Some are calling this the “Group of Death,” but bear in mind that only two teams have to advance and I feel it’s pretty clear which teams will advance.
Denmark will have to rely on Nicklas Bendtner for much of their offense, with help from gifted young attacking midfielder, Christian Eriksen. Bendtner is skilled and talented to be sure, but he has always struck me as lacking intensity to the point of nonchalance. He’ll need to be set up well and Eriksen has the playmaking skills to do that, but he has all too often seemed invisible for club and country at critical moments. Denmark’s fine goalkeeper, Thomas Sorensen is out of the tournament due to a back injury and Anders Lindegaard will probably be the starter instead. In a weaker group they might have had a chance, but I don’t see them going through.
Germany is deep in every position and plays excellent fundamental football. Their forwards scored an aggregate of 24 goals in qualifying and they have an excellent playmaker in Mesut Ozil, whose play will be critical for them if they plan to win this competition. Their goal differential was plus 27 in qualification.
The Netherlands is the other formidable team in this group. If Robin Van Persie can continue his remarkable year at Arsenal in this tournament, alongside Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who scored 48 goals in all competitions for Schalke, complemented by Rafael Van der Vaart, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder (assuming he stays healthy), they possess one of the most formidable and well balanced attacks. What will be critical for their success will be how their defense responds and this is where I would give Germany an edge in this group. Much of the talk seems to indicate that their harsh behavior in the 2010 World Cup Final is a thing of the past. I truly hope so. They have a terrific tradition of skill and lovely play. I look forward to seeing that again. They had a plus 29 goal differential in qualification
Portugal squeaked through in qualification (plus 7 goal differential including the Bosnia playoff), continues to rely primarily on Cristiano Ronaldo for much of its attack and Nani to a lesser extent and gave up 4 goals to Cyprus and 3 to Iceland in qualification. Their central midfield is fairly solid with Raúl Meirelles, João Moutinho and Miguel Veloso, but they are in a tough group.
I believe, to no one’s surprise that Germany and the Netherlands go through to the quarterfinals.
I was happy to watch international play this past weekend, even if it was only a friendly.
@MikeJ: You get no socialist football. :)
Sucks to be Miss Kitkas's Comrade Wayne
Agreed. If there’s to be an upset it will be DK over NL.
Oh, football. For a minute there I thought the Group of Death referred to negotiations over the euro.
Ajax is hoping Eriksen has a breakout tournament. They wouldn’t mind selling him for 40-50 million Euros.
pseudonymous in nc
The Dutch always find a way to disappoint the orange brigade, and I wouldn’t put it past them to miss out in this group. I’m going to assume that the Germans will show up and win the group, but the second place may end up being decided on goals scored. At very least, Portugal v. Holland is cued up nicely at the end of the group stage.
The Dutch and the Germans also have really good keepers.
Let’s see if the Orange play dirty football this time around. I used to root for them before they started playing like fucking thugs. Fuck Van Bommel.
I hope we’re getting a whole thread to talk about how Team England has let us down even before this thing starts.
Denmark should have a decent chance of pulling an upset or two so long as The Greatest Striker Who Ever Lived plays in the box and off the last defender and tries to score with his head. If he pulls his usual stunt of dropping deep to fit his fancy as a playmaker or drifting wide because he thinks he’s Henry or Ronaldo, then they will have a lot of problems. I’ve watched Bendtner a lot of Arsenal and everyone assumed that Wenger was wasting him out on the wing, but then I’ve seen him a couple times for Sunderland where he was supposed to be playing up top and he was taking up the same positions.
What amazes me is that Portugal have enough quality to play better, and yet are so awful. They had a decent World Cup in South Africa under Quieroz and their team is relatively unchanged since then, so you have to fault their coach, first and foremost. Out of his depth as they say.
For Germany, you focus on Ozil, but the real key is Pig Sticker. I was in Cape Town for the Germany – Argentina World Cup Quarterfinal and Schweinsteiger was just immense. He was everywhere, all action, all the time. The sort of player that people think Gerrard his, but Gerrard never was or could hope to be. And not just because of the superior positional/tactical discipline.
As for the Netherlands, they are truly a bunch of crocks in waiting. So injuries across the board, van Persie, van der Vaart, Robben and Sneijder are all just a kick away and since they lack depth, just one or two injuries could be a disaster. We’ll also get the chance to see if Robben is capable of completing a pass to van Persie. That is something that didn’t happen for the entire 90 minutes of the World Cup final. And barely happened during the entire tournament. You’ve gotta be selfish if you want to score goals, but Robben just takes it to a whole different plane. He’s one of those players that plays for himself and doesn’t understand the concept of team.
