Euro 2012 expects increased competition

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Author: Oliver Field

A once-in-a-generation Spanish team will attempt to make history at the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine this summer. However, Spain will find it challenging to overcome the competition. As the defending champion, Spain will look to retain its title for the first time in the history of the competition, but Germany, Netherlands and Portugal will look to corrupt its chances of a repeat.

Spain, who has dominated the international soccer scene for the past four years, will field a similar squad as their 35 game winning streak between 2007 and 2009. Boasting players such as Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas in the midfield, it can easily be argued that Spain is the favorite. The trio plays together for Barcelona, a team many fans and analysts consider to be the top club team in the world. Barcelona’s chemistry and style of play directly translate to the possession approach that Spain has been employing en route to world domination, but the team has not looked as invincible lately. With an unconvincing patch of games and a few key players out of the mix, Spain will have to try new tactics for victory.

Though Spain’s forwards are not the focal point of their squad, the country is still always endowed with a wealth of great strikers to finish off the passes from the midfield. 

This year will be slightly different, however, as lead man David Villa has been sidelined since breaking his left foot in December. Recent reports by ESPN indicate he may just be ready to be featured in some matches, but he will be returning from a six month layoff and will certainly take some time to regain his conditioning. This leaves duties to Fernando Torres, the once prolific, now troubled striker who has failed to live up to the hype following a high profile move to Chelsea last year. Villa and Torres’ inconsistency will surely prove to be an obstacle as Spain looks to reclaim their crown.

In addition to Spain, Germany is among the list of probable contenders for a Euro 2012 title. After falling short in the final game four years ago, Germany will be ready for revenge. They have flirted with success in recent tournaments, including a third place finish at the 2010 World Cup but have been unable to go all the way since 1996. A recent crop of new talent has changed the dynamic of the national team and provided ample personnel to develop an attacking approach to the game. With second all time World Cup scorer Miroslav Klose at the helm, complemented by young players like Lukas Podolski and creative midfielder Memut Ozil, the Germans have plenty of attacking options and a balance between youthfulness and experience.

Portugal has always been considered a perennial underachiever. Its closest taste of glory came at the 2004 Euros when it hosted the event, only to fall in the final to underdog Greece. However, if its superstars can gel, Portugal will be a tough team to stop. The country has a reputation for producing talented wingers, and this year’s squad, which includes Danny and Nani, is no different. 

Former world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo will captain the squad after yet another successful club season. His 43 goals (and counting) for Real Madrid are a La Liga record, and if he can find the same form during the tournament than they have a legitimate shot.

Last but not least, the Netherlands will surely provide a strong challenge if they can build off their second place world cup finish. The team is the closest to Spain in terms of technical ability and boast one of the world’s top strikers in Robin Van Persie. The Premier League’s best player will headline an attack that could have gone home with the trophy in South Africa had they converted on a couple of chances in the final. Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Rafael Van der Vaart will provide the creativity in the middle of the pitch to open up the game for Van Persie to work his magic.

The incredible teamwork and trademark passing play will surely lead Spain deep into the tournament, but it may not see them through to the title. Fortunately for Spain, however, is that Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands are all in the same opening group, which means that at least one of the three will not even make it to knockout rounds. 

Should Spain triumph in Warsaw and earn its third straight major championship, it will solidify their claim as one of the greatest national sides of all time. But all great things come to an end, and Germany hopes they can make that end sooner rather than later.

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