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Saturday, 16 June 2012

Euro 2012 Group Stages- Round 3 (June 16-19)

The Euro 2012 tournament is already half way through as far as matches are concerned and I have to say I haven't been overly impressed with the quality, although that hasn't dampened the excitement of the matches. There just seems to be very few stand-out players and perhaps it is just me being a little nostalgic for the tournaments I enjoyed when I was growing up.

I also don't believe it is right that the tournament will be extended to 24 teams in four years time as I already feel the talent pool is being stretched with the teams we have here now. Adding the likes of Belgium, Montenegro, Estonia, Turkey, Bosnia and Norway doesn't exactly thrill me that we will be getting any more out of the event, while the potential for the 'best third placed' teams to get through brings its own problems at the group stage.

Don't be surprised if there are more 'convenient' results set up in the final round of games to make sure teams have the 'best third place points' and ensure qualification to the next round, but that is an issue for four years time.

There is still everything to play for in Group A as we reach the final games and a big chance for the co-host nation Poland to get through, although they have to create history by winning their first EVER game at the European Championships. It looks a winnable game against the Czech Republic, but hope and expectations are tough factors to actually determine how much they will affect a game. It may just be how Poland deal with those two issues that will ensure a place in the last eight or an unsatisfying exit from the group stage.

The other game seems a little more clear cut and Russia are the right favourites to get the point necessary to ensure they are playing in the Quarter Finals for the second successive Euro Championships. Greece have looked shaky and it is hard to see them turn that around in their final game, while Russia do look like a side that can score a few goals.

I can't wait for the Portugal-Holland game in Group B on Sunday evening as it should be one where neither team sits back and tries to protect a lead. It has all the makings of an extremely high-scoring game as Holland need to win by at least two goals if they have any hope of getting out of a group where they have lost their first two games. I don't have much faith in either teams ability to defend and I think the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie could be given a few chances to make a real mark at the tournament.

Unfortunately for those two nations, one of them will definitely be exiting on Sunday night, while both could go out if Holland win and Denmark avoid defeat to Germany. The Germans have looked solid and have won the group by beating the two 'better' nations in the group and will be expected to seal their passage into the last eight with another win.

However, am I really the only person that thinks Germany may be happy to play out a draw and hope that Holland beat Portugal to ensure both potential threats are eliminated at the group stage? It is a dangerous game as a Denmark win/Portugal fail to win could see Germany displaced at the top of the group and thus ensure a tougher route to the Final, but it is something worth noting.

For example, imagine if news comes through to the German game that Holland have taken an early lead in their game- would it really be that unimaginable that both Germany and Denmark then settle in and wait to see what happens next? Probably is a little too far into the world of conspiracy theories, but I would be VERY interested to see how the Germany-Denmark game developed IF Holland were winning by two goals before any goals have been scored in Lviv.

Talking about potential conspiracies, how about the fact that if Spain and Croatia draw 2-2, Italy will be out no matter what they do against Ireland in their fixture? Italy will know all about that 2-2 result as it was exactly what Denmark and Sweden played out in 2004 to knock the Italians out of the Euro 2004 tournament at this very stage, and it is clear that a team that has the majority of players in the Serie A League affected by match-fixing scandals are clearly worried about this possibility.

It has gone so far that Italian players like Gianluigi Buffon has been quoted as saying that Spain wouldn't do this for their pride. It has also riled up some of the Spanish and Croatian players who are adamant that they will not do this, but it is definitely a possibility that has to be considered- Spain would still win the group, Croatia would go through and a potential big rival in Italy would be out of the competition so everyone (well not the Italians) would win.

Anyway, this is all suggesting the Italy result over Ireland is a 'gimme' and I don't believe that is the case no matter how bad the Irish have played so far in the tournament. Giovanni Trapattoni will really get his team up for his game and it was the one game the Irish really fancied for some reason so I expect them to put in a big effort.

Add in the fact that Italy have struggled to maintain their tempo and performance for a full game so far in the tournament and there is every chance the Irish can sneak a result that will put Italy out of the competition anyway.

It will be a tough game for the Italians, but it would be made all the tougher if the 2-2 scoreline haunts them again.

France have virtually got two feet into the Quarter Finals of the tournament thanks to their 0-2 win over the Ukraine yesterday and they either need one point from their last game with Sweden OR they need England to avoid defeat to Ukraine to ensure they are going through.

Even if France lost 0-1 to Sweden in their final game, an England loss would also see them through to the next round so they are in a really strong position. Their motivation for the game against Sweden may well be decided on Monday night once they figure out if finishing first or second will avoid meeting Spain in the Quarter Finals- I think the French are likely good enough to decide their own fate in the group and I expect they will do what it takes to avoid playing Spain.

The other game between Ukraine and England will be fascinating as a win would guarantee a place in the last eight, while England can also sit back and avoid defeat to make their way out of the group. It was a dramatic turnaround win over Sweden that has given England this leeway in their final game, but there were some real worries with the way they defended and I think they were fortunate to be playing a poor Swedish side in all honesty.

Ukraine didn't look all that much against France either so I think England, with the returning Wayne Rooney, will do enough to qualify. However, things will get a lot tougher with Spain most likely their opponents in the Quarter Finals so there is plenty to look forward to as the tournament marches on.

June 16th
Poland v Czech Republic Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14476-Poland-v-Czech-Republic.htm)

Greece v Russia Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14477-Greece-v-Russia.htm)

June 17th
Denmark v Germany Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14488-Denmark-v-Germany.htm)

Portugal v Holland Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14489-Portugal-v-Holland.htm)

June 19th
Sweden v France Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14506-Sweden-v-France.htm)

Ukraine v England Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14507-Ukraine-v-England.htm)

MY PICKS: Poland to win and at least 3 goals to be scored (Quatro) @ 4.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Russia win both halves @ 5.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Germany to win both halves @ 4.50 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Portugal-Holland Over 4.5 goals @ 6.00 Bodog (1 Unit)
France to win and 3/4 goals scored @ 3.75 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
England to win and 3/4 goals scored @ 4.50 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

Euro 2012 Update: 6-12, - 0.26 Units (28 Units Staked)

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