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Euro 2012 Match 19, 20: Netherlands vs Portugal and Germany vs Denmark pre-game predictions

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.

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Euro 2012 Match 12: Netherlands vs Germany pre-game predictions

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. They are very familiar with the Germans.  Just like Germany is due a win against Spain, the Netherlands is due a win against Germany
  5. Mathijsen is expected to return to central defense to bolster a shaky central defense for the Netherlands.

Why Germany will win

  1. They know the Dutch players very well.  Robben, van Bommel, de Jong, Huntelaar – all of them have played or are playing in the Bundesliga.
  2. 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.
  3. A win puts them into the next round.  Germany will look for that here to stay on course for winning Euro 2012.
  4. 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.

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World Cup 2010: Pre-Cup prediction on who will win

No time to really sort this out.  There are less than 8 hours to go to kickoff.  And the crystal ball is looking murky.  So, lets do the whys and why nots for the favorites IMO.  I will update this after the first round, but let me not shy away from it right now.

Brazil:  They win because they are solid in the defensive half of the field and have depth.  Julio Cesar, 2 great right backs (they should play Dani Alves at left back just to get him on the field as he will be behind Maicon at right back),  Lucio, Juan and Luisao to play the middle, Melo at holding and Kaka, Robinho and Fabiano up front.  Also, they are the only ones who have won outside of their continent (apart from Argentina in Mexico which sort of doesn’t count as a really different continent) – in fact, they have won in North America (1994), Europe (1958) and Asia (2002).  Seems to make sense that they should win in Africa.  They won’t win because there is magic missing up front.  Efficiency is great, but you need some magic.  Kaka has not been fit all season.  Hard to get there at the World Cup.  Plus, its a hard road through Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea to start the tournament.  They should win the group but that’s a work out unlike for Spain and England.

Spain:  They win because they have the most talented passers and total football team.  Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Xabi – what a foursome of passers in midfield.  Then you have Silva, Pedro and Jesus Navas (the biggest key for Spain after Torres IMO because the Achilles heel for Spain is a lack of real speed) on the wings (though Iniesta could play down the left as well).  Finally, Iker in goal and Torres and Villa up front.  That’s a squad.  Why they don’t win – I don’t think their defense is good enough.  I know I identified it as an issue in the Euros and they made me eat my words (though I did pick them to win pre tournament), but I just don’t get comfort in Capdevilla at left back and Ramos goes AWOL every so often at right back.  Also, Cesc, Iniesta and Torres are coming off injuries that caused them to miss the end of the season and Xavi is carrying a calf injury according to Pep Guardiola.  Also, the USA showed how you beat Spain.  Send them to the wings and overpower the strikers when they are forced to cross the ball – press Xavi at the same time.  Navas’ speed on the wing helps and Torres seems to be coming along.  They also have a relatively easy group to work Cesc, Torres and Iniesta back into playing shape before the knockout round.  However, I am still uneasy.  A big miss is going to be Marcos Senna at holding mid.  So, I want to say Spain but I just hesitate.

Argentina:  They win because they probably have one of the best forward pools in the history of the World Cup.  Messi and Higuain led La Liga in scoring, Tevez was near the top in the EPL as was Milito.  And then there is Aguero and Di Maria.  Did I mention Messi?!  Decent first round group to warm up with.  Mascherano at holding is solid.  And I’ve always liked Veron’s touch though he is a bit slow.  Wish Diego had brought Zanetti and Cambiasso.  That’s a big mistake.  They don’t win because their defense is too slow and old.  Heinze, DiMichelis and Samuel are just not up to snuff.  And Brazil and Inter showed you how to stop Messi.  And then you have the craziness of Maradona.

Holland: The win because Robben and Sneijder are two of the five most in form players in the world (I’d put Messi, Ronaldo and Milito in that bracket as well) at the end of the club season.  Then there’s Robin van Persie who is fresh after missing most of the season.  Rafael vdv is in decent form as well.  Kuyt provides work rate and balance up front.  They don’t win because their defense and keeping is not up to snuff.  And they tend to run out of steam as tournaments progress.

