My updated thoughts after watching this last week’s action and with the current injury report.
Group A: Still think Portugal wins this group though I think if there is an upset possibility, it’s that the Turks maybe roll them before the tournament gets going. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Turks or even the Swiss pip the Czechs for second place but I think it’s still the Czech Republic through in second place.
Group B: Germany wins this and even though Croatia plays some stylish football I am going to go on a limb and pick Poland to finish second. Eduardo missing is a big loss that Modric and Niko Kranjcar are not going to be able to make up though Olic is nice.
Group C: The tough one. Italy have suffered a major setback with Cannavaro done for the tournament. No Nesta, no Cannavaro and possibly the big Stiff with the stiff chest, Materazzi, on the bench means Chiellini and Barzagli starting in the middle. Sorry, not going to happen in terms of their winning the tournament no matter what Pirlo says about their mental state being better than at the World Cup. This isn’t the World Cup where they can sleepwalk through the first round, almost losing to the US and then squeaking by Australia. This group is as tough as it gets in world football. No Robin van Persie for the first game means if the Dutch lose against Italy, they are up against it. No Viera is a good thing for France in my book. Diarra or Toulalan with Maka is better than Patrick and Maka. He’s lost more than a step in class. Whichever of the three wins the most points off Romania goes through – I think it will be Netherlands and France. Love that man Ribery and hope Evra starts instead of Abidal.
Group D: Spain and Russia. End of story.
I still stand by Portugal v Spain for the title. However, Spain will get knocked out in the quarters if they don’t improve massively relative to their performance against the US. You can’t play Torres up front alone and expect to get it done. No real wingers to stretch the defense in the squad I saw. There’s no Joaquin, no Vicente, no Capel. Aragones is crazy for thinking a whole bunch of Cescs are what you can use in midfield and expect to win. Play Cesc and Xavi or Iniesta. Then get offense on one wing, use a holding midfielder like Senna and get another striker up front. They need Villa in the worst way. And Puyol looks like he is past the Use By date.
Below are my predictions for this weekend’s game – look for updates to this column daily.
|Saturday, June 7, 2008|
|12:00 ET||Switzerland||1||1 Czech Rep||Group A||St Jakob Park|
|14:45 ET||Portugal||2||1 Turkey||Group A||Stade de Geneve|
|Sunday, June 8, 2008|
|12:00 ET||Austria||0||1 Croatia||Group B||Ernst Happel Stadion|
|14:45 ET||Germany||1||0 Poland||Group B||Hypo-Arena|