The Euro tournament is always loaded with plenty of drama and excitement. Anything can happen.
In Euro 2004 in Portugal, Greece went all the way and beat the home team in the final to win it all as a 150-1 underdog. Then in 2008, the Russians shocked Holland in the quarter finals only to lose to Spain, who came into the tournament as the heavy favorite.
Spain and Germany are favored to win it all this year. But this is not the same Spanish squad that won the World Cup in 2010 and the last Euro in 2008.
Their leader and captain, Carles Puyol, is out following knee surgery. David Villa, Spain’s all-time leading scorer, will also miss the tournament after suffering a serious leg injury earlier in the year. Fernando Torres has struggled to stay in Chelsea’s lineup this season and was left off the national team due to poor play, but will be available for the Euros.
The tournament kicks off on 8 June at 9:00AM PST.
Greater Expectations – Holland
Spain is the favorite after winning the World Cup, but who did they play in the final? That’s right, Holland was just a goal away from hoisting that trophy.
In Euro 2008, Holland dominated in the group stages, outscoring opponents by a score of 9-1 in three matches. They looked like the team to beat until suffering a shocking extra-time loss to Russia. Unlike Spain, the Dutch are healthy, with their key players on top form.
Robin Van Persie is having probably the best year of his career as the leading scorer of the English Premier League with 37 goals in all competitions. Holland is deep and loaded with talent.
Their only issue is that they have a reputation for underachieving in big tournaments. You know what? Prior to 2008, Spain had the very same reputation.
The Dark Horse – Sweden
The Swedes are a long shot, there is no doubt about that, but they have enough talent to make life uncomfortable for their opponents.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will need to be at his best to give them a chance to win. Sweden comes into the tournament however, winning eight of their last 10 qualifying matches, including an upset over the powerhouse Dutch. The Swedes proved they can compete with the world’s best in past competitions, making the quarterfinals in 2004, and the semifinals back in 1992.
There are no easy groups in the tournament and nobody in Group D is unbeatable. Sweden has a shot to get out of the group stages and anything can happen from there.
The Golden Boot – Robin Van Persie
The Dutchman has been having himself quite a season for Arsenal in England’s Premier League, scoring 31 times in league play. The only other players in this competition that have this kind of ability to fill the net are playing for teams that are less likely to go deep into the tournament.
The Golden Boot Dark Horse – Wayne Rooney
Rooney didn’t have a great World Cup in South Africa and he wasn’t that impressive in 2008 at the Euros either, but he did dominate this tournament in 2004.
He is coming off a fantastic season for Manchester United, scoring 27 goals, second only to Van Persie in league scoring. Rooney does have the scoring ability, and while he is suspended for the first two games, and England may be less likely to go deep into to the tournament than Spain, Germany or Holland, he is surrounded by a skilled squad that is very capable and has no expectations weighing them down.