Euro 2012 Group B
Monday 04 June 2012
Portugal Fifa ranking 5
Like every team in Group B, Portugal are better than every team in Group A. Coach Paulo Bento must wish that his team had been given an easier draw as few would expect them to fight past Germany or the Netherlands and into the quarter-finals – especially given their poor recent form.
But it can be invigorating to be the underdog. When Bento took over, Portugal had taken one point from their two qualifiers and had just six games left. But they won five before rolling over Bosnia in the play-off. The momentum is theirs, and neither the Germans nor the Dutch will look forward to playing them.
Ronaldo is always the story and he is closer than ever to replicating his club form for his country. The second best player of his generation has scored seven goals in eight competitive games under Bento.
With Ronaldo now on the left wing and Nani (below) on the right, Portugal have a more balanced attack than before. And with Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles in midfield, they can keep the ball away from opponents once ahead.
The result is a more settled Portugal team than any under Carlos Queiroz. The 2004 tournament was probably their chance to win this, but they are not without threat this time around.
Manager: Paulo Bento The 42-year-old's relaxed, convivial style has brought the best out of players, not least Ronaldo, his old Sporting Lisbon team-mate. After Sporting, this is only Bento's second job.
Tournament odds 18-1.
1. Eduardo Goalkeeper (Benfica)
2. Bruno Alves Defender (Zenit St Petersburg)
3. Pepe Defender (Real Madrid)
4. Miguel Veloso Midfielder (Genoa)
5. Fabio Coentrao Defender (Real Madrid)
6. Custodio Midfielder (Braga)
7. Cristiano Ronaldo Midfielder (Real Madrid)
8. Joao Moutinho Midfielder (Porto)
9. Hugo Almeida Striker (Besiktas)
10. Ricardo Quaresma Midfielder (Besiktas)
11. Nelson Oliveira Striker (Benfica)
12. Rui Patricio Defender (Sporting Lisbon)
13. Ricardo Costa Defender (Valencia)
14. Rolando Defender (Porto)
15. Ruben Micael Midfielder (Atletico Madrid)
16. Raul Meireles Midfielder (Chelsea)
17. Nani Midfielder (Manchester United)
18. Silvestre Varela Striker (Porto)
19. Miguel Lopes Defender (Braga)
20. Hugo Viana Midfielder (Braga)
21. Joao Pereira Defender (Sporting Lisbon)
22. Beto Goalkeeper (CFR Cluj)
23. Helder Postiga Striker (Real Zaragoza)
Qualified Six times. Best Finalists (2004).
Germany Fifa ranking 2
Beaten finalists in 2008, and four years of progress since then, means that Germany are deservedly well-favoured to win their fourth European title.
There is a sense that this tournament is Germany's time. They have been improving ever since Joachim Löw took over, winning all 10 qualifying games, and adding to their strong core – Bayern Munich titans Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger – with even better youngsters.
Manuel Neuer, now 26 years old, is arguably the best goalkeeper in Europe at the moment. Mesut Özil, 23, has just won La Liga with Real Madrid and there will be few more charming creative players than him at the tournament. Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber, two more 23-year-olds, make a centre-back partnership to invest in for the next decade. And this is before mention is made of Marco Reus, Toni Kroos and Mario Gotze further forward.
This unity means Germany play with the trust and fluency of a club side in their 4-2-3-1 system. There is a choice to be made up front – the wily Miroslav Klose or the imposing Mario Gomez – but like all of Löw's decisions it is between talent and talent, strength and strength. They have the players, the experience and the momentum to win this one.
Manager: Joachim Löw Since his promotion from being Jurgen Klinsmann's assistant he has calmly taken the team to new heights.
Tournament odds 3-1.
1. Manuel Neuer Goalkeeper (Bayern Munich)
2. Ilkay Gundogan Midfielder (Borussia Dortmund)
3. Marcel Schmelzer Defender (Borussia Dortmund)
4. Benedikt Howedes Defender (Schalke)
5. Mats Hummels Defender (Borussia Dortmund)
6. Sami Khedira Midfielder (Real Madrid)
7. Bastian Schweinsteiger Midfielder (Bayern Munich)
8. Mesut Ozil Midfielder (Real Madrid)
9. Andre Schurrle Midfielder (Bayer Leverkusen)
10. Lukas Podolski Striker (Arsenal)
11. Miroslav Klose Striker (Lazio)
12. Tim Wiese Goalkeeper (Werder Bremen)
13. Thomas Muller Midfielder (Bayern Munich)
14. Holger Badstuber Defender (Bayern Munich)
15. Lars Bender Midfielder (Bayer Leverkusen)
16. Philipp Lahm Defender (Bayern Munich)
17. Per Mertesacker Defender (Arsenal)
18. Toni Kroos Midfielder (Bayern Munich)
19. Mario Gotze Midfielder (Borussia Dortmund)
20. Jerome Boateng Defender (Bayern Munich)
21. Marco Reus Midfielder (Borussia Dortmund)
22. Ron-Robert Zieler Goalkeeper (Hannover)
23. Mario Gomez Striker (Bayern Munich)
Qualified 11 times [including West Germany]. Best Winners (three times).
