Euro 2012 preview: Ireland

June 6, 2012
Euro 2012 preview: Ireland

It is a decade since Ireland last qualified for a major international tournament, and the three biggest stars from the 2002 World Cup will represent Ireland again here – Shay Given in goal, Damien Duff on the wing and Robbie Keane upfront.

They’re probably still the three biggest stars, which rather sums up Ireland’s situation – they don’t have any world class footballers, and that has been foremost in Giovanni Trapattoni’s mind since he took charge of Ireland.

Trapattoni has focused upon creating a solid, reliable unit. Everything he says is about the system, about discipline. “I have given them balance, an equilibrium, and I have underlined that all 11 players attack and defend, without necessarily expecting to play well,” he once said. His quotes are celebrated, his playing style is not. Ireland are ultra-defensive. “In the past had ships with sails and they had to go wherever it was the wind took them,” Trapattoni says. ”Now, you can set a course and that is what I have done with this team. But if you depart from the course, then you end up on the rocks.” Read more »

Euro 2012 preview: Germany

June 5, 2012
Euro 2012 preview: Germany

They didn’t win the competition, but Germany hit the greatest heights at World Cup 2010. While Spain embarked on a series of controlled but rather uninspiring 1-0 victories, Germany hit four goals past Australia, England and Argentina.

The problem was, those matches tended to be won with predominantly counter-attacking football. It’s a little harsh to criticise in this respect – you can hardly blame Germany for scoring early, the opposition having to come forward more and then Germany hitting them on the break – but the contrast in styles during their defeat to Spain in the semi-final was obvious. Spain were about proactively pressing and winning the ball high up, Germany wanted to counter.

But once Spain went 1-0 up, Germany could no longer counter as Spain weren’t leaving spaces at the back. Furthermore, they found it difficult to come out of their shell and press to win the ball. They had to become a more proactive side. Read more »

Euro 2012 preview: Portugal

June 5, 2012
Euro 2012 preview: Portugal

Such is their habit for producing a certain type of footballer, it rather feels like we’ve encountered a Portugal side with these strengths and weaknesses many times before.

Portugal is home to the superstar winger. For years their highest-profile player has resided on the flank – first Luis Figo, then Cristiano Ronaldo – with a slight overlap between the two. Simao Sabrosa, Ricardo Quaresma and Nani have all been hyped as a potential world beater – Simao has now retired from international football, Quaresma is on the fringes of the squad, and Nani will start on the opposite flank to Ronaldo, keen to make an impact having missed the 2010 World Cup through injury. “Our kids grow up learning how to dribble, how to run with the ball, how to have the ball at their feet,” Nani says of Portugal’s obsession with wingers. “They rarely play with their back to goal, that’s why I think there aren’t so many strikers in Portugal.” Read more »

Euro 2012 preview: Holland

June 5, 2012
Euro 2012 preview: Holland

After a reputation for playing beautiful football was undermined by Holland’s brutal performance in the 2010 World Cup final, Holland’s strategy in the past two years has been an interesting balancing act – Bert van Marwijk wants to look as if he’s moved on to a more open style of football, but remains reluctant to abandon the structure and functionality that took Holland to the World Cup final in the first place.

Despite retaining roughly the same core of players, Holland are a more attractive side than two years ago. They hold onto the ball for longer periods, and the circulation of the ball is quicker. Read more »