Tag Archives: Euro 2012

Euro 2012 Final: Spain vs Italy pre match prediction

Game 5 of Euro 2012 pitted Spain against Italy in one of the premier first round matchups.  Spain was heavily favored and not much was expected of Italy as the Azzurri into the tournament on the back of a a match fixing scandal, a 3-0 loss to Russia in a lead up friendly to the tournament and their left back sent home for potential complicity in match fixing.  Meanwhile, Spain had a few questions – mainly where would goals come from with Villa out injured and Torres in the worst slump of his career and how would the central pairing of Pique and Ramos fare without veteran Puyol to steady the ship.  I predicted a narrow Spain victory.  Instead, it was a dynamic, unafraid Italy that gave Spain all it could handle and the match ended up a 1-1 draw.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and you have an Italian team that seems like more the team of destiny than a Spanish squad that is trying to pull off an unprecedented back-to-back title winning effort of Euro 2008-World Cup 2010-Euro 2012.  Only Germany and France have ever done a back to back.  Can this team be the greatest European team of all time?

This is a close call.  If Germany had made it, I would have predicted a German victory with relative confidence.  However, tomorrow will be very tight.  Here’s a stone cold lock of a prediction – a goalkeeper will be lifting the European Cup tomorrow!  Let’s consider the relevant factors.

Momentum:  Italy has reason to feel that this is their time.  No one counted them amongst even the top 6 teams coming into the tournament, yet they have not been overmatched in any of their five matches at Euro 2012 and have all the confidence following their startling dismantling of Germany in the semi finals.  They seem like the team of destiny. Meanwhile, Spain has not played their best and has been criticized for not being totally convincing in their march to the final.  Edge: Italy

Fatigue: Everyone assumed that Italy would be dead on their legs against Germany after having played extra time against England and having two less days of rest.  Instead they dominated Germany.  Spain have one extra day of rest.  However, they did play extra time and won on an emotionally draining penalty kick shootout.  Edge: Even

History:  Italy hasn’t lost to Spain in a major tournament.  However, Spain did beat Italy in penalties at the last Euro (shootouts don’t count as “victories” as they are officially listed as draws).  Edge: Even

Coaching:  Prandelli has done a masterful job of changing lineups to adjust for injuries and opponents.  He instituted a 3-5-2 in the first match to make up for Criscito’s pre-tournament suspension, with De Rossi playing in central defense.  He then switched back to 4-4-2 to dominate possession against England.  Meanwhile, Vicente del Bosque has struggled to find his best lineup and gone back and forth between utilizing no strikers and then putting in Torres and then Negredo with no real success.  Edge: Italy

Spain Defense vs Italy Offense:  Spain haven’t given up a goal since di Natale scored in their initial match up.  It’s a Euro record.  Pique and Ramo have been solid together and Jordi Alba’s pace and work rate have made him the revelation of Euro 2012 at left back.  Casillas hasn’t been at this best, but you can’t argue with the shutout streak.  Xabi and Busquets have done their usual job of protecting the back four.  Spain is solid.  That said, Cassano and Balotelli have given teams fits with Cassano in particular proving very hard to pick up and using his creativity to good effect.  While Montelivo has become stronger as the tournament has progressed, Italy’s lack of good wide play should help Spain cover for Arbeloa’s lack of pace.  Edge: Spain

Midfield:  I presume Spain will start one striker or use Navas or Pedro instead of Silva or Cesc.  If Spain starts six in midfield, they will dominate possession.  I keep waiting for Pirlo’s lack of mobility to be exposed by a high tempo opposing midfield but it hasn’t happened yet.  I think Spain can do that tomorrow.  Xavi has had a poor tournament and that is the reason Spain is struggling to impose itself.  If he doesn’t have a good game tomorrow, Spain will not be able to win this game.  I expect Spain to finally put a good game together.  Edge: Spain

Spain offense vs Italy defense:  It’s hard to imagine anyone scoring 2 goals against Buffon.  So, assuming Italy scores one as they have done all tournament long (except against England), the best Spain can hope for is the penalty kick shootout.  Spain’s strikers have fared poorly, except for Torres’ double against Ireland.  Meanwhile, Chiellini is back for Italy and Balzaretti has been impressive.  Edge: Italy

Pre-game prediction:  Spain 1 Italy 0

Fatigue finally catches up with Italy.  They will not be able to replicate Portugal’s aggressive press or be able to attack at speed on the wing.  Xavi finally awakes and Spain repeats as defending European champions.  Espana Euro 2012 winners.

