Euro 2012 preview: Poland

June 5, 2012
Euro 2012 preview: Poland

Poland come into this tournament with the lowest world ranking of the 16 competitors, but they are certainly not the weakest side in the competition.

Their ranking is unfairly lowered, of course, because they are the co-hosts and therefore haven’t been playing competitive games over the past two years. The last two years has made a big difference – 24 months ago Poland seemed to lack players established enough to compete at a major international tournament, but the rise of the Dortmund trio (Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub ‘Kuba’ Blaszczkowski and Robert Lewandowski) plus Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, means they do possess some fine footballers. Read more »

Euro 2012 previews: general themes

June 5, 2012
Euro 2012 previews: general themes

Team-by-team previews are on their way later today. But, to save repetition in many articles, here are some general themes based upon recent international tournaments:
1. For underdogs, being defensive and organised, then playing on the break is the best bet

Fans of outsiders in this competition have often complained that they’re not passing the ball well enough and that they want to see a more expansive game. That might be personal preference in terms of aesthetics, but the current success as Spain shouldn’t be seen as the template for more minor football nations in this competition.

Recent underdogs who have proved successful have generally been very defensive, have allowed themselves to be dominated, then relied on counter-attacking and set-pieces. Continental champions Greece in 2004 and Zambia in 2012 had the lowest pass completion rate of any side in the tournament. Uruguay weren’t quite so extreme in World cup 2010 and Copa America 2011, but were very reactive. For the likes of Ireland, Czech Republic and Ukraine, playing ‘good football’ is not on the agenda.

Being a knockout tournament, you can get far simply by being hard to beat – Paraguay reached last year’s Copa America final with five consecutive draws. Read more »

ZM’s European Team of the Year 2011/12

May 30, 2012
ZM’s European Team of the Year 2011/12

It’s that time of year again. Minimal explanation needed – eleven starts and eleven substitutes. Read more »

Bayern 1-1 Chelsea: Chelsea win it on penalties

May 20, 2012
Bayern 1-1 Chelsea: Chelsea win it on penalties

Chelsea lifted the European Cup after a tight match was decided on penalties. Read more »