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 »

Euro 2012 preview: Denmark

June 5, 2012
Euro 2012 preview: Denmark

It’s impossible to think of Denmark at the European Championships without thinking of their astonishing victory 20 years ago. Then, they triumphed at Euro 92 despite not qualifying for the tournament initially…yet they’re even more of outsiders this time around.

That’s not due to the ability of the side, but because of their group. Together with Germany, Holland and Portugal (three of the top five sides in the world, according to the FIFA Rankings), they have the worst draw of any of the 16 teams in the competition. In Group A, they might have been favourites. In group B, they’re expected to finish bottom.

Yet there are grounds for optimism. Denmark finished above Portugal in their qualification group, and thrive upon the role of underdog. Read more »

Euro 2012 preview: Czech Republic

June 5, 2012
Euro 2012 preview: Czech Republic

Michal Bilek hasn’t been particularly popular during his time as Czech Republic coach, but he has assembled a well-organised, functional side that mixes experience with youth.

The three star names are the trio who featured prominently in the superb Czech side that might have won Euro 2004 were it not for Pavel Nedved’s cruel injury in the semi-final – Milan Baros upfront, Tomas Rosicky as the playmaker, and Petr Cech in goal. It’s a solid spine, but if the Czechs are to spring a surprise, it will be because of the younger, more mobile players located on the flanks.

“I’d characterise our system as a 4-2-3-1,” says Bilak. “But the system is not as important as how the players are able to carry it out. The advantage of this system is that it creates a strong midfield, and that there are fast and skilful players on the wings who can support Baros.” Read more »