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Euro 2012 Semi final 2: Germany vs Italy pre match prediction

After watching Italy labor against England, and have to play extra time, this is a stone cold lock – Germany wins this semi final easily.  Everyone has a chance when you play a match at this level.  However, this is as certain an outcome as there has been in the knockout stage – even more than Germany beating Greece.  The only event that could derail a German victory is Neuer or one of the defenders getting a red card while giving up a penalty to Italy.

Why Italy Will Win

  1. Gigi Buffon has the greatest game any Italian goalie has ever had.
  2. Coach Low decides to do something unconventional up front and doesn’t start his top three of Gomez, Muller and Podolski.
  3. Italy usually beats Germany in major tournaments and usually wins in semi finals.
  4. Germany gives Pirlo too much time on the ball and doesn’t put him under enough pressure when he is on defense.

Why Germany will win

  1. Two extra days of rest and 30 minutes less of high stress extra time running.  Also, Muller, Gomez and Podolski didn’t even play half of the quarterfinal against Greece so they are going to be fresh.
  2. They’ve beaten every one else so far and Italy doesn’t look that great.
  3. Ozil, Muller and Podolski will not give Pirlo a free pass when Germany has the ball.  They will expose his lack of pace on defense and the space behind him is going to be gobbled up by Ozil.  It’s the reason Milan got rid of him after Manchester United exposed his liabilities so adroitly a couple of years ago.  The German midfield will not let Italy have any time on the ball and by the 60 minute mark, fatigue will set in and the Italians will struggle.
  4. While Badstuber hasn’t been particularly great, Hummels, Lahm and Neuer have played well enough to corral Cassano and Balotelli.

Pre match prediction:  Germany 2 Italy 0

Muller hasn’t scored yet.  That will change.  Gomez will add a second.  See you in the finals Spain.

 

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Euro 2012 Semi Final 1: Spain vs Portugal pre game predictions

My gut tells me this is the match Spain will lose.  Portugal is primed for the upset.  Portugal has the offensive and defensive stars and a competent midfield.  Unlike Spain, they have come through a very tough group stage.  Ronaldo is in form.  Spain, regardless of what Silva says, is not as good as the prior versions.  I really am hoping Spain go a goal down so we can see what they are really made of.  Who will be Spain’s Messi/Ronaldo/Villa if they have to claw their way back?

Why Portugal will win

  1. Portugal’s midfield is well balanced with a holding midfielder in Veloso, the box-to-box work rate of Meireles and the creativity of Moutinho – all played a part in setting up Ronaldo’s winning goal against the Czechs.  They can keep possession well enough against Spain’s midfield press.  Hopefully Bento doesn’t try to change the lineup and remove the striker for an extra midfielder.
  2. Ronaldo is due to have a big game against Real Barspana.  He buried his Barca demons during his last match at the Nou Camp and you know he wants to pay Spain back for World Cup 2010.  He will dominate Arbeloa.  Yes, Arbeloa knows Ronaldo from practicing every day at Real Madrid – as do Sergio Ramos and Xabi who will help Arbeloa out on Spain’s right side.  However, Ronaldo knows those three and Iker Casillas also.  He will relish going against them …and Pique.  Why?  Because this time, Spain doesn’t have Puyol to bail them out.  The added benefit of having Coentrao behind Ronaldo is that Busquets will have to shade more to the right, leaving Alba one on one with Nani.  Alba has shown good speed, but Nani’s trickery is cause for concern.  The big questions for Portugal are which of Almeida or Oliveira start up front, and can either take advantage of the service from the wing?  My money would be on the bigger and more experienced Almeida who can give Ramos and Pique fits in the air.
  3. Pepe and Alves have been solid on the ground.  In the air is where Portugal has had problems against Mario Gomez and Bendtner.  Spain doesn’t have an aerial threat, notwithstanding Xabi’s standing header.
  4. I will repeat what I wrote from the France match – Spain is not the usual Spain.  Puyol and Villa’s absence has hurt them at critical positions and Xavi is not playing at his normal high level.  Everything is just a little off for the Spaniards and there is unease about how well Ramos and Pique will perform together in the middle if they are put under real pressure.  Their dislike of each other is common knowledge and the last thing Spain needs at the knockout stage.  Yes, they dominated France, but that was a function of the lineup France put out there.  However, who, besides Ireland, has Spain blown away in this tournament?  No one.  If you sit back, play defensively and Spain will wear you down.  Portugal will not make that mistake.  The only team that has kept Portugal off the board in this tournament is Germany – and that took major heroics at the end of the game to do so.  Portugal will show Spain the toughest test to date and if it stays close late the pressure, and two fewer days of rest, will tell on Spain.

