We're just about half way through Euro 2008 (in matches if not stages) and I think it's fair to say it hasn't let us down. I'll start in group A, where hosts Switzerland have already been ousted and star studded Portugal lead the way. I don't want to say too much about the fact Switzerland and Austria both qualified for this tournament automatically, being hosts of this event. It's the only way for small countries to get a slice of the pie and with Scotland always a potential joint host, I'd be silly to criticise. I think it's clear though that such a move has it's consequences and Euro 2008 is definitely missing another competitive side. Maybe a system where they're is a major host (and that country qualifies) and they make use of a neighbouring countries infrastructure? One point from what I suspect will be six games for the two host countries is definately a situation I believe that could use some looking into! Portugal are through to the quarter finals but I wouldn't say they look like world beaters and certainly haven't impressed like the Dutch. They are though, more than capable of winning this tournament. The battle for second is a touchy subject. The Czech Republic have been a little disappointing but should have too much for Turkey in the deciding game. Turkey showed their character in fighting back from 1-0 down against hosts Switzerland to win 2-1 and their fans will expect a win. Sadly, it may well have done them more damage than good. A hard win on a heavy pitch won't have done the legs any favours. So Portugal and the Czech Republic to emerge out of group A. You wouldn't have many outside Switzerland and Turkey too surprised by that.
Group B like group A, wasn't exactly hard to predict but I suppose it isn't over till the fat lady sings. Croatia's thrilling 2-1 victory over Germany was a surprise to many but not to me. I struggled to understand why people had Germany among their favourites for the tournament. Austria can't wait for a bite at their German neighbours after their display against the Croats. I wouldn't bet on an Austrian result though. I'm just saying I wouldn't bet on Germany winning Euro 2008 either! We often see players playing against the country of their birth these days, usually though, they're playing for an adopted nation as they were never in the reckoning for a call up to their own national team. It is sad though to see Poland starved of a talent like Lukas Podolski. I'm not sure of the whole story and therefore won't go into the subject in detail. I just hope it's not a case of wanting to play for a more successful country than your country of birth! Podolski for all I know, may be as Polish as Andy Goram was Scottish. That though is another story. Croatia and Germany will see the quarterfinals at least. Before the tournament started there was only one group worth talking about and in a way it's lived up to it's billing but in two others, it's been so disappointing!
Group C pits World Champions Italy against World Cup runners up France, the magnificent Dutch and the more than capable Romanians. Holland have been on fire as they thrashed Italy 3-0 and France 4-1. The dutch are it's said playing total football and you'd be hard pressed to disagree! They are though perennial underachievers, and I'm just not sure they'll win this tournament. Their attacking skill and potential is probably unmatched in the competition but at the back they are relying heavily on Edwin Van Der Saar. The back line may have performed well up until now but they must win three of the next four games to lift the trophy. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst has played well but in my opinion, I don't think he's a defender. Andre Ooijer was left out the last two Europen Championship squads by Frank Rijkaard and Dick Advocaat. I wonder why? There must be a question mark about his ability at this level. Khalid Boulahrouz is in my humble opinion 'dodgy' and with the likes of Mario Melchiot and Wilfred Bouma in reserve, it wouldn't get any better. I'd love to see the Netherlands win EURO 2008, especially the way they are playing. I just think they are vulnerable and will at some stage slip up. Whether they can grind it out though, remains to be seen. Italy and France's capitualtions at the hands of Holland and they're inability to beat Romania have left them staring down the barrel. A draw between the world cup finalists and a narrow loss for Romania against Holland, would see the Romanians advance with just two points! Who'd have predicted that! Now there's something I would bet on, Holland and Romania to advance!
Finally we move on to group D, where defending Champions Greece are defending no more! Funnily enough, because they can't defend! In fact, they couldn't score either and with the Russians only narrowly beating the Greeks 1-0 last night, I'd say it'll be bye bye to them too. Sweden have surprised a few people but why? Sweden are Sweden and always there! Spain are like the Portuguese and the Dutch. Always amongst the favourites and always out pretty early! This year though they've joined the above mentioned in the quarter finals already, thanks among others to Valencia's David Villa, who's late late winner last night against Sweden (2-1) was his fourth goal in just two games. So Spain and Sweden to advance from group D but who'll win the whole thing?
It would be easy to say Spain, Portugal or Holland so I'll say that!
Just don't count out my conquering heroes, Croatia!