England: They win because they are the second best team from top to bottom in terms of depth (after Brazil).  They have Rooney and great veterans in the spine of the team – James, Terry (too bad Rio’s out, but King and Upson are good), Gerrard, Lampard.  They have speed on the wings (Fabio should have included Walcott instead of SWP).  Great coach.  They haven’t lost a World Cup game in a while if you exclude penalty kick knockouts.  They don’t win because too much depends on Rooney, Glen Johnson is a terrible defensive right back and the holding midfielder position isn’t settled.  Also, the weight of expectations will become very heavy the further we get in the tournament.

These are the only real favorites in my opinion.  A dark horse is Portugal, but with Nani out, their chances dropped significantly.  Never count out Germany (but Ballack is a big miss and they seem a big young) or Italy (this is one of the worst teams they have fielded though) or one of the African countries.  I would have put Ivory Coast as the top African team, but even if Drogba plays (as it seems to indicate in the latest news), its hard to have a brand new coach and expect to win the World Cup.

Two big factors and then I’ll make my pre Cup prediction.

The ball: with the movement in the ball, free kicks and corners are going to be very important.  That makes Ronaldo, Dani Alves, Sneijder, Lampard and Xavi very dangerous.  It could be the difference between winning and losing the Cup.

History: No European team has won the World Cup outside of Europe.  Argentina and Brazil have won outside of their  continent.  Yes, it is winter in South Africa so the heat is not going to be as big a factor as it has been for tournaments outside of Europe in the past.

My pick: Brazil if they win their group.  Holland if Brazil doesn’t win their group.

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Russia v Netherlands – post game

Sorry Holland, but now that you have lost, you are back to the Netherlands. Frankly, the Dutch were lucky to get the game to extra time. Russia dominated this game from the beginning to the end. The only thing that the Dutch had going for them was the slack marking – frankly baffling given how good a coach Hiddink is – off of free kicks that almost had Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Nigel De Jong scoring in the first half. Other than that it was Russia that dominated midfield and looked the more dangerous going forward. Sneijder and Van der Vaart had below average games and Ooijer and Mathijsen looked pedestrian. If it wasn’t for Van der Sar’s heroics, this game would have been over by the 60 minute mark. As it was, he kept Russia out till the 56th minute when Pavlyuchenko brilliantly finished on the near post after getting goal side of his marker. The fault lies with Heitenga who had just come on for Bouhlarouz and was nowhere near the crosser, Semak. Too much time allowed him to deliver a perfect pass for Pavlyuchenko to leave Van der Sar flat footed.

After that, the Dutch tried everything to get back into the game but most of their efforts involved long range blasts by Sneijder. Unfortunately, my prediction for man of the match, Arjen Robben could not play due to injury and that limited Dutch penetration on the wings. They played too narrow which didn’t work against the Russians who packed it inside and didn’t give Van Nistelrooy or Sneijder much room. Meanwhile, Van Der Sar and De Jong somehow managed to keep Russia from scoring with Ooijer and Mathijsen clearly struggling with the pace of Arshavin, Pavlyuchenko and Zhirkov. However, there was just one free kick too many for the Russians and Ruud headed in unmarked to tie it up in the 86th minute. The game may not have ended the way it did if not for the referee overturning his decision to give Kolodin a second yellow card for a foul on Sneijder after consulting with his linesman who told him the ball had gone out of play before the foul. I have never seen that happen before. Good thing he did, because otherwise it would have unfairly given the Dutch an advantage in extra time, as replays showed no contact.

In extra time, it was clear that the Dutch were just hanging on and that it was Russia’s to win. Man of the match, Andrei Arshavin, demonstrated clearly that he was the best player on the park by showing the same pace at the end of the game as he did in the beginning. His stop start left his defender standing before he crossed for Torbinsky to turn the ball inside the far post when Van Der Vaart and Gio Van Bronckhorst left him get between and ahead of them. Arshavin finished the scoring with a diagonal run, received a throw in and put it between Van der Sar’s legs. Wenger, you better add some more millions to that transfer fee.

The result didn’t surprise me. As I had suggested in my pre-game post, IF both teams played the way they could, I thought the Russians would win. The Russians played the way they can and the Dutch didn’t even reach their regular potential. Russia and Turkey in the semi finals. What a tournament.