Why Spain will win

  1. Spain seemed a lot more assured against France.  They were never really threatened and adequately defended the threat of Ronaldo Light – Ribery.  If Spain dominates the ball, and more importantly eliminate any real pressure on Casillas, Ronaldo will get frustrated, drop deeper and into the middle to get the ball, which means he then has a longer way to go to score.  That will play into Spain’s hands.  It has been the traditional way Barca have stopped Ronaldo.
  2. Ramos and Pique haven’t really been tested and haven’t really missed having Puyol.  The midfield’s possession game has alleviated any real pressure and if Portugal plays three in midfield (while Portugal might get more of the ball than most), they will not be able to keep sustained pressure with two offensive minded wings who need good, wide service to inflict any real damage on Spain.
  3. Ronaldo hasn’t played as well as everybody thinks he has.  Trust me.  I’ve seen enough of Ronaldo over the last eight years.  He really had one very dominating game – against the Czechs who gave him too much space and time.  His first finish against Holland wasn’t clean – and he missed another sitter very similar to the one he put away for the second.  He will not get that much time and space against Spain, who have enough bodies to send at him to neutralize his open field speed advantage.  Slow Ronaldo down and where is the goal going to come from?  Portugal will have to rely on a dead ball to get a score.
  4. Iniesta.  Pereira has had a good tournament, but he is going to struggle against Iniesta.  That pulls Pepe out of position to help.  Can Xavi and Cesc make them pay?

Pre-match prediction: Spain 1 Portugal 0

My gut is one thing – and I hope it’s right because Germany vs Portugal would be a much better final than a repeat of Euro 2008.  That said, my head says the Spanish midfield will be a bit too much and will wear Portugal down.  If Portugal doesn’t get a goal from open play, Spain will win this match.  Coentrao’s matchup against Silva and/or Cesc will determine the outcome of this game.  David Silva to score.

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Euro 2012 QF 3: Spain vs France pre match predictions

Prevailing logic says that France’s loss to Sweden and their ensuing internal arguments will result in the usual result – France getting summarily eliminated from a major tournament.  Normally I’d subscribe to that notion.  However, Spain hasn’t been special and France made lineup changes that didn’t work out, so look for Blance to go back to a more familiar lineup when the game kicks off tomorrow.  Spain should be slightly favored but a French upset, while not probable, would be only a mild surprise.  Spain be hoping this match doesn’t go to extra time – that will hurt them against the well rested Portugese.  France will be hoping for penalties.

Why France will win

  1. Menez and Cabaye will re-enter the lineup replacing Ben Arfa and possibly M’Vila or Diarra.  That will provide more offense for France, especially from Menez who was very lively against Ukraine in the group stage.  If he has a good game, it will force Jordi Alba to stay back and help even out the imbalance in midfield that any team playing Spain has to face.
  2. Ribery will dominate Arbeloa.  Puyol’s absence has moved Ramos to central defense from the right back slot and his replacement, Alvaro Arbeloa, is competent but slow.  Ribery has to have a big game for France to have a chance and he is likely to enjoy going against Arbeloa.  Just like Menez, if Ribery has a good game, it will force Silva to drop back to help on defense, thus evening numbers in midfield.
  3. Benzema has assisted on the majority of the French goals, but has yet to get on the scoresheet.  It bodes well for France as he goes against a familiar defense in his club teammates Arbeloa, Ramos and Casillas.  The Benz is due.
  4. Spain is not the usual Spain.  Puyol and Villa’s absence has hurt them at critical positions and Xavi is not playing at his normal high level.  Everything is just a little off for the Spaniards and there is unease about how well Ramos and Pique will perform together in the middle if they are put under real pressure.  Their dislike of each other is common knowledge and the last thing Spain needs at the knockout stage.

