Euro Vision

Euro 2012: The Runners and Riders

Your definitive guide to the teams clogging up your screens until the proper football starts again in August.

Group A

Poland

Tournament co-hosts and rank outsiders. Are expected to put on a good party with the horrifically-strong Tyskie lager fuelling charming cultural exchanges by the good peoples of Europe.

What to watch out for: A dearth of plumbers across the UK during Poland’s matches as workers down tools to cheer on their native land.

Fifa Ranking: 65

Greece

Lightning doesn’t strike twice so Greece will never offend the football world again and win an international tournament.

What to watch out for: For a country basking in international notoriety for its infamous freewheeling approach to economics, Greece’s football team practises an altogether more austere take on its art. Don’t look out for flowing play or shots on goal; the Greek MO dictates a direct style of play in an attempt to profit from set-pieces (see also: England).

Fifa Ranking: 14

Russia

Perennial dark horses and consistent underachievers.  The most populous country in Europe hasn’t yet found a way to exploit its vast potential in playing resources.  Should jostle their way out of the group stage but succumb in the QFs.

What to watch out for: Roman’s gormless clown face looking on from the VIP section with its fixed melancholic expression, come win or loss.

Fifa Ranking: 11

Czech Republic

Flying totally under the radar, like a flock of straggly pigeons which have been bathing in a vat of Pilsner Urquell.  Not expected to make it out of the group but could sneak their way through without anyone noticing.

What to watch out for: Dedicated scouts from the bottom half of the Premier League in attendance looking to pick up a proven international goalscorer that no-one has ever heard of.

Fifa Ranking: 26

Group B

Netherlands

The Oranje are blessed with an abundance of talent that most teams would kill for.  This is typified by Rafa van der Vaart regularly being left on the bench.  This flair is fused with the ruggedness of the likes of Nige De Jong so as to ensure the fancy-dans are protected from the bully-boys. Potential finalists.

What to watch out for: Robben cutting onto his favoured left-foot. Time and time again.

Fifa Ranking: 4

Denmark

Their best chance of success would appear to be to recreate the famous pre-tournament conditions that served them so well in 1992: don the flip-flops and sunscreen till ten days before the Euros.

What to watch out for: Christian Eriksen making compatriot Nicklas Bendtner look the overrated (by himself) charlatan that he is.

Fifa Ranking: 10

Germany

Favourites to finish top of the Group of Death. Without Robben ballsing things up for a German side on the European stage they look set to seriously challenge. Unless Mario Gomez plays, of course.

What to watch out for: more of this.

Fifa Ranking: 2

Portugal

The Iberian Arsenal to Spain’s Barcelona.  Possess immense footballing ability but an over-reliance on big-game bottler ‘not the real’ Ronaldo should mean they come up short when they need it most.

What to watch out for: Raul Meireles scaring the crows off the middle of the pitch.

Fifa Ranking: 5

Group C

Spain

It’s safely assumed that Barça’s drop-off in form this season heralds the end of Spain’s international dominance.  Expect a crushing humiliation at the hands of JT & co in the quarters.

What to watch out for: Poor Cesc performing increasingly vigorous touchline warm-ups as the Busquests-Xavi-Iniesta passing carousel twirls majestically on the park.

Fifa Ranking: 1

Italy

Won the World Cup after Calciopoli broke in 2006.  The current match-fixing scandal may well propel this team to greatness if it similarly provides a binding agent to the squad.  Also, there’s no Luca Toni anymore.

What to watch out for: Mario. Mad, mad Mario.

Fifa Ranking: 12

Republic of Ireland

An unfashionable outfit made all the more daggy by the defensive stylings of Giovanni Trapattoni.  Got to the QFs at Italia 90 without winning a match en route. Will probably need to plot a similar course to the latter stages here.

What to watch out for: references to their ‘underdog’ status; being everyone’s ‘second-team’; fans ‘enjoying themselves’ and that they’re just ‘happy to be here’.

Fifa Ranking: 18

Croatia

Like Joey Barton, they punch above their weight division.  Population the size of Yorkshire yet produce players of the talent of Luka Modrić and Nikica Jelavić.

What to watch out for: Modrić rupturing his ACL against Ireland.  It would be typical of Spurs’ luck in 2012.

Fifa Ranking: 8

Group D

Ukraine

Perhaps lucky to be here considering the quality of their team/tournament infrastructure/human rights. Will be out to prove that they’re the fifteenth best team on display.

What to watch out for: Commentators’ interchangeable use of “Ukraine” vis-à-vis “The Ukraine”.

Fifa Ranking: 50

Sweden

Despite being maligned as a player who struggles to produce at the top level, Zlatan Ibrahimović has produced some stellar moments (i.e. this and this) at the Euros. Will need him to fire again to get out of the group.

What to watch out for: The fans, of course. Definitely the fans.

Fifa Ranking: 17

France

Combustible enfants terrible who are prone to falling out with each other at the first sign of failure.  Out for redemption after the 2010 World Cup debacle.  Larry White has been carefully rebuilding since then but they still represent a work in progress.

What to watch out for: Over-elaborate Gallic gestures every time a team-mate misplaces a pass.

Fifa Ranking: 16

England

According to the goons at Fifa England are only the world’s seventh best side. This is despite containing such legends of the game as Steven Gerrard, Junior Lamps and ‘Wazza’.  A team so good it doesn’t even need Joe Cole.  It’s like Sepp and his chums don’t regularly read The Sun or watch Sky’s Sunday Supplement.  Having invented the game England deserves to win the tournament simply by deigning to turn up and show the continentals how it’s done.  Guaranteed Champs.

What to watch out for: Do England have a Plan B to ‘planting the long ball onto Big Andy’s forehead’?  Will they even need one?

Fifa Ranking: 7

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