-studded Netherlands team took on a relatively unknown Danish team- not known to be massive performers in UEFA tournaments.
90 minutes later, the Netherland striker quartet of Van Persie, Robben, Huntelaar and Kuyt- all on the field at some point of time- had failed to find the back of the net. It was never going to be about IF they score, but only about WHO and WHEN, surely, but with 8 shots on target between them, and another 19 off-target, not once were they able to do what Danish journeyman Michael Krohn-Dehli did in the first half. He scored a goal, and then joined his team’s impenetrable line of defense to prevent a frustrated Dutch onslaught time and again.
That was it, and 2010 World Cup Finalists Netherlands went down to Denmark in their opening game of Euro 2012. Clearly, the biggest upset of the tournament so far- which, at the fag end of MatchDay 1, has thrown up a few surprises, and a few stunning performances.
Group A: Matchday 2: Greece v/s Czech Republic-
The Greek defense takes on a brittle Czech Republic team, still reeling from a 4-1 thrashing to group-favorites Russia. Greece will take heart from their courageous fightback against hosts Poland in the opening game, when they scored with 10 men, and almost had a win if not for the penalty miss by Karagounis. But with Papadopoulos ruled out for the rest of Euro 2012, coach Santos may have a problem. Bilek’s men, meanwhile, are a far cry from the Nedved-led team in 2004, which shows from the paltry 12 goals (lowest amongst all qualifying teams) they scored in the qualifying tournament.
Prediction: Greece 2-1 Czech Republic
Expect drama and desperation, with both teams fighting for a lifeline.
Poland v/s Russia:
After a disappointing collapse against Greece in a game that they should have won, Poland now take on the free-flowing Arshavin-led Russia. This could be their most important game- a match that could make or break their campaign. Poland would be happy with a draw, because the 2008 semi-finalists look unstoppable after a virtuoso midfield performance against the clueless Czechs.
Prediction: Poland 0-3 Russia
Poland will be lucky to score a goal, and their fans shouldn’t be expecting the sky just yet.
Group B: MatchDay 2: Denmark v/s Portugal-
Who would have guessed? Ronaldo-led Portugal go into a do-or-die match against surprise package Denmark, and their worries don’t end here. They must go for broke in a frighteningly competitive group of death, and even a draw could spell doom for them way too early. Netherlands wait for them, in what could be the decisive match of the group.
Prediction: Denmark 0-2 Portugal
No more upsets for the big guns.
Netherlands v/s Germany
Massive matchup between two of European football’s most attacking teams. Germany, coming off a rusty Gomez-led win against Portugal, could seal their spot in the quarters with another low-scoring win here. But their style might just force them to go back to their usual flowing football, against opponents that have everything to lose.
Prediction: Netherlands 1-1 Germany
Too close to call, but a few mistakes could see Germany off the hook.
Group C: Matchday 2: Italy v/s Croatia-
A rejuvenated Italian team that held the World and European Champions to a 1-1 draw, will come out full of confidence against the dark horses of the tournament. This match could very well decide the team that could accompany Spain into the quarters.
Prediction: Italy 0-0 Croatia
Italy’s compact formations might just leave the Croatians frustrated. It’d still be far from a dull goalless draw.
Spain v/s Republic Of Ireland
This could be as easy as a walkover for the Champions that need a massive boost ahead of their last crucial game against the Croatians. Going in with no striker against Italy may not have worked, but Torres in no way proved that he was ready to start a game either.
Prediction: Spain 4-0 Republic of Ireland
Group D: Matchday 2: Ukraine v/s France-
This could be brave Ukraine’s final war cry before exiting the tournament. France appear too experienced and strong for their East European opponents, what with striker Benzema and Ribery poised to fire.
Prediction: Ukraine 0-2 France
Straightforward. No fuss.
Sweden v/s England
England face off with their ex-tormentors- the team responsible for them not making the Euro 2008 tournament. Apart from some bad blood and physical madness, there might be a flash of brilliance- long overdue from an underperforming English team.
Prediction: Sweden 1-1 England
Stalemate. England could be in trouble after this.
Get set for an exciting four days of football, with only one round to go after this before the quarters. With all the teams well-rested and regrouped, warm-ups are over, and this could be the real start to the tournament.