Why Spain will win

  1. France’s undefeated run is over, there is infighting and neither Ribery nor Benzema have scored at Euro 2012.  That is a not a great recipe for success at this stage.  Spain is seasoned, used to winning and the manner in which they ground out their World Cup win will help them as they get to the business end of this tournament.
  2. Mexes is suspended which probably means that Koscielny gets the start.  While Mexes didn’t cover himself with glory against Sweden, and Koscielny does have more pace and has played well against Messi and Barcelona the last few times they have met in the Champions League, starting at center back in a tournament for the first time in a quarterfinal match against the defending World and European champions is a daunting task for Koscielny.  He is prone to making errors and there is a high likelihood that happens again today.
  3. Spain’s midfield domination will result in France struggling to score.  Cabaye or M’Vila have to have huge games in order for Nasri, Ribery, Benzema and Menez to get enough touches to score.  That will be tough.  Add in the fact that France doesn’t really have aerial threats to score off of dead balls and it just means they will have to have a lot of luck to beat Spain.
  4. Iniesta.  And Cesc.  Iniesta has been in great form and Debuchy will struggle to stay with him.  Cesc continues to do what he has done so well for Barcelona this past season – score off of well timed late runs into space behind the defense.  That should be enough to Spain to win this match.

Pre-match prediction: Spain 1 France 0

Spain will score a goal in the second half and hold France off.  Iniesta or Cesc to score for Spain.

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Euro 2012 QF 2: Germany vs Greece pre-match predictions

Germany is heavily favored.  They have to be.  Germany is going to step up a gear and, just as in QF 1, Greece is going to be facing a major class step up relative to Group A.  Every one has a shot and this Germany team is not as amazing as the 2010 World Cup team.  However, it is deeper and is going to be incredibly tough for anyone to beat.  They have given up only one goal on a two header corner.  While this is not as stone cold a lock as Portugal against the Czechs, expect Germany to win this game without much trouble.

Why Greece Will Win

  1. History repeats itself and they have already repeated the formula in beating Russia.
  2. They haven’t lost under the current coach in any meaningful match.
  3. They are playing for a nation that is in turmoil.  They know how much this could mean for their countrymen.

Why Germany will win

  1. Greece has very little offense.  Samaras has misfired and while Salpingidis had a great opening match, Karagounis is the only other Greek who has scored – or looks like he could score.  The German midfield will not allow Greece the room that Poland afforded them.  Unlike the Euro 2004 winning team, this Greek team doesn’t look an aerial threat from corners and free kicks.  That leaves very few avenues through which to get the one goal lead they can cling to like the 300.
  2. Greece’s back line has looked very porous at left back and in the center.  They choked Russia by clogging up the middle and the midfield held them at bay.  That is going to be very hard against a German offense that has created numerous chances in each of their three games so far.  Mario Gomez has already scored three goals and is going to be very hard for the Greeks to keep off the scoreboard.
  3. Germany is deep and is starting to display more speedy ball movement.  While Ozil has been good, but not great, Schweinsteiger has been very good.  The longer the tournament goes, the stronger both will get.  That is going to bode very well for Germany.  They have also won without goals from Muller.  If he comes good they will be unstoppable.  If he doesn’t, they have many players to go to with Goetze and Schurrle at the top of the list.
  4. The current draw means Germany has avoided Poland and Russia and has to get past England or Italy instead of Spain or France.  They would have taken that at the start of the tournament with both hands.  They can smell the final now and will not overlook the Greeks.

Pre-match prediction: Germany 2 Greece 0

Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski will score for Germany.