I think the charges of thuggishness directed against the Netherlands in 2010 were way overblown. The Spanish played an equally rough game against the Dutch, yet there was almost no wailing or gnashing of teeth about their antics. For that matter, I remember the last World Cup Final they appeared in (1978) in which Argentina really brutalized the Netherlands; not only did the refs permit it on the pitch, nobody seemed to think it was worth complaining about afterwards. I think a double standard is being applied.
@burnspbesq: They’d happily settle for half that.
@smintheus: Utter and complete bullshit. Sorry dude, but no.
You know why they call this the group of death? Because every one of these teams would advance in group A.
@BGinCHI: That’s well reasoned, you’ve convinced me. Maybe I do have just one niggling little doubt though; maybe you could explain why the Spanish were trying to injure Robben?
@smintheus: Robben is the single wingiest player in world football, and I’d gladly see him chopped down, but the Spanish aren’t your side for that. They’re busy playing great football and kicking the shit out of most other Euro sides for a few years now. The Dutch have decided, probably rightly given the players they have, to play Roy Keane style midfield. Which is a pity since they have great talent up front. I like the Dutch all around, except for this new embrace of fouling football over tough midfield play.
If you think De Jong and Van Bommel aren’t more foul than not, I have no way of convincing you that you are wrong. Those two are out to hurt people in the midfield, period. You’d be better off admitting it.
Is it a law in soccer than one group is ALWAYS called “the group of death”? Never seen a major soccer tourney w/o this moniker. Whats up wit dat?
pseudonymous in nc
Short memories here: if we’re talking about World Cup thuggishness, then you have Portugal v. Holland in 2006 (14 yellow, 4 red cards) or Harald Schumacher assaulting Patrick Battiston in 1982.
The 2010 Dutch side were rotten, but those two (and a few others) make them look like choirboys.
@BGinCHI: I never denied that De Jong and van Bommel play rough. What I said was that the Spanish played rough as well. They received 5 yellow cards and should have gotten a few more for fouls and for dives that were outlandish. The targeting of Robben was real, not an artifact of my imagination or his play acting.
The Netherlands played rough because the previous two losses had been to teams that won by roughing them up. It was a logical response, like it or not, to the way FIFA officiates Cup Finals. The Spanish responded with their own rough play because they didn’t want to get out-muscled by the Dutch…a similarly logical response to FIFA’s approach. If it’s a matter of apportioning blame, then the first and biggest share ought to go to FIFA. Trying to pretend that only this Netherlands team was in any way to blame for rough play is silly, especially when it pretends that the Netherlands’ main goal scorer was fair game.
@Punchy: Group of Death is always the hardest group from which to advance.
Alternatively, the England team could also be called the group of death. Or it could be another name for the Terry Family Christmas.
pseudonymous in nc
I think the journos are eager to anoint a GoD every time these days, but it happens often enough to be a real thing. The seeding is meant to give the top qualifiers a decent chance of progressing, but since one or two strong-on-paper teams inevitably have a tight qualification, you’ll get groups where at least one strong team will go home early. In practice, groups of death are often less competitive than ones that are predicted to have two clear favourites, because one of those theoretically-strong teams doesn’t show up.
@smintheus: The diving is not thuggish, though I agree a few Spanish players looked like South Americans with their histrionics. Spanish refs reward that shit way too much IMHO.
I hear you on changing tactics, but that’s what I said. The Dutch are playing with what they have (slower, tough midfielders), but they have also chosen to emphasize this part of their game lately, and I think it’s going to hurt them if they don’t pivot to skill. And now that they have injured players, they are going to have to be more careful.
Honestly, I’m just pissed that I can’t root for the Dutch because they have been playing Dickish football. I don’t mean tough, I mean an emphasis on violence over skill. You have to admit the Spanish have been playing pretty, effective football.
I also just CANNOT STAND Robben, so that’s making it hard to root for the Dutchies. Love Kuyt and respect everyone except the forementioned midfield dicks.
Seems like I picked the wrong two days to take a hiatus from this blog. Just now reading through the comments on Groups A and B.
Like all other reasonably sentient beings on the planet save Danes and Portuguese, I expect Germany and Holland to top this group. In fact, I rather favor Holland to win the tournament.
In terms of overall quality, the Dutch squad approximates that of its two principal rivals, Germany and Spain. Their slight advantage results from the fact that it is a better-rested squad whose members have had more time to train together. Both the Spanish and German national teams are lopsided with players whose professional clubs went deep into the Champions League and/or domestic competitions. With the punishing schedule of matches for club and country (including the ridiculous proliferation of “friendlies) demanded of today’s top players, both individual fatigue and inadequate full squad preparation are factors that could prove decisive.
