Friday, June 06, 2008

Xavi for Spain (v USA), 4 June 2008

According to the bookies they are second favourites, but has no-one remembered the little-but-important fact that the second Spain get to a major football tournament that they are *utterly* rubbish?

I know they have Torres this time and Xavi and Iniesta and assorted other excellent players, but they have had top class players at every tournament they've ever been in. When Gary Lineker says he will plump for "perennial underachievers Spain to win Euro 2008" he seems to be ignoring the key two words in his analysis - the "perennial underachiever" bit.

The Germans are the clear favourites, although it should be remembered that their brand of un-German free-flowing attacking football came unstuck last time out against the Italians. Germany are putting (basically) the same XI out this time around and so whilst they would be a surprisingly popular (I think) winner, I just think they'll encounter someone who'll blunt their attack and take advantage of their slight weaknesses in defence.

Portugal could be brilliant or awful - they have spent a decade playing international football with one rubbish striker and that situation hasn't altered much. There aren't enough wings on a football pitch to house Quaresma, Simao, Nani, Ronaldo et al and so some square pegs must fit into some round holes. They'll have a good run, but short of a certain Madrid bound winger winning it singlehandedly I don't think they have quite enough.

So who does that leave? The French (average age 42) have a wealth of experience and one or two youthful matchwinners in Benzema and Ribery. Italy are always strong and come in as World Champions but the loss of Cannavaro is a blow and their current crop of players have been pulling up no trees in the Champions League of late. Holland got the worst of all draws as to have any chance they have to eliminate either France or Italy in the group stages, but if they do get out of the group it is an easier path to the final than you might think. Saying that, it wouldn't be a major international tournament without disharmony in the Dutch camp and with concerns over van Basten's managerial abilities, players leaving the squad and an acute shortage of talent in certain areas (Mario Melchiot is in the squad, for Lord's sake) they might horrifically underperform.

I've each way money on Sweden - always better than the sum of their parts and "only" Russia and Greece to contend with to escape group D. Croatia would have been a good outside bet also but the goals of Eduardo will be too much of a miss.

So, what's the conclusion of all that, then? Er, I don't know really. I suppose you'd just have to be brave to back the Spanish, insane to back the Austrians and don't underestimate the power of the home support in these events (the Swiss, clearly, are the pick here). Oh, and a Germany v Italy final, with the World Champions prevailing. That should guarantee Carlos Puyol holding aloft the trophy on 29th June, then.....

1 comment:

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Have a good day.