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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 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 Pre-Quarterfinal predictions – Updated Winner

This is what I wrote pre-tournament:

The knockout rounds

QF 1: Russia vs Netherlands (Netherlands to advance)

QF 2: Germany vs Poland (Germany to advance)

QF 3: Spain vs England (Spain to advance)

QF 4: France vs Ireland (France to advance)

Yes, all top four seeds to go through. Pretty predictable – which means upsets are sure to come.

Spain beats Netherlands in SF1 and Germany beats France in SF2 with Germany beating Spain in the finals.

The current odds have Spain and Germany more or less even at around 3/1, with the Netherlands around 6/1, France at 10/1 and England and Italy at about 15/1.  The dark horse in this tournament is the Netherlands (if you can call them a dark horse as the third best team), while my upset pick is Portugal (which at 20/1 is “well worth a flutter” as the Brits put it).  The Player of Euro 2012 will be Mesut Ozil.

Now that we know what’s happened, I had only 4 out of 8 quarter finalists correct and only two positions correct i.e. that Spain and Germany would win their groups.  Of all of the upsets, I would say the Czech Republic winning Group A is the biggest and at this stage I feel like other than the Czech Republic and Greece, any of the other six teams can win Euro 2012.  While Germany has won all 3 games and Spain has won 2 and drawn 1, neither has shown that they are runaway winners.  With a chance to step up and display their class before the knockout rounds, both teams were potentially on course to get knocked out of the tournament with 10 minutes to go in their last match.  Not championship confirming credentials.  That said, they are both on course and still my picks to get to the final and Germany is still the tournament favorite in my book.

The UPDATED knockout rounds

QF 1: Czech Republic vs Portugal (Portugal to advance)

QF 2: Germany vs Greece (Germany to advance)

QF 3: Spain vs France (Spain to advance)

QF 4: England vs Italy (Italy to advance)

Any of the eight teams can win their quarterfinal match.  It’s that close.  However, I think the only one that isn’t a stone cold lock in my book is England vs Italy with the Italians probably slightly favored in this encounter.

Spain beats England in SF1 and Germany beats Portugal in SF2 with Germany beating Spain in the finals.

That said, don’t be surprised if Portugal wins this tournament and England gets to the finals.  Portugal was my upset pick pre tournament and as long as Pepe and Bruno Alves don’t pick up two yellow cards before the final, they can absolutely beat Germany and get to the finals where they can get past Spain, England or France.  The one team they will struggle against may be Italy.  The Player of Euro 2012 so far has been… no one.  Pilar, Pepe, Mario Gomez, Karagounis, Iniesta, Benzema, Gerrard and Pirlo have all been huge for their teams, but this is the time for the big guns to step up. I think an odds on bet now would suggest a Real Madrid player will be the player of the tournament with Ozil, Ronaldo and Benzema all going to have to be huge for their teams to win Euro 2012.  I still like Ozil to be this Euros’ Xavi – though if Ozil does his job for Germany, it will be Mario Gomez in a landslide as top goal scorer and player of the tournament.


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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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Euro 2012 Match 4: Germany vs Portugal pre-game predictions

This is THE match everyone wants to see – and we get to watch it on Day 2!  This is why we love this tournament.  It’s equivalent to Duke vs North Carolina in round 1 of the NCAA Tournament and the loser is very likely not to advance to the quarters.  Match 4 pits Cristiano Ronaldo against his Real Madrid teammate Ozil as the two best players in the tournament go head to head in the Group of Death.

Why Portugal will win

  1. Ronaldo and Nani are the best pair of wingers in the world and can switch wings at any time
  2. Germany is unsettled at right back where Bender may replace Boateng who could be benched for disciplinary reasons.  It’s a tall order for either of them to try and corral Ronaldo, especially if Schweinsteiger isn’t fully fit to help on the double team.  An overlapping Fabio Coentrao puts additional pressure on the right side of Germany’s defense.
  3. Pepe and Bruno Alves are solid in the center of the Portugese defense and can neutralize the threat of Klose and Podolski.
  4. The Bayern Munich players still have a hangover from the Champions League Final defeat a few weeks ago.

Why Germany will win

  1. Khedira, Schweinsteiger and Kroos will corral Ronaldo, Nani and Postiga (or whoever starts at striker for Portugal) while Lahm will shut down the right wing.  They will double team Ronaldo and Nani on the wings and Portugal’s weakness at striker will be handled by Germany.  Neuer is one of the best keepers in the world and will pull off enough saves to to cover over the deficiencies in Germany’s central defense.
  2. Germany attacks with speed, experience and creativity through Podolski, Klose and Ozil.  It will be too much for Portugal to handle.
  3. Germany has beaten Portugal the last two times they have met them in World Cup 2006 and Euro 2008 and their coach, Joachim Low, has been with them throughout this period.  They know how to play tournament football and will be prepared with the right tactics.

Pre-match prediction: Germany 2 Portugal 1

Klose and Podolski score for Germany and Ronaldo pulls one back for Portugal.  Ozil sets up both Germany goals.

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