As for dark horses, I think Poland or France might be in the running.
@handsmile: If I had to pick a surprise, it would be Croatia (even though Olic is hurt).
Brave to pick France. They have talent but who knows how that team is going to show… Same with the Italians.
I’d like to see Ireland play well. If they do, that’s a tough group.
@handsmile: Poland seem a guaranteed semi-finalist to me. As for France, it is really all about M’Vila’s fitness. He’s their engine room and if he is not fit, they will have problems getting the ball to Ribery or Benzema. You’ll note that I discount Nasri, because he’s a &^%&. He also has a tendency to disappear when the spotlight is on, so I don’t expect much out of him and quite think that Menez would be a better option for France.
@BGinCHI: Croatia is a good pick, but their best moment to do something was at the last Euros in 2008, but they choked against Turkey. Bilic is a great coach, but they don’t have a defense and Kranjcar is just not an international quality footballer and should not be anywhere near any national team. Srna is a great player, but he’s past his best now. My heart goes out to Eduardo and what happened to him and his career. I just think that they are going to need more than Modric and Jelavic to get far. They’ll make it out of the groups for sure, but probably not much further.
For me, Russia are the true dark horses in this tournament. They have their key players at the right age (so do France), talent, coaching and teamwork to make the final.
Germany and the Netherlands.
This is probably the toughest group, but I think they did a pretty good job at balancing the groups this time. 2008 had one particularly brutal group (Italy, France, Netherlands, and Romania).
Check out one of the stadiums they’ll be playing at: PGE Arena in Gdansk, Poland. It looks like a metallic beehive from the outside, but it looks pretty cool from the inside.
@Brandon: It’s a home stand for Russia apart from the fact that the Ukrainians and the Poles fucking hate them. But yeah, it’s close for their fans.
I’d be worried about how their good players choke in big situations. Not a fan of their game.
I can’t help but think somehow Sweden will go far and none of us will be able to figure out how they did it.
@Mark S.: Gdansk is a great town. Pierogi capital of the world.
Can you say “Ibrahimovich?”
Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again)
I’ve had Germany as a very slight favorite over Spain in this tournament since World Cup ’10 wrapped up. If Germany doesn’t win this tournament, I’ll still have them as the favorite in Brazil (dependent upon their health, of course).
I’ve described that final to my friends who watch (American) football but not football as the best 1970’s Raiders-Steelers game they never saw, with the Dutch in the role of the Raiders. If you recall, the Raiders brought out the worst in the Steelers- who were capable of of playing a high energy, high scoring game as well as a punch-you-in-the-face game- back in the day. The Netherlands certainly brought out the punch-you-in-the-face version of Spanish football that day.
Not a big soccer fan, but I enjoyed watching the Netherlands’ style of play last time out. A pleasantly fast-paced counterpoint to Italy’s style, which I found to be stereotypically…well, soccer.
Damn, thought the games would be earlier in the day, so I would be able to watch them before going into work. Looks like I’ll miss just about all of them.
Thank God for DVR. I hope I can avoid the spoilers on Twitter before I watch.
Germany-Netherlands will be a great match. Unless de Jong decides to decapitate Ozil.
Italy’s got a bad reputation even by soccer’s standards. :P
Apparently, one can come to appreciate the defense-minded style if one consistently watches a league where the only winning hope of the less-financially-endowed side is to bunker and counter against the Yankee-money teams.
(But doesn’t that describe the financial state of, like, almost all of Europe’s leagues at the moment? And they definitely don’t all bunker down.)
MLS isn’t cream of the crop, but I wouldn’t like the frustration of fans of, say, every team in La Liga other than Barca and Real Madrid knowing that they can’t even hope for a sniff at a trophy in the near future.
You guys know a lot more about politics than about football.
Please pay attention to Ibrahim Afellay this tournament for the Dutch, he will join the other greats like Robben, van Persie, vd Vaart, Sneijder and Huntelaar to make the Dutch beat the Germans in the finals.
Stephan Andersen will be Denmarks goalkeeper, not Lindegaard.
Indeed. While Robben is truly a wanker, he’s one of those guys that can take a team on his back through shear brilliance. Ask Chelsea fans about the 10-game stretch back in ’04/’05 for example (Morinho’s first championship – I might have the season wrong). Bayern’s place in the CL final a couple of years back is another example of where he did a “Danny Manning/Carmelo Anthony NCAA BBall championship” thing.
