The European Soccer Championships begin in ten days which many soccer fanatics believe to be the better than World Cup. This belief comes from the fact that without the smaller countries that are usually just used as fodder in the World Cup are not included. Whether you agree with this or not the fact is there are very few teams in the 2012 championship that do not deserve to be there.
While I could go through round by round let’s just skip to the meat of the tournament: the final 4 teams. I will rank the teams in order of the most likely to win to least likely.
The Netherlands have always been a bridesmaid and not the bride; in 2012 they have a great chance to change that.
Holland has always produced top class talent and in 2012 they again are at the top of the mountain there. With a projected attacking lineup that includes Huntelaar, Sneijder, Robben, and Van Persie, may be the best attacking corps in the world bar none. With 2 strong defensive mid-fielders in Van Bommel and Strootman along with a top class defense this team contains, to me, the best mix of offensive and defensive firepower in the tournament.
The 2008 champs return almost the same team that won the last tournament. This is really a case where the top three teams are really 1a, 1b, and 1c and on any given day could easily be rearranged. If Messi or Ronaldo played for Spain they would again be my unquestioned favorites, but as they only ply their trades in Spain I give Holland the nod over them in 2012.
Spain’s lineup is not much less spectacular than the Netherlands. The Spaniard’s ability to keep possession of the ball is unrivaled in the world and once they have the lead you will have any team will have trouble getting the ball to tie the game up.
The projected starting striker is a question but with the wealth of talent that includes Mata, Llorente, Iniesta, Xavi, Pique, Ramos, and Casillas this team is still one of the top teams in the world.
Germany may have the youngest, most experienced team I can recall. It seems as though their whole team is under 28, it’s not true but many players seem to have been playing at the top level of European competition for years. A perfect example is Lukas Poldalski who seems like he has been around for forever but is only 26 years old!!!
The depth of talent that on this squad is unmatched in the tournament. With both youth and experience in abundance, Gomez might be the best pure, around the box ,striker in the world, his display in the recent Champions League final notwithstanding. Hummels might be the best young center back around, along with Mesut Ozil being one of the best passers of the ball from the mid-field today. This team could easily take the mantel of the best team in the world for many years to come.
Italy is never the sexy team but they always seem to find a way to get into the late stages of tournaments and win, when you least expect it. This is really a shock pick as I am no fan of the Italian way. But you can’t fight results and they do know how to get them.
On paper this team does not match up well against the 3 powerhouses above. They do however, have players that are top class players and a mix of experience and youth. If Prandelli is willing to play them could be very dangerous. The x factor is Mario Ballotelli. He is a player that has talent on par with the very best in the world and if his head is right could carry this team into the final four. This is Italy’s biggest problem, their most talented and feared player is also the most feared player in the Italian dressing room.
He could either help them flourish or implode them. I am going to be one of the few to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope it doesn’t blow up in my face.