Euro 2012 Preview

Did you know the best international soccer tournament on the planet is starting on June 8th? “But Scarecrow,” you’re thinking, “the World Cup isn’t until 2016.” I hate to break it to you, but the 2016 World Cup is being played in Brazil. Do you think, with the fans that they have, that the Brazilian team will win any game by less than 30 goals? I didn’t think so. Like no other time, the 2016 World Cup is a competition where 31 teams are playing for second place.

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No, friends, the tournament in question is Euro 2012. Starting in just over a week, it promises to be a solid month of excellent soccer, played by the world’s best players. Granted, this IS European soccer we are talking about, so the flopping might be out of control (consequently, Mike Smith is SUPER excited for this…not that I’m still bitter or anything), but the tactical skill will be off the charts.

Euro is better than the World Cup because the teams are better. There are no North Korean, South African, or New Zealand teams to kick around. There also won’t be as many beautiful Brazilian and Argentinian women in the stands, but nothing is perfect.

How do I know the teams are better? SImple. Math. I’m a mild mannered data analyst by day, and a devilishly mediocre looking blogger by night, let’s look at some numbers, shall we? The average ranking of the 32 teams in the World Cup two years ago was 26. The average ranking of the Euro 2012 teams? 15. Doesn’t seem like much, but when 14 of the worlds top 18 teams are in the same tournament (with co-hosts Ukraine and Poland thrown in for cordiality), the soccer is going to be off the charts competitive.

Here is each pool, with predictions for each (as with the World Cup, the top 2 move on).

Pool A: Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic

Despite my saying that this tournament is great, this is by FAR the worst group. Poland is in because they are hosting. Russia choked in their World Cup play in games against Slovenia, and has a big history of disappearing in big spots. The Czech Republic is frustratingly inconsistent in international play, despite one of the world’s best goal keepers in Peter Cech, and Greece somehow won this tournament in 2004, but has not done anything remotely as impressive since, or before for that matter.

Russia and Greece are the smart bets here, and I like Greece to advance since they somehow do well in this tournament, but I think the Czechs steal a match, and win the group, with Greece advancing as the runners up.

Pool B: Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal

Holy. Shit. This is the definition of a group of death. The Netherlands arguably should have one the World Cup two years ago, and would have if Arjen Robben puts that breakaway home in the chapionship match. Germany is always a juggernaut, and looked like the best team in the last world cup until they ran into Spain in the semi-finals. Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo, who will instantly turn into the Lebron James of international play if he doesn’t carry this strong team home, and Denmark? Oh, poor Denmark. When you are the 7th ranked team in your zone, and the 10th best team in the world, you are not supposed to be the worst team in your own group. These games will be the best of the tournament.

Germany wins the group, Portugal advances over Netherlands based on goal differential, the Danes cry at their fate

Pool C: Spain, Italy, Ireland, Croatia

Croatia is the Atlanta Hawks of international soccer. They are always good, they always make it whatever playoff they can, but no one remembers why they are good exactly. Being put into a group with juggernauts Spain and Italy doesn’t help. Ireland is a sentimental favorite because they got SCREWED in 2010 because FIFA wanted France in the World Cup. Qualifying is nice, but Spain wins the group and Italy easily advances here.

Pool D: Ukraine, Sweden, France, England

Ukraine is just happy to be at the table. England will follow its usual course of dominating the group stage then completely disappearing in the knockout round. Sweden is a lot better than people care to admit, and France is secretly not very good anymore. England wins the group, and Sweden barely squeak by the French to secure the final spot.

If the above scenarios happen, the knockout matchups would be:

Czech Republic vs. Portugal (Portugal wins)

Spain vs. Sweden (Spain wins)

Germany vs. Greece (Germany wins)

England vs. Italy (England wins)

Spain definitely advances over Portugal, and Germany would be my pick if I had forgiven them for WWII, which I HAVEN’T…so England is the pick.

Everyone and their dad will be picking Spain to win, and they almost certainly will. But my gut is saying England, and 60% of the time, my gut is right every time.

England to win. Wayne Rooney gets knighted, no fewer than 30,000 pub windows will be smashed.

God save the Queen.

 

Editor’s Note: So Podcast Guy sent me a text yesterday saying that he was going to do a Euro 2012 preview blog.  I thought “Hey that’s great.  I love it when other people want to contribute because that means one less blog I have to do“.  Then I read his predictions and I am left right back where I started.  Scarecrow is basically forcing me to do a rebuttal blog because these picks are absurd.  I can’t have the first real soccer post on the blog making the site look like we don’t know shit about soccer.  England?  ENGLAND?!?! Official Windy Citizen Sports Euro 2012 predictions coming later today.–The Chief.

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