The only way the Dutch were going to win the World Cup final, especially with Van Persie still nursing an injury, was to disrupt the tiki-tak short passing style of Iniesta, Xavi, et al. Switzerland (of all teams) in the group phase showed how it could be done if everything broke correctly. As you can see from this thread, most people only remember the results or certain moments, but not the overall play. The Dutch had played this way the entire tournament (and in the qualifiers before this) – let Van Bommel and DeJong disrupt the playmakers from the other team and let your own playmakers win a 5 v. 6 battle; the Spanish just didn’t let them get intimidated, like the Brazilians were the game before that.
It’s also real simple, Howard Webb was absolutely awful in the final too – he let way too much go, and by the time it got out of hand, it was too late. The Spanish also were diving all over the place as well; it unfortunately has become part of the game which can only be stopped if they actually did some fining or suspending of players after video conference or by means of shaming, which Chelsea did with Drogba when he first arrived in Britain.
They almost succeeded if Robben had actually finished the chances he got.
Question for Randinho – you are not discussing the German defense or the lack of depth on their squad as well. Was giving up 5 in that friendly just an anomaly or a symptom of a larger problem? Another issue will be that the German squad consists of a large contingent of Real Madrid and Bayern players, both of whom have played 80-90 games in the past year. Thomas Muller, for example, was so good in the World Cup because he made those “I don’t give a shit, but I am making that run anyway” runs that paid off for him – ask the Brits about him, for example. Now that he is been around the block a couple of years, I don’t see him repeating that again.
My prediction for the entire tournament is that stars that have not featured regularly in their club sides last season because of injuries or bad form or because they got knocked out early of the Champions League will do better than people think. Fernando Torres and Wesley Sneijder come to mind first there. To bring this full circle, mentioning Affelay make me think of that point in the first place – he is another who had a knee injury and is just coming back from that.
@Brandon: I think if you compare Ozil’s play for Real Madrid (he led UEFA in assists) as well as his play in qualification, he has outshone Schweinsteiger lately.
@DBaker: I honestly don’t know regarding Germany’s defense. I still believe that they will get out of the group stage and I make no predictions beyond that.
@Charley Dutch: I’m sure that you know the old saying about opinions :-)
@handsmile: If you check back, spot on about Kuyt. Great player and a credit to the game. We’ll see if they can replace him. I doubt it (grass is not always greener).
I have access to espn3 at work. And my boss is away for the month of June….
@pseudonymous in nc: That Portugal-Holland game became nearly unwatchable–Nasty. Kept wondering if the players would eventually just start throwing punches. Needless to say my old man dad enjoyed watching that game.
That’s b/cm my theory for World Cups, too. And anytime crazy American fans want their current USA favorite to go to an EPL team and not a Euro league w/ a winter break. Players get run into the ground w/ so many club games. They need regeneration.
Much like Dirk Kuyt, I always check back to defend (my opinions). :)
His qualities will be very hard to replace; indeed his selflessness and esprit de corps are already endangered traits in contemporary football. Certainly Joe Cole, if he returns from Lille, isn’t up to the assignment. (And rumored Liverpool target Clint Dempsey doesn’t possess Kuyt’s array of talent.)
It will surely depend on the amount of the line of credit that Brendan Rodgers can extract from John Henry/FSG for transfers, particularly after Daglish’s profligate expenditures.
@handsmile: I agree completely. I’m always amazed teams will let quality guys go to chase someone who might marginally improve something but will not replace that irreplaceable quality. Sir Alex has always been VERY VERY good at keeping these types of players, and that’s why those fuckers ALWAYS win.
If you have assholes or selfish pricks, you’ll win some games and probably some trophies, but you won’t win a cabinet full of them.
Joe Cole inspires no enthusiasm. Dempsey is good and works hard, but I don’t see how he fits into the system. We need Modric or someone who can make passes from in front of midfield.
Dempsey wants to play CL football and I don’t think he’ll go to Liverpool for that reason.
@Randy Paul: Yep. Doubt he’s going to Liverpool.
@Randy Paul: That hurts.
@BGinCHI: Sorry, it wasn’t meant to. It’s just that is what he has stated publicly that he wants.
Those of us who root for The Arsenal know that counting on Bendtner is a path that ends in disappointment, alienation, and (possibly) alcoholism. You will find few better examples of overweening self-confidence lacking any objective foundation.
@Randy Paul: It’s probably true is what hurts….
@handsmile: No, I don’t like Man City at all. The Mets of the EPL. Adam didn’t get the job done. Good left foot but not creative/dynamic enough.
Thus, why those of us who grimly endured Bendtner’s “overweening self-confidence lacking any objective foundation” and petulance during his tenure at the Emirates are gleefully anticipating the brimming liters of schadenfreude to be quaffed during his misadventures for Denmark before a vast international audience.