Euro 2012 has started, and for every soccer fan, it’s the best thing to happen aside from the World Cup.
This year’s Euro Cup — a tournament played every four years — will be hosted in Poland and Ukraine. Many big name stars will be present, including Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Spain’s Xavi and Cesc Fabregas, Netherland’s Arjen Robben, England’s Wayne Rooney and John Terry, France’s Franck Ribery, and Germany’s Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
It should be an epic tournament.
TV: In the U.S., all ESPN channels will show Euro 2012 live. Fox Sports or your local Fox channel will show most of the matches. And Fox Soccer Channel will also show all the matches.
Online: All games will be shown on ESPN3 (your internet provider must allow the site)
The Euro 2012 power rankings (As of June 11):
After the first round of action, all teams have played one game. We've gotten a look at each squad's form, tactics, and mentality. Here is my (completely qualitative) Top 10 power ranking:
1) Germany -- Looks the most dominant, especially after a surgical victory against a strong Netherlands team. The squad looks to be fluid, and coming together nicel. The Germans are young, talented, and expierenced. Six of Die Mannschaft's starting 11 were in the Bayern Munich team which participated in the Champion's League Final in late May.
2) Spain -- The Spanish dismembered Ireland 4-0, and are showing the type of quality which one them the World Cup and the last Euro Cup. Still, the Spanish are predictable. Their midfield is honed and dangerous, but without a consistent forward attack (David Villa is out of this tournament), there doesn't seem to be a focal point in the Spanish offense. Can Torres fill that role?
3) France -- This French team is eager and looked sharp in their last two games. Ball movement was fluid and their attack is aggresive. France may be "rebuilding," but don't look to be the trainwreck they were in the 2010 World Cup.
4) Italy -- The Azzuri are also in rebuilding mode after a disasterous 2010 World Cup and match-fixing scandal at home. Still, Italy's current squad is full of energy and has a strong attacking game, one which knifed through world champions Spain.
5) England -- England is stacked with big name players, but they struggle seem to struggle with smart and creative play. Their talent-level alone would be enough to take them through to the next stage (barring, of course, any muck-ups or melt-downs which are typical of England squads).
Below are all of the games and times, for all teams in all groups, through Monday. I have taken the liberty to highlight the “don’t miss” matches (in italics), as those games should be the most fun to watch. You’re welcome.
Note: All times are in EDT.
Friday, June 8:
Poland vs. Greece (12 p.m.): Tie 1-1
Russia vs. Czech Republic (2:45 p.m.): Russia 4-1
Saturday, June 9:
Netherlands vs. Denmark (12 p.m.) Denmark 1-0
Germany vs. Portugal (2:45 p.m.) Germany 1-0
Sunday, June 10
Spain vs. Italy (12 p.m.) 1-1
Ireland vs. Croatia (2:45 p.m.) Croatia 3-1
Monday, June 11
France vs. England (12 p.m.) 1-1
Ukraine vs. Sweden (2:45 p.m.) Ukraine 2-1
End of First Round of Group Play
Tuesday, June 12
Greece vs. Czech Republic (12 p.m.) 2-1 Czechs
Poland vs. Russia (2:45 p.m.) 1-1
Wednesday, June 13
Denmark vs. Portugal (12 p.m.) 3-2 Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo Chokes Big:
Netherlands vs. Germany (2:45 p.m.) 2-1 Germany
Thursday, June 14
Italy vs. Croatia (12 p.m.) 1-1
Spain vs. Ireland (2:45 p.m.) 4-0 Spain (ouch)
Friday, June 15
Ukrain vs. France (12 p.m.) Storm delayed ... 2-0 France
Sweden vs. England (2:45 p.m.) 3-2 England
Saturday, June 16
Czech Republic vs. Poland (2:45 p.m.) 1-0 Czech Republic (Poland knocked out)
Greece vs. Russia (2:45 p.m.) 1-0 Greece (Russia knocked out)
Sunday, June 17
Denmark vs. Germany (2:45 p.m.) 2-1 Germany
Netharlands vs. Portugal (2:45 p.m.) 2-1 Postugal
Monday, June 18
Spain vs. Croatia (2:45 p.m.) 1-0 Spain
Italy vs. Ireland (2:45 p.m.) 2-0 Italy
Video: Italy Goal 1-0
Tuesday, June 19
Sweden vs. France (2:45 p.m.) 2-0 Sweden (France advances as the second-place team in the group)
England vs. Ukraine (2:45 p.m.) 1-England (England wins group, Ukraine out)
Start of Knock-Out Stage
A primer for the Knock-Out stage round, from PolicyMic Pundit Nick Craddock:
The Euro 2012 group stage concluded on Tuesday with England ruining any chance of co-host Ukraine advancing further in the competition by virtue of its 1-0 win, and France stumbling into the knockout stage after a 2-0 loss to the previously winless Swedes.
France and England will be joined by the Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Italy in the quarterfinals, which started on Thursday with a 1-0 win by Portugal over the Czech Republic.
Although Euro 2012 has served as a flash point for some of soccer’s most contentious issues on and off the field — like the constant call for goal line replay technology and racist displays by groups of fans — the group stage offered a largely wide-open style of play with at least one goal scored per game, the first time such an event occurred in European Championship history.
