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Thursday, 21 June 2012

Euro 2012 Quarter Final Picks (June 21-24)

I can't believe we have already reached the Quarter Finals of the European Championships in Poland/Ukraine- it seems the tournament only started yesterday, but it has been a busy month for sports so I guess that, along with work, has seen the time pass much quicker than would have been expected.

Anyway, all that means is we are getting closer and closer to the start of the Premier League season again with slightly under two months to go until kick off!

Group A saw a surprising turn of events in the group stage as Russia, who had won their first game 4-1 against the Czech Republic, actually exited the competition, while the Czech Republic went on to not just qualify, but actually win the group!!

I didn't much rate the Czech Republic before the tournament began, and I don't particularly rate them now, and the fact that they won the group says to me that Group A was arguably even weaker than I imagined before the tournament began.

Russia will be kicking themselves as they could not take their chances in their last two games against Poland and Greece, eventually losing 0-1 to Greece when any kind of positive result would have seen them through to the next round. It was a real surprise turn of events and I just didn't see it coming, not after the way they played in the first game. They will be severely disappointed back home with the showing of the side, but I think they will bounce back and be in contention for playing at the World Cup in 2014 where they will look to regain their reputation.

Group B was labelled the 'group of death' and it was the case for Holland who went out of the tournament with a little more than a whimper- three defeats, just two goals scored and it was all over for the Dutch. It seems to be the case that the dressing room just can't get on with one another during these major tournaments (2010 World Cup being an exception rather than the rule), while tactically they looked a mess at times.

Portugal and Germany were the two teams who got out of the group and I think both have very real chances of reaching the Final on July 1st, with a small possibility that they could face each other again after Germany beat Portugal 1-0 in the opening group game.

IF Cristiano Ronaldo can fire, Portugal look a real threat in this competition, although they are likely to meet Spain in the Semi Final. I expect they will be too good for the Czech Republic in the Quarter Finals and they look a real dark horse contender.

Everyone knows about Germany and they may be secretly quite happy with the way their route to the Final has worked out. They will be heavily favoured to beat the Greeks in the Quarter Final and would then face the winner of the England-Italy game, a winner that they will not fear.

It was almost one of the big surprises of the competition as Spain were labouring in their game with Croatia and the latter were presented an absolute sitter to take the lead, a lead that would have seen them leapfrog Spain in the standings and join Italy in the last eight.

However, it was not to be for Croatia but Spain look every bit the vulnerable favourites I thought they were at the beginning of the tournament. It is clear they are lacking a real forward who they can rely on (even reduced to picking Cesc Fabregas ahead of Fernando Llorente), while the defence has never looked so vulnerable.

For all the possession Spain have, both Italy and Croatia created some real openings against them and I think it would now almost be a surprise to me to see the Spanish win their third major international competition on the bounce.

Italy joined Spain in the Quarter Finals, but they haven't really impressed me that much in the competition- for sixty minutes they have looked a solid team, but they seem to lack the stamina to see out games and have looked vulnerable in the final 20-30 minutes of games. It's hard to imagine a team being able to win a big prize with that as a major concern, especially as the defence has not been as tough as would be expected of the Italians.

Personally, I think it would be quite an achievement for them to reach the Semi Finals, let alone go on and actually win the tournament.

Roy Hodgson has really set his England side up well in the tournament, although he has also been gifted with a bit of fortune to see them through to the Quarter Finals. Ukraine should have had an equaliser in the final game of the group and it would have been interesting to see how England would have coped with the boisterous atmosphere and lifted opponents if the score had reached 1-1 with 20 minutes to play.

England haven't been impressive, but have shown some toughness and resilience to get through the group and we have seen other teams ride their luck to big tournament wins in cup competitions already this season (Chelsea) so it is a little premature to rule England out completely.

It may take a little more luck, especially if they get through and were to meet Germany in the Semi Final, but the expectation is definitely beginning to rise in England- just take a walk to the water cooler at work and I guarantee you at least one person will say 'England CAN win this'!

Laurent Blanc guided France through to the Quarter Final but was visibly upset that they lost their final group game to eliminated Sweden and now have to face Spain instead of Italy in the last eight. I just haven't been convinced about France in the tournament as Karim Benzema's insistence on coming back deep to pick up the ball means there are little or no runners coming from midfield to exploit gaps and teams can remain compact against them.

I don't know if that is something they can change at this stage of a tournament, but it does make it hard to see them winning the trophy with the way they have played. England coped pretty effectively for the most part against the French attacks, as did Sweden, so you have to think the likes of Spain and Portugal are not too upset at having to deal with them.

June 21st
Czech Republic v Portugal Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14519-Czech-Republic-v-Portugal.htm)

June 22nd
Germany v Greece Pick: Thanks to my laptop dying on me for the millionth time over the last 12 months, I didn't get a chance to write a full preview for this game.

However, I will be taking Germany to win by a couple of goals at least as I think they are far too good for a Greece team that have been defending averagely at best. Forget the clean sheet against Russia, they have allowed opportunities and the Germans definitely have the quality to hurt them.

If Germany get ahead, you can only see bad things happening to the Greeks today and I think they are just happy to be here- you never know though, maybe Germany will hit the post numerous times, miss some sitters and Greece will get a lucky goal on the counter (with the way my luck has been in this tournament, that is more than a slim possibility).

Still, if Germany play like they can, I expect they will win by 3 or 4 tonight in a one-sided Quarter Final and so I will take then on the Asian Handicap.

June 23rd
Spain v France Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14529-Spain-v-France.htm)

June 24th
Suffice to say, I was very unimpressed with a 92nd minute penalty that was awarded to Spain yesterday which pretty much ruined a game that I had almost capped perfectly... It's been happening all season with stupid late goals, so I am not that surprised.

It just seems a touch ironic that I back goals in the Portugal game and they decide to miss about 500 clear cut chances and we get 1 goal, yet in this game we have maybe 3 chances and we get 2 goals... Just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, but bloody annoying I tells you!

England v Italy Preview (http://goonersguide.com/football-pick-14532-England-v-Italy.htm)

MY PICKS: Portugal to win and 3/4 goals scored @ 3.75 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Germany - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Pinnacle (3 Units)
Spain-France Under 1.5 Goals @ 3.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Italy HT-Draw FT @ 17.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Euro 2012 Update: 7-16, - 1.11 Units (35 Units Staked)

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