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Euro 2012 QF 1: Portugal vs Czech Republic pre-match predictions

Portugal is favored.  They have to be.  While I shouldn’t insult teams at this stage by suggesting stone cold locks, of all the games in this tournament – even more than Germany vs Greece, this one is a lock.  The Czechs will not take Portugal by surprise.  To be clear, they got crushed by Russia, had 15 good minutes against the Greeks and won the second half against Poland.  Not an awe inspiring performance.

Why Czech Republic will win

  1. Gebre Selassie will frustrate Ronaldo and Pilar’s quick movement and offense down the left side will put pressure on Nani to backtrack.  With their wings blunted, Portugal will struggle to score up front and Ronaldo will drift inside where the Czechs can pack it in and eliminate space and time.
  2. Baros had a good game against Poland and harried the Polish defense all night.  If he has a good game, anything can happen.  He set up Jiracek’s winning goal against the Poles and the Czechs are hoping he can do the same tonight.
  3. Petr Cech has had a below average tournament with a couple of glaring errors.  However, this is the man who saved three penalties in the Champions League final and one against Messi in the semifinals.  Who would you bet on if this got to penalty kicks?  Ronaldo has missed penalties in the semifinals of the Champions League twice (vs Barcelona and Bayern Munich) and in the finals once (vs Barcelona).  He is not going to fancy the situation if it gets to that stage.

Why Portugal will win

  1. Nani and Ronaldo cannot be contained in the form they are in.  Also, the effort to do so is going to blunt much of the wing back play from Pilar and Gebre Selasssie.  Nani should have scored from Ronaldo’s set up against Netherlands and Ronaldo did score from Nani’s pass.  When Ronaldo starts drifting inside every so often, he is incredibly dangerous as a playmaker and in drawing fouls that lead to free kicks.  I expect Ronaldo to score on a free kick in the next two matches.
  2. Pepe and Bruno Alves.  Yes, they have given up goals in every match, including three off headers.  However, Baros is going to struggle against the two of them – he isn’t Gomez or Bendtner.  Jiracek will also struggle against Veloso, Moutinho and Meireles who are the unsung heroes of this Portugese run – they have been solid in midfield.
  3. They are peaking.  They can see the path to winning this tournament.  Ronaldo is off his duck, they have had a late game winning goal and are playing to their offensive talents.
  4. Tomas Rosicky is not going to play.  This is the stage when every team needs their best player to make it happen.  Pilar and Jiracek are not going to be able to fill the void.

Pre-game prediction: Portugal 2 Czech Republic 0

Ronaldo scores again and Nani finally slots one in as well.  Only way the Czechs can win is if this goes to penalty kicks.

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Euro 2012 Matches 21 and 22: Italy vs Ireland, Spain vs Croatia pre-game predictions

Spain is not going to go into the match looking for a draw.  Russia got knocked out and Germany was within an inch of going down 2-1 and being knocked out late in the second half.  If Croatia beat Spain and Italy beats Ireland, Spain will get eliminated.  Trying for a 2-2 draw is like asking two NFL teams to try to engineer the game to go to overtime and trust the other team not to score a late field goal before the whistle blows.  Literally impossible to do.

Spain will beat Croatia.  Stone cold lock.  I know Italy couldn’t do it, but Spain is going to come on strong now.  They finally have Torres scoring and Xavi seemed to have regained some energy in the last game.  If I were del Bosque, I would insert Cesc in the lineup instead of Xabi.  Mandzukic has been big for Croatia, but this is the game for Jelavic to step up.  Corluka is also going to have to have a big game in order to keep Alba and Iniesta thinking about their defensive responsibilities instead of overloading the Croatia right wing.

Pre-game prediction: Spain 2 Croatia 1

Iniesta and Torres to score for Spain and Jelavic to score for Croatia.

Italy is going to struggle against Ireland.  It will be interesting to see how many opportunities Italy gets against Ireland as I would assume Trapattoni puts an extra midfielder in to clog up the middle and reduce Pirlo’s impact.  That said, Italy knows it has to win in order to go through.  It will be a tense encounter and I expect Italy to pull it out by a goal.

Pre-game prediction: Italy 2 Ireland 1

Di Natale and Marchisio to score for Italy and Dunne to pull one back for Ireland off a set piece.

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