After one round of matches, the Euro 2012 tournament has started to take shape. Some matches have gone according to form, while others have offered a few surprises. Ahead of tomorrow's second run through Group A, we thought it might be a good time for a bit of review. Climb aboard as we look at the winners and losers of the first 4 days.
At the end of the post, I'm going to give an update on our Blogger Bracket Challenge, but first, let's get an overview of each group.
No one thought the Russians would go quietly, but I dare say even some of their supporters were surprised at how sharp the Sbornaya looked in dismantling the Czechs. Not only do they sit on top of their group, but they also showed their lesser-known forwards can be truly dangerous. Hell, they put 4 past Petr Cech - maybe they could give Bayern some lessons.
Poland, meanwhile, took their foot off the gas in the second half of the 1-1 draw vs. Greece. They ended up taking a single point from a match where they surely felt like they'd cruise to all 3. They get another chance tomorrow, though, and I'm not backing down from my prediction that Poland wins this group. So, they definitely need a good performance tomorrow, and they need to sustain the effort and the concentration for the full 90 minutes. If they can get a win tomorrow, they control the group. If they get a draw, Russia is still in charge, though Poland would have a chance to advance vs. Czech Republic.
Germany's squad, or at least some parts of it, looked so poor that I had to remind myself this morning when I looked at the tables that they're still in charge of the group. Despite a performance that didn't fill supporters with confidence, Die Nationalelf can practically bag the group with win on Wednesday. The Netherlands will be going all out to score, because a draw might still find them in last place.
The other match on Wednesday is Portugal vs. Denmark. The Portuguese will certainly be favored, but Denmark can't be ruled out. Even a point for the Danes would be huge, and put them in a good position to move on. I have a hunch this will be a cautious, defensive match, and I wouldn't rule out a 0-0 result.
Croatia sits atop the table here after a convincing win over Ireland. The two traditional powerhouses, Italy and Spain, fought to a 1-1 draw. Spain is never going to be an easy match for anyone, but I have to say they didn't look terribly frightening on Sunday. They definitely miss Villa at the top of the formation. I have to think Llorente will get a look sometime over the next few matches - he couldn't be worse than Torres (although Fabregas looked OK at times, and they might have won if they'd kept him on).
Croatia's task is simple: eke out a draw vs. Italy. If they do that, they will be (at worst) tied for the group lead, and their goal differential could come in handy as second tie-breaker. Ireland, meanwhile, is fighting for its life. If the Irish lose to Spain, they might be out of the running even before the last match. A tough situation for a country that brought thousands of supporters; it's hard to spend big money for tickets, flights and hotels and then find a game you paid thousands of Euros to attend isn't even worth anything.
England looked defensive and somewhat timid for most of the day, but there are no style points in an important tournament. They did everything they had to do to come away with a point in their toughest match of the group. Meanwhile, a hand for Shevy and the Ukraine squad, who battled back from a 1-0 deficit to score the biggest upset of the tournament so far. If they can take anything off France, they have a real shot to advance.
Sweden is trying to pick up the pieces of its back line after Ukraine tore them to ribbons today. Having failed to protect a lead and committed numerous baffling errors on the defensive side, the Swedes have some tough questions to answer. But, a win over England would put them right back in the thick of the group, so I'm not ready to write them off yet.
As promised - a look at where we stand in our ongoing blogger pool. No points are awarded until the Group Stage is over, but a few observations can be taken:
- Of the 7 blogger contestants, I was the only one to pick Russia to fail to get out of the group. So, after the first day, I was already halfway cooked. Russia is at the top of the table, and their goal differential will make them hard to pass. Still, if Poland can beat them tomorrow, that group opens up a bit, so I'm not ready to write anything off.
- In Group B, despite the Denmark surprise, no one has a real big advantage: everyone picked Germany and Netherlands to advance except for Gianfranco; but, since he picked Portugal to advance, and they lost the opening match as well, you wouldn't say anyone is hurt by the current standings. Only Ted, who mentioned the possibility of Denmark going through the group but couldn't bring himself to make it his official pick, might be kicking himself.
- In Group C, it was Matilda, the Villarreal USA crew, and myself who picked Croatia to advance. Not that beating Ireland shows that they're ready to win the title, but after one round of matches, we could be said to have the inside track. Italy vs. Croatia on Thursday is a giant match for purposes of this pool, and that's where we'll probably start to see some real separation.
More interesting is the fact that all 7 contestants perhaps picked up on Spain's ... I won't say "weakness," but the fact that the Spaniards maybe aren't the indestructible force that they might have been feared to be. Again, though, if they thrash Ireland, their relatively pedestrian outing vs. Italy will be forgotten.
- Oatbag earns the accolades so far in Group D - not only was he they only guy to pick Ukraine to advance, but he also specifically called an opening match victory vs. Sweden. Ted, Danny, Matilda and the Villarreal USA guys all went the conventional route with England and France here, and their prediction could still be borne out. Gianfranco and I liked Sweden to advance, so we're going to lose points in this group unless the Swedes get on the ball in a hurry.
Tomorrow, we'll be back with a Viewing Thread for the 2 Group A matches. I will try to get video highlights tomorrow night - I know I've been promising more video, sorry I haven't come good on that yet. Check back in another 4 days for a new bracket challenge update; the picture will probably be a lot more clear by the time the weekend rolls around. Thanks for reading.