Anatomy of The Euro 2012
One continent,a long arduous qualifying stage, blood and sweat. Gladiators? Probably, only the final Colosseum split between Ukraine and Poland.
A modern platform filled with 40000 patriots, with resounding voices supporting their fellow countrymen elevated to god-like status. A month long extravaganza of quality that most consider even better than the World Cup. There are no easy games in this format.
Here, 90 minutes feel like long tiring wars between adversaries.
Here, club compatriots fight for a different badge….. Here is where magic happens
The Euro elevates to a status which by most players reckoning is a tougher competition. There are no lesser teams unlike in the World Cup. A platform for performance, a stage to impress suitors, a target to achieve, a nations honour to defend.
The Spaniards won the 2008 event and embarked on what would be the most successful footballing spell for the country. The foundations built on a spine from Barcelona with the additional of the nation’s finest expressing their ability in the major leagues in Europe. Having won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and dominating the group qualifying stages surely ‘the Matadors’ have to be a favourite for the event. Will missing stalwarts Puyol and Villa dent the bite in Del Bosque’s armor? Will the underperforming Torres take advantage of the opportunity handed to him? Can the triquesta of Catalan genii weave their way to more silverware?
Germany and Netherlands have had to bear the brunt of Iberian success. Both teams’ finalists in the last two international events have only fallen to the mighty Spaniards.
The Germans boast one of the strongest and most sustainable leagues in the world. The Bundesliga is a proven system that nurtures and develops the nation’s finest. Jugi Loew’s team boast the youngest but still strongest squad at this year’s event. Based on Bavarian foundations the Germans ooze class through the magical Mesut Ozil as well as the solidity provided through Bastian Schweinsteiger. The Dortmund representatives (Hummels, Gotze and Reus) will add bite to the existing firepower of a team that boasts like likes of Mario Gomez, Lucas Podolski, Lahm and the immovable object Manuel Neuer. Will the Germans celebrate an early Oktoberfest?
Not much needs to be said about the attacking prowess of the Dutch. A country that epitomizes the true meaning of “Total Football’. The Cruyff concept has been imbibed by the likes of Sneijder, arguably one of the best playmakers on display, Robben, Van de Vaart and Van Persie. Netherlands now have strength in depth. Knocking on the first eleven are the prodigious talents of Klass jan Huntelaar and Afellay. The former, struck fear through defences all season. The statesman Van Bommel will need to marshall his army with all his experience if the Dutch need to avenge their World Cup disappointments.
The build up to the tournament has resulted in many changes for most other challengers to the throne. Systems, philosophies and even drastic personnel changes have been made to most national squads.
Roy Hodgon’s ‘Ingerland’ have had to deal with many injuries, which could indicate to the pressures of the premier league. The experienced coached will have to find the right blend between experience and youth. The likes of Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Scott Parker will have to perform on the international stage, where they have been found wanting, while the youthful exuberance of Chamberlain, Henderson, Jones and Welbeck will have to learn quickly. Hodgsons approach, simple and limited, will aim to add flair from the pacey Young and Walcott, while the world class talent of Rooney will have to bide its time until Matchday 3.
Blanc’s French squad has a very young squad. Tactically aware and full of guile, Les Blues will hope to continue their run of 20 games unbeaten in order to regain their status as Europe’s best. Samir Nasri, Frank Ribery, Karim Benzema and the Geordie based duo of Cabaye and Ben Arfa will have to replicate their club form and entertain crowds with trickery and pace. Could Laurent Blanc bring back the glory days?
Portugal and Italy have not had the best times during qualification, the former having to come through a qualifier to reach the group stages. Italy under Prandelli has aimed to play more attacking football, quashing the stereotypical ‘Italian Way’. The adopted Madridista Ronaldo, will now have to deal with national expectation and motivate the talents of Nani, Moutinho and Meireles, whereas the evergreen Pirlo will pull strings for the mercurial Balotelli and Cassano.
Where regulars dominate the international scenes there is always a time for the underdogs. Could the gods be kind to the men from Moscow? Or will the hosts cause a stir and be the giant killers?
Where tourists will look for scenic beauty of Ukraine and the historic nature of Poland, this holiday destination could be avoided if you yearn for something quaint. This summer will be electric, boisterous, extravagant and maybe even hooligan-like. As crowds flock the city, national kits, face paint, and chants will be the colour of the streets – all for the love of the ‘beautiful game’