5 reasons why an epic Euro 2012 awaits us
I write about football, a lot. I'm also a graphic & web designer. Life-long NUFC fan, and fulltime admirer of Moussa Dembélé..
|BettingExpert/Betfair Euro 2012 blog correspondent entry profile|
|Kevin Doocey is the founder and sole writer of TyneTime.com, a dedicated Newcastle United as well as contributing to various newspapers and other football websites.|
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Whenever EURO2008 is mentioned, the first game that pops into my head is probably one you wouldn't expect. It isn't the final between Spain and Germany. It's not one of the semi-finals either.
It is however that match between Croatia and Turkey; one of the most entertaining games at a European Championship that I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Finishing scoreless after the final whistle - a scoreline that bemused anyone watching - the game went to extra time. With just a minute on the clock, and the referee set to blow for penalties: magic happened. Ivan Klasnic popped up with a header to seemingly send Croatia through to the SF's, only for Turkey and Semih Senturk to announce their arrival on the scene in dying seconds, with a screamer from outside the box. The equaliser happened to be the final kick of the extra time period.
Two goals in the space of a minute to send the game to penalties; a penalty shootout which Turkey went on to win. The ecstasy, the despair - two emotions that swapped sides in a matter of minutes. It even left me feeling physically drained, and I had no allegiance to either side!
Four years on, we are gearing up for another tournament, one which Turkey will not compete in if that's any relief to Croatia fans.
Like any major football occasion, fans are expectant, there is renewed belief - as lovers of the beautiful game we anticipate an exciting campaign. Fortunately, come June, I think we might just have an epic Euro 2012 tournament on our hands. Why? For a number of reasons.
Actually, just 5.
1 - Spain
I think it fair to say that the last five years of world football have most certainly belonged to Spain as a nation. The generation of players that clubs in Spain have produced - Barcelona in particular - will live long in the memory of people involved in the beautiful game. Indeed, Spain play the game at it's beautiful best, their passing and movement a joy to behold. It has captivated the footballing world. It has also been responsible for Spain reigning victorious in EURO2008, and in South Africa as they captured the 2010 World Cup. Barcelona continued the trend by winning every possible trophy domestically, as well as seizing the Champions League two times in such a short period of time.
In under a months time, Spain will again look to retain their title, this time in Poland & Ukraine. Things are not so straight forward this time however. After years of footballing dominance, Spanish football has seemingly reached it's pinnacle. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid crashed out of the Champions League at home this season, with the master behind the Catalans success announcing his resignation from the game for the time being. All is not well with the Spanish game. As a country, they face their biggest challenge yet - play the game their way, and win the trophy for a second time in a row.
2 - France
World Cup 2010 was one to forget for France, to say the least. After qualifying courtesy of Thierry Henry's left-hand, they went on to finish bottom of the group - failing to win a single match. The squad fell out with their manager and at one point even refused to train for their upcoming game. They jetted home, and the people of Ireland were the happiest to see them go.
Fast forward to 2012 and it's a different scenario. France are gearing up for EURO2012 with a far different looking squad to the one Raymond Domenech pushed out to Africa a couple of years ago. The likes of Newcastle United's Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa, Lyon's Bafetimbi Gomis, Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny form the team that will hope to restore pride to the French nation in June. As outsiders, France will be certainly be a team to watch in this tournament. They are wounded beasts, with a team that could well surprise everyone and go on to win the trophy. Their resurgence or indeed renaissance under Laurent Blanc - which will be evident in Poland & Ukraine in a few weeks time - will make EURO 2012 an intriguing competition indeed.
3 - Germany
History will tell you Germany are never too far away, in any tournament they take part in. Runners-up in the 2008 outing; semi-finalists in the 2006 & 2010 World Cup's - they know how to play in a major tournament. Fortunately for them, German football is beginning to reach a stage where trophies will come, and very soon. With a young, fast, and attacking side that feature players such as Mesut Ozil, Thomas Müller, and Mario Götze; EURO 2012 could well be in for a real treat.
As we all know, games in this competition are often decided by penalties and the Germans are renowned for their quality from the spot. A recent example of that would be Bayern Munich's victory over Real Madrid on penalties to reach the Champions League Final. Although they face the toughest group in the tournament, I have no doubt they will progress to the next round and in doing so, knock a couple of 'big-guns' out. They have the players, the manager and the ability to go all the way this year; the stage is set to see whether their time may well have come to conquer Europe (footballing-wise) yet again.
4 - England
Major international competitions and England haven't gone well together in the last decade or so, it doesn't take a genius to spot that. Failing to qualify for the last European Championship, and being humiliated by Germany in South Africa two years ago - people cannot understand why the English haven't performed anywhere near their potential in recent times. As they prepare for this years outing however, expectations have never been lower. New manager Roy Hodgson is set to name his own team, which could see John Terry being left at home among others. We'll be seeing a different England team this June, but one that might well out-do predictions.
Hodgson is a very good manager that can turn average players into capable squad members. Somehow, I think we'll see a far better showing from the side this year, compared to years previous. They'll be a hardworking team with a strong back four, and forwards that can score goals. The difference this year however, is that Roy will gain control of the team, something Capello was not able to do. Keep an eye on the English in Ukraine this year, they might surprise you, in a good way.
5 - Republic of Ireland
It has been a long time since the Republic of Ireland qualified for a European Championship, 24 years to be precise, and the team are hoping to make it a memorable return. For some members of the current squad, 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan happened to be their last big tournament outing, most notably Damien Duff, Robbie Keane and Shay Given. This year, their style of football is completely different to anything the Boys in Green have played before. Managed by the experienced Giovani Trappatoni, the Italian has enforced a defensive mentality into the team, with little emphasis on beautiful football.
The same type of football nearly brought Ireland to the 2010 World Cup, so it most certainly does yield results, as boring as it may be to watch. The interesting thing about it all though, is the fact Ireland have Spain, Italy and Croatia in their group - a very difficult bunch to say the least. As much as it's expected that Spain and Italy will qualify with the Croatians in 3rd - I think Ireland could spring a massive shock and emerge from the group. Spain's beautiful football will have a difficult task breaking through Trappatoni's defensive setup, and even Italy will have to alter their style to beat us too. The Irish bring a different type of football to EURO2012, a brand of their own that will frustrate their opponents and could inevitably knock better opposition out. Don't be too surprised if Ireland squeeze into the next round.
Without doubt, EURO2012 in Poland and Ukraine has the makings of a memorable tournament. The drama, the goals, the pressure, the tackles, the misses - all part and parcel of the game. Who will lift the Henri Delaunay trophy I don't know, but what I do know, is that we'll get some epic entertainment from this upcoming footballing spectacle.
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