Pre-game prediction: Russia 1 Holland 3

Result: Russia 3 Netherlands 1 (a little dyslexia from HC21)

Scorers: Roman Pavlyuchenko, Dmitri Torbinsky, Andrei Arshavin (Russia) Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Netherlands)

Spain, could you please win one for the pre-game favorites and have CH12 at least correctly predict one of the four quarter finals…

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Russia v Holland – pre game prediction

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

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Group D final day post match – Russia v Sweden, Spain v Greece

Let’s get Spain v Greece out the of way.  Spain came back and won 2-1 with Guiza setting up the equalizer from de la Red and scoring the winner in the dying minutes.  Spain started a brand new squad with only Iniesta starting from the first team.  They still won.  Xabi Alonso had a great game and almost scored from the middle of the pitch as he did against Newcastle.  As a reward for getting 9 points out of a possible 9, Spain gets to play Italy.  Sweet.  Before everyone goes on to talk about how this is just terrible for Spain, let me say this – sitting here today I think they got lucky by getting this Italian squad instead of the full French team.  Spain will beat Italy… but more on that later in the week.

Pre-game prediction: Spain 1 Greece 0

Result: Spain 2 Greece 1

Scorers: Ruben de la Red, Daniel Guiza (Spain), Angelos Charisteas (Greece)

Russia put on a master class display.  As CH12 had hoped, they moved the ball around brilliantly.  Arshavin was as good as advertised – he never seems hurried and he seems to put the ball wherever he wants to.  I can’t wait for the Russia/Holland quarter final – and Holland, you better watch out because this Russian team (especially with Hiddink in charge) could have CH12 referring to you as the Netherlands again by the time the match is over.

I said the Russians played pretty football.  They do.  I said they would win.  They did.  I said they play sort of total football.  They actually don’t.  What we saw was pretty football that looks like total football.  What they have are players who all seem very comfortable with playing one touch, on the ground, passes, moving off the ball, creating space and making the extra pass (Pavlyuchenko excluded).  It’s unbelievable how calmly they look for, and make, the extra pass in the opposing box.   Sweden is lucky they didn’t concede 4 or 5 goals – two came off the post and Russia missed a couple of breakaways as well.  Hiddink will be doubly pleased that other than a Henrik Larsson header off the crossbar, his defense kept Sweden well in check with Akinfeev looking confident as well.  Man of the match for Russia was Yuri Zhirkov (picture below).  He was brilliant down the left wing and looked like a rich man’s Fabio Grosso.  The one issue that I see is that the Russians seem to zone mark in their own box.  That will get them in trouble if teams avoid high crosses and instead play one twos on the ground against them.

Pre-game prediction: Russia 3 Sweden 2

Result: Russia 2 Sweden 0

Scorers: Roman Pavluchenko, Andrei Arshavin (Russia)

CH12’s crystal ball was working in Group D.  Look out world, because the Russians are coming.  On to the quarters – the predictions slate in now clean.   I still feel quite comfortable with my original prediction of Spain v Portugal in the finals…

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Group D pre-game predictions – Russia v Sweden, Spain v Greece

Let’s get the Spain v Greece game out of the way. Who knows how this turns out. Spain is going to rest most of the squad. Greece is out. This is a useless game to try and predict. I will pick Spain to still win.

Russia and Sweden. I am going with the Russians. They play attractive football. Arshavin (pictured below) is probably going to be starting as the playmaker behind Pavlyuchenko so they should be able to open up defenses even better than they already have been able to. Sweden is going to tire towards the end of the game, especially if they have to chase the game. I expect a slow beginning from Sweden who will hope that Ibrahimovic can start, score a goal in the first half with a moment of brilliance and then sit out the second half with the Swedes banking on not being breached twice as they only need a draw to progress.   This might be the game that one of the Larssons finally scores in.  The odds are stacked against the Russians.

That being said, Russia will open the Swedes up and they will score at least two goals. I think this is a high scoring game as the Swedes will score on the counter as well.

Pre-game prediction: Russia 3 Sweden 2, Spain 1 Greece 0

I am so ready for the quarterfinals – Portugal v Germany, Croatia v Turkey, Spain v Italy and Holland v Sweden/Russia. This is why the Euros is the best football tournament in the world…

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