CH12 couldn’t blog yesterday – too much partying. So I didn’t get the predictions in for the last matches of Group A. I would have predicted a Czech / Poland draw and a Russian victory. I would have been wrong on both counts and I certainly didn’t see Greece going through. Shocking but you have to love this tournament. What I don’t like is UEFA’s eliminating the results of the game against the eliminated team in determining goal difference. That’s wrong. Goal difference should be the first thing people look at before head to head results IMO. Anyway.
Now that Russia has gotten knocked out, expect no let up from Germany. They will beat Denmark by 2 goals today – it also is the last match before single elimination. I expect Low to go for the kill and if Germany gets up by 2 early on, expect to see Klose and Goetze.
Pre-game prediction: Germany 3 Denmark 1
Podolski, Gomez and Muller to score for Germany and Bendtner for Denmark.
Portugal vs Netherlands promises to be the most entertaining match of the tournament as neither team can afford not to win. The Dutch especially have to come out firing. Van Bommel is suspended so De Jong will be the only holding midfielder. I expect that van der Vaart or Strootman will start instead and maybe Huntelaar starts ahead of Afellay. Either way, this gives a lot of room for Ronaldo and Nani and I think it will be a display of frighteningly effective wing play today. High scoring game.
Pre-game prediction: Portugal 3 Netherlands 2
Ronaldo and Nani to score for Portugal and Huntelaar and Sneijder to respond for the Dutch.
This is the match up of round 2 and the second most anticipated match outside of Germany vs Spain. If Germany wins, they qualify for the next round. Lose and the Netherlands is out of the tournament. If Denmark wins, Holland will know that only a win will keep them in the tournament. So, playing second should help them determine how aggressively they will need to play in this match. It should be fascinating as Robben plays against the defense he practices against every day – Lahm, Badstuber, Boateng and goalie Neuer are all part of the Bayern Munich defense.
Why Netherlands will win
- Sneijder was in great form in the first match. He helped create a lot of chances for the Netherlands and they can expect that their finishing will be sharper today.
- Hummels was a rock in defense for Germany. However, the German defense did give up a number of chances – especially late on – to Portugal, and were lucky not to be scored against. If the German defense performs similarly today against the Dutch, they will be punished.
- Huntelaar was the top scorer in the Bundesliga this past season. Expect him to come off the bench early if van Persie isn’t firing. A ready made striking solution off the bench is a necessity and in the Hunter, the Netherlands has one of the best.
- They are very familiar with the Germans. Just like Germany is due a win against Spain, the Netherlands is due a win against Germany
- Mathijsen is expected to return to central defense to bolster a shaky central defense for the Netherlands.
Why Germany will win
- They know the Dutch players very well. Robben, van Bommel, de Jong, Huntelaar – all of them have played or are playing in the Bundesliga.
- Germany beat Portugal while playing a sub par game relative to their own standards. Quick ball movement and team speed, which are hallmarks of this German team, were absent. Low will fix that and I expect Podolski, Ozil and especially Schweinsteiger to have much better games.
- A win puts them into the next round. Germany will look for that here to stay on course for winning Euro 2012.
- The Netherlands will be a lot more attacking than Portugal. That should open up more space for Muller, Ozil and Podolski to operate. In a battle of two offenses, I would go with the Germans who have more offensive depth in midfield that the Dutch since van Bommel and de Jong are more defensive minded.
Pre-game prediction: Netherlands 1 Germany 2
Podolski and Muller score for Germany and van Persie scores one for Netherlands.
Can’t call this one. IF Russia plays the way they can and have and IF Holland plays the way they can and have, I would pick Russia to win. It’s for one simple reason – they look like they can create multiple chances from any style of play. They created chances when the pace was walk up slow against Greece, they scored off quick counter attacks against Sweden and they had chances against Spain, even though the scoreline didn’t reflect the balance. I am still amazed at how calmly and well they move the ball around in the opponent’s penalty box. They remind me of Arsenal – except that Russia plays even quicker one touch (no Hleb or Cesc to play on the ball as much), they are better able to find space in the opponent’s box with direct passing as opposed to one-two give and go’s and they don’t rely as much on breakaway speed. It’s no surprise that Wenger is supposedly looking to buy Arshavin to replace Adebayor (if he goes to Milan). I actually think Arshavin is a better replacement for Hleb. He’s quicker, more direct and shoots more than Hleb who tends to hold the ball too much (though he is an amazing player) for the Arsenal offense. Pavlyuchenko is another one who might cause Ooijer and Mathijsen some trouble. He’s just a bit too selfish on occasion, but I think he will give them trouble in the air.
Having said all that, and built Russia up (huge weapon is Hiddink’s ability as a coach and his knowledge of the Dutch game), it’s hard to go against the Dutch given the fact that their skill players are in good form. They are not older and fatigued like the Swedes. Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Rafael Van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, Ruud van Nistelrooy. That should be more that enough. I think Robin probably comes off the bench so that Van Basten can have Engelaar and De Jong or Heitenga to slow down the Russian offense. In any case, it’s going to be won on speed on the counter and which defense plays better. I think the Dutch will be a bit more disciplined and, with Van der Sar in goal, should have enough to win the game. Key matchup will be Zhirkov v Bouhlarouz. I can’t imagine how he can focus enough to play after the tragedy he has just suffered.
Pre-game prediction: Holland 3 Russia 1
Player of the game: Arjen Robben