And after three games of ironing out the kinks, tweaking lineups and getting settled in Eastern Europe, the remaining teams have simply three more games to win to become champs.
Here’s what to expect from the quarterfinals:
Czech Republic v. Portugal
The Czechs are deserving recipients of the “Most Resilient Team” award through this tournament thus far. Following a 4-1 shellacking at the hands of Russia in their opening game, the Czechs rattled off two straight victories to secure top place in a wide open Group A. However, testing their mettle against a Portuguese team, which navigated its way out of the Group of Death in second place, was a challenge.
Portugal won 1-0
Germany v. Greece
Greece, although not quite yet at the level of its Cinderella run en route to the Euro 2004 title, managed a bit more major tournament magic on the final day of Group A matches by absolutely robbing Russia of any points to sneak into second place in the group. In fact, if not for a UEFA quirk whereby head-to-head matchups (rather than goal differential as FIFA prefers) is the primary tiebreaker, Greece would have been headed home to Athens.
Nevertheless, the Greeks, renowned for sitting back in a defensive shell, will be hard-pressed to stop this young German team’s onslaught, especially without captain Giorgos Karagounis, the talismanic leader who will be lost to suspension courtesy of an accumulation of yellow cards.
Meanwhile, the Germans won all three games in the Group of Death and have attacking options throughout the midfield, in Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger, and up front in Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez. ‘Nuff said.
Players to watch: Schweinstegier has earned close to 100 caps for Germany at the tender age of 27. The captain will have to ensure that this young German team does not become content with what has already been achieved, and instead focuses on what can be accomplished ahead.Kostas Chalkias, the Greek goalie, is 38, and should be tested early and often in this game. The elder statesmen will be the last line of defense and will only be allowed to bend but not break to give Greece a chance.
Prediction: Germany wins 3-0.
Spain v. France
The defending European and World Champion, Spain, is not as dynamic as it has been at the last two major tournaments, but the Spanish still roll out an exceptional squad capable of becoming the first team in soccer history to win three straight major tournaments. Scary. With so much talent in the side, Spanish manager Vicente Del Bosque may not have finalized his starting XI in the past months, however, it shouldn’t matter who he starts as the raw talent is great enough to overcompensate for any tactical errors on his part.
The French, poster boys for a dysfunctional team after their World Cup 2010 debacle, have done well to restore some order to the respectability of French soccer by making it out of the group stage after an impressive qualifying campaign to reach this tournament, but Les Bleus are not comparable to manager Laurent Blanc’s golden generation French teams that he experienced as a player in winning World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000. Losing to a winless Sweden team in the final group game surely cannot boost the recovering confidence level of this talented team, which has yet to put all the parts together for a complete game.
Players to watch: Fernando Torres will be Spain’s only striker if he gets the starting nod ahead of Cesc Fabregas, and the temperamental striker will have to find a way to rekindle the goal scoring prowess of his Liverpool days, or at a minimum, make some attacking and creative runs to expose the French back line and relieve some of the pressure on the Spanish midfielders who have assumed a lot of the goal scoring responsibility. On the other hand, Franck Ribery is the Zinedine Zidane of this French soccer generation and his passion is readily apparent when he represents his country on the biggest stages. If his creativity is likewise readily apparent this weekend, then opposing players will have a difficult time slowing him down.
Prediction: Spain wins 2-1 (ET)
England v. Italy
The Three Lions were supposedly doomed heading into this tournament. As it turns out, the lowered, and perhaps more realistic expectations of this English team have served it well as it sloppily secured top place in Group D. Although not the prettiest football, new England coach Roy Hodgson can’t argue with the results during his short tenure so far.
Similarly, Italy’s pre-tournament expectations were tempered amidst a gambling probe into the top flight of Italian soccer. All the same, the Italians bonded together and eked out a result in each of its group games even if not the most beautiful display of soccer.
Expect both teams to grind out this start-stop affair.
Players to watch: Joe Hart for England. Yes, Wayne Rooney scored in his tournament debut last game, but always a bigger question for the Three Lions than who will score goals is who will stop conceding goals? David Seaman, Paul Robinson, David James, and Robert “Butterfingers” Green are just recent examples of the ineptitude of English goalkeepers on the biggest stage in the modern era. Hart, backstop for Premier League champions Manchester City, has not waffled through the first three games of his major tournament career…yet. Hart’s City teammate MarioBalotelli is a head case, but Balotelli could be called upon for a moment of brilliance for his country. Whether or not he will be focused enough to seize the opportunity is always a mystery, but Balotelli could be Italy’s gamebreaker.
Prediction: 1-1. England advances 4-3 on penalty kicks (Yes, this will be the day that England exorcises its penalty kick demons from yesteryear).
Knockout Round Schedule
Thursday, June 21
Czech Republic vs. Portugal (2:45 p.m.) 1-0 Portugal
Fridauy, June 22
Germany vs. Greece (2:45 p.m.) 4-2 Germany
Saturday, June 23
Spain vs. France (2:45 p.m.) Spain 2-0
Sunday, June 24
England vs. Italy (2:45 p.m.) Italy wins on penalties
Wednesday, June 27 (2:45 p.m.)
Spain vs. Portugal -- Spain wins on penalties
Thursday, June 28 (2:45 p.m.)
Germany vs. Italy
Sunday, July 1