Netherlands Fifa ranking 4
There is a strong case for putting the Dutch among the favourites: their world-class talent, their World Cup runners-up spot two years ago and their excellent record in qualifying.
At home, concerns about style of play still linger, particularly around the role of Nigel de Jong. The Manchester City midfielder has come to symbolise Bert van Marwijk's pragmatic, robust style, and just as De Jong's 2010 dropping was applauded, his recall for the recent Wembley friendly was castigated.
Many fans would rather see Rafael van der Vaart or Kevin Strootman in the midfield, and, ultimately, this side will only succeed if it gets the most from its creative players. The Netherlands scored 37 goals in 10 qualifiers but there are still concerns over maximising their attacking options.
Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben have struggled over the past two seasons while Robin van Persie, the third in that brilliant triangle – and in the form of his life for Arsenal – has never replicated that form in orange.
Should Van Marwijk include Bundesliga top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and, if so, at whose expense? Should Dirk Kuyt make way for Ibrahim Affelay or Luciano Narsingh?
There is still a feeling that Van Marwijk keeps his side on the leash; release them, and they could win their second European crown.
Manager: Bert Van Marwijk Will not apologise for his pragmatism, to the frustration of many at home.
Tournament odds 13-2.
1. Maarten Stekelenburg Goalkeeper (Roma)
2. Gregory van der Wiel Defender (Ajax)
3. John Heitinga Defender (Everton)
4. Joris Mathijsen Defender (Malaga)
5. Wilfred Bouma Defender (PSV Eindhoven)
6. Mark van Bommel Midfielder (PSV Eindhoven)
7. Dirk Kuyt Midfielder (Liverpool)
8. Nigel de Jong Midfielder (Manchester City)
9. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar Striker (Schalke)
10. Wesley Sneijder Midfielder (Internazionale)
11. Arjen Robben Midfielder (Bayern Munich)
12. Michel Vorm Goalkeeper (Swansea City)
13. Ron Vlaar Defender (Feyenoord)
14. Stijn Schaars Defender (Sporting Lisbon)
15. Jetro Willems Defender (PSV Eindhoven)
16. Robin van Persie Striker (Arsenal)
17. Kevin Strootman Midfielder (PSV Eindhoven)
18. Luuk de Jong Striker (Twente)
19. Luciano Narsingh Striker (Heerenveen)
20. Ibrahim Afellay Midfielder (Barcelona)
21. Khalid Boulahrouz Defender (Stuttgart)
22. Tim Krul Goalkeeper (Newcastle United)
23. Rafael van der Vaart Midfielder (Tottenham)
Qualified Nine times. Best Winners (1988).
Denmark Fifa ranking 10
In the short-cycle world of international football, Morten Olsen's 12-year reign stands out. This will be the fourth major tournament into which he takes a Danish side, and the range of ages on display here points to a manager with a keen eye for the constant refreshing an international side needs.
The most famous name, already, is Christian Eriksen. The Ajax teenager, eight years old when Olsen took over, is Denmark's most talented outfield product since Michael Laudrup. With similar spatial awareness and beautiful footwork, Eriksen plays behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1 system. If Denmark are somehow to take enough points from Germany, Holland and Portugal to make it through, it will be because of Eriksen's young magic.
Alongside Eriksen is the 33-year-old Dennis Rommedahl (left), a veteran of the entire Olsen reign. Just as Ryan Giggs has managed to do, Rommedahl shows that wing play is not just for the young as long as the instincts remain sharp. Eriksen and Rommedahl will be supplying Nicklas Bendtner. It is an interesting blend of youth and age, but the chemistry will have to be perfect for them to progress.
Manager: Morten Olsen The 62-year-old has been in charge since 2000, having won club trophies in Denmark and the Netherlands.
Tournament odds 80-1.
1. Stephen Andersen Goalkeeper (Evian)
2. Christian Poulsen Midfielder (Evian)
3. Simon Kjaer Defender (Roma)
4. Daniel Agger Defender (Liverpool)
5. Simon Poulsen Defender (AZ Alkmaar)
6. Lars Jacobsen Defender (Copenhagen)
7. William Kvist Midfielder (Stuttgart)
8. Christian Eriksen Midfielder (Ajax)
9. Michael Krohn-Dehli Striker (Bronby)
10. Dennis Rommedahl Midfielder (Bronby)
11. Nicklas Bendtner Striker (Arsenal)
12. Andreas Bjelland Defender (Nordsjælland)
13. Jores Okore Defender (Nordsjælland)
14. Lasse Schone Midfielder (NEC Nijmegen)
15. Michael Silberbauer Midfielder (Young Boys)
16. Anders Lindegaard Goalkeeper (Manchester Utd)
17. Nicklas Pedersen Striker (Groningen)
18. Daniel Wass Defender (Evian)
19. Jakob Poulsen Midfielder (Midtjylland)
20. Thomas Kahlenberg Midfielder (Evian)
21. Niki Zimling Midfielder (Brugge)
22. Kasper Schmeichel Goalkeeper (Leicester City)
23. Tobias Mikkelsen Striker (Nordsjælland)
Qualified Eight times. Best Winners (1992).
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