In these days of increasingly bloated tournaments, one of the best things about the 2012 edition of Euros is that it is so concise. Less than two weeks after it kicked off the Quarter Finals will have started. Fantastic.
The group stages moved smoothly, barring an unsavoury incident from Croatia fans resulting in a fine, but a bigger fine went to the Dane wearing the wrong underpants.
There hasn’t been a single goalless draw, and the only red cards were in the first game. The Group of Death lived up to its name, the Dutch flopped in a sea of Total Sulkball, and it was the turn of the Irish to provide comic relief.
Although the Russians and Swedes may disagree it’s the cream that has made the knockout stages.
Portugal v Czech Republic
The Czech Republic kicked the whole thing off by getting torn apart by Russia in the opening game. But since then they’ve looked pretty good, helped by the fact that this was not a tough pool. They topped the pool with a negative Goal Difference, and you think they’d be reasonably satisfied with that.
Portugal are, in theory, the stronger side, they have qualified from the Deadliest Group of Death ever(c) and against the Dutch they were at the top of their game.
But that’s the main danger of coming through a group like that. Ronaldo sets the tempo for this side; and some would argue he quite likes that, and against Holland he was a man on a mission; occasional ref, leading the attack, and finishing with the kind of focus he normally saves for his mirror. They should do it, but they need to be aware of having a hangover.
Germany v Greece
Make the most of this Germany. It’s not often, if ever, that you will go into a high profile match with 99% of neutrals in your corner.
Set against the backdrop of a crisis with the same name, Greece comes up against its paymasters with little to recommend it.
Greece; 2004 champions and masters of anti-football somehow clawed its way out of a weak group, using Europe’s weird rules to qualify ahead of Russia despite an inferior Goal Difference. Sound familiar?
Germany did enough without really breaking sweat to be the only side with three straight wins. If there’s any justice in the world they’ll crush Greece, and hopefully have some fun along the way. Germans, fun, anything is possible.
Spain v France
Maybe not as straight forward as you may think.
The tikatakocrats have been impressive going through group play, and with Torres somehow finding form from somewhere have a focal bull to offset the pinball stuff.
Without wanting to jinx this you would think Spain will eventually pick the French apart. It’s likely to take 80 minutes or so though. How France backs up from being totally dismantled by already eliminated Sweden will be interesting. Good test for Blanc here.
BTW, in case you were wondering where that 1% of neutrals supporting the Greeks might come from; they’re from Spain.
Italy v England
Two unbeaten sides up against each other, and there’s a real chance that one side will go home unbeaten.
So that means penalties then.
England has cashed in a few lucky chips so far in this tournament. They topped their group on the back of two of the more hilarious goalkeeping errors you are likely to see. But Captain Gerrard is having his best tournament aged 32 since the so-called Golden Generation turned up. Perhaps the lack of fellow egos in the midfield is proving handy after all.
Italy, for their part, haven’t really been that Italian. Twice they squandered a goal lead to end up with draws. And Mad Mario’s finish against the Irish they even struggled there. An English optimist might think this is an Andy Carroll fairytale gift wrapped
All games starting 0645 NZT beginning Friday. And if you run off to the TAB with any of these predictions you’re mad.