Monday, June 09, 2008

Euro 2008 Preview - Part 2


THE preview of groups A and B is here. With the group of death kicking off tomorrow morning our time, here’s the rest;

GROUP C

Italy
Assets; depth of the squad in all the thirds, tactical adaptability (they can sit back and soak, press and take the initiative and adapt to any tempo that’s required) and mental strength. Cannavaro may be out, but they still have the experience of Buffon and Zambrotta at the back. In midfield, Pirlo will pull the strings with his wonderful set pieces and distribution, class act, with the donkey work done by De Rossi and Gattuso. In attack they have plenty of potency with Toni supported by a player I think will make an impression at this tournament, Di Natale, while Aquilani supports from behind.
Deficits; just how much will they miss Cannavaro and Totti, two leaders with undoubted quality. Also, Donadoni, such a quality player, is untried as a manager at a major championship.
Conclusion; despite the absence of two key figures, I still feel the Azzurri have the quality to go all the way.

Netherlands
Assets; so much quality in the front third with Sneijder, van der Vaart, van Persie, Afellay, Robben, Huntelaar, van Nistelrooy, Kuijt and Vennegoor. Sneijder in particular has had a terrific season at Real and is such at threat over the dead ball.
Deficits; keeping the five or six of the above-mentioned happy when they don’t make the starting 11 (at least that won’t be such a problem in the opener with Robben and van Persie expected to miss). While strong in the front third, van Basten doesn’t have so much quality at the back and in the holding midfield, so getting his unit organised will be the key. Ironically, they struggled to score goals in the qualifiers but had a terrific defensive record (15 for, 5 against in 12 games).
Conclusion; because of the tough group, limitations at the back and in the holding midfield, I think they’ll struggle to get out of the group.

France
Assets; In Ribery and Benzema, they have two of the world’s gun youngsters, the former one of the most destructive counter-attackers going around, and their only real creative threat out of midfield, while the latter looks a complete striker, great on the ground and in the air.
Deficits; at the back there are many questions marks, especially about the recent form of Thuram and Abidal for Barcelona. Indeed, how Mexes and Evra are not ahead of them is the pecking order is a mystery. Abidal offers nothing. Surprised also that Sagna isn’t ahead of Sagnol on the right. Indeed, there’s very much an old-guard feel to this side, with Makelele and Vieira in central midfield, while talents like Toulalan and Nasri bide their time. Injury issues over Ribery and Vieira can’t help, while Henry is coming off a terrible season at Barca.
Conclusion; They’ve certainly got the experience, but I sense Domenech’s blind faith in so many of 2006 team might bring about Le Bleu’s downfall. Their first game against Romania could well decide if they get through the group.

Romania
Assets; in a group brimming with big names, Romania are the dangerous floaters. Everyone remembers the Hagi inspired side of the mid to late 90s that sprung surprise after surprise, and this side could also sneak by a couple of the big guns. Mutu and Chivu are the biggest names, but keep an eye out also for attackers Marica and Dica, and attack-minded fullbacks Contra and Rat. Romania offer quality on the counter and the set-piece, and in Mutu they have a player in supreme form.
Deficits; most of these players haven’t been to major championship and it’ll be interesting to see if they can handle it.
Conclusion; if they were in a softer group, I would be confident to say they could go a long way and be the real dark horse. Now it’s more in hope they can get beyond the ‘dads-army’ French and enigmatic Dutch. Either way, would be great if they could produce just some of the quality we saw in the Hagi years.

Group Prediction; Italy are the safest bet to get through, and I’m hoping Romania will surprise enough to get beyond France. The Dutch have a tough draw and there are enough doubts to give them a miss yet again.


GROUP D

Spain
Assets; one of the best squads going around, with some brilliant midfielders in Fabregas, Iniesta and Xavi and an absolute gun up front in Torres. Ramos is solid at the back. They have depth too, with the likes of Guiza and Villa ready to come in up front. Spain will control possession through their superior passing and technical game.
Deficits; Too many. Let’s start with the manager, Aragones, who has never impressed at this level, both in team selection and tactical acumen. Witness his recent work in the friendly against USA, a game I watched, in which he started with Alonso ahead of Senna, did some strange things in the wide areas, and left Torres isolated, acres from any support. Things improved in the second period, but it didn’t inspire confidence. Also, Spain can often be fragile physically and mentally, which is why starting Senna would be smart business. They can also be susceptible to the counter, which Hiddink and Rehaggel will love, and are often a little one-paced, with everyone wanting the ball to feet.
Conclusion; should have enough quality to get through the group, but Aragones doesn’t inspire the greatest confidence, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see them dumped early. Would be shocked to see them win the whole thing.

Russia
Assets; Aussie Guus, what a genius! Russia has done nothing on the international scene for almost two decades and as soon as Hiddink joins they not only start winning, but start playing with plenty of style and panache, with organisation, tactical ‘control’ and attack the central planks. He is some manager, but we already know that. On the field he has a couple of guns, including Zenit’s Arshavin, Zyrianov and Anyukov. Watch out for central midfielder Zyrianov, who runs everywhere and gets goals.
Deficits; sadly, the creative dynamo that is Arshavin is suspended for the opening two games, while main striker Pogrebnyak is out of the tournament, two huge loses. Without them, who will create and score in the opening two games? Central defence can also be a little cumbersome.
Conclusion; had it not been for the loss of Arshavin and Pogrebnyak, I had Russia toping the group and getting to the semis. Their loss brings them back to the field, but Hiddink should still get them through.

Greece
Assets; Rehaggel, as we saw four years ago, is a wily and calculated tactician, and is generally able to get the best out of his men with his ‘defend first’ mantra. There’s a sense they’re still defending well, and they will need to against Sweden. Gekas and Amanatidis offer promise up front.
Deficits; Charistaes, such an influence up front four years ago, has been in terrible form, while the question remains whether anyone can step in to Zagorakis’s shoes? As I noted in my preview of Turkey, I felt Greece were in one of the softer qualification groups, so there is s question of class. There are also doubts about whether Robot Rehaggel has refreshed this team enough since 2004, with many of the old heads still around, especially in midfield.
Conclusion; Along with Hiddink, Rehaggel is one of the best tacticians around, certainly in this group, but he will need to use every inch of that acumen to give the Greeks another run. The surprise element is gone.

Sweden
Assets; Strong front line, with Ibrahimovich, Larsson and Allback all likely to cause opposition defences headaches. Strong in the centre of defence, where Mellberg and Majstrovic combine.
Deficits; Not so strong in the fullback areas and in midfield, where they are competitive more than they are flashy. Lack of tactical flexibility.
Conclusion; If the big guns in attack fire they can get through the group, but there are enough doubts about whether there will be any ammunition from behind.

Group prediction; Spain have the quality players, which should be enough to get them through, but of it comes down to tactics, the best are Hiddink and Rehaggel. Russia to spring a surprise and make it through, and if Spain and Aragones crumble, the Greeks will be ready to pounce.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent preview TT

Mon. Jun. 09, 11:48:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Pinuts Pethia said...

Holland played brilliantly this morning. I thought the Italians tried hard but were outplayed, even though it took a poor call for Holland to take the lead. Wouldn't surprise me if the Dutch top this group now or they lose the other two games remaining. The Italians are capable of recovering, getting results in their last two games and getting through.

From a spectators view, best game to watch so far!

Tue. Jun. 10, 10:54:00 am AEST  

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