Well this is undoubtedly the group of death in Euro 2012. You have 3 of the top 5 teams in the world(2. Germany 4. Netherlands 5. Portugal), and then you have poor Denmark, who despite being ranked 10, has virtually no shot at making it out of this group. Let’s take a closer look.
Reason to Root: Have you seen the rest of this group? If you are looking for an underdog to pull for, the Danes will probably be it. They got an absolute brutal draw, but don’t count them out just yet. That is why they play the game!
Likely to Reach: Group Stage
Let’s not go too crazy on the underdog cinderella story here. Can the Danes make it into the knock out stage? Sure. Will they? Highly unlikely. They will have to get at least a point, probably a win, in their opening matchup with the Netherlands if they want to have a legit shot at advancing through this brutal group. They will also not be afraid of Portugal, a team they beat in the qualifying stages of this tournament.
Superstar: Nicklas Bendtner (Sunderland)
The 24 year old striker has played much of his professional career at Arsenal, before being loaned to Sunderland for the season last year. He has registered 66 goals in his professional career, and he will have confidence against Portugal when they face off, as he has scored against them twice in the past. He was voted Danish Player of the Year in 2010, and if they want to move on, it will likely be because of his foot.
Rising Star: Christian Eriksen (Ajax)
This is pretty much a no brainer. Eriksen is just 20 years old, and was the youngest player to compete at the 2010 World Cup, when he was just 18. He was named the Dutch Football Talent of the Year, as well as Danish Football Player of the Year last year. Eriksen has had limited internationl experience, registering just two goals in international play, so he will need to step his game up if he wants to help his country advance.
Tick, Tick, Boom: Niki Zimling (Club Brugge)
This has less to do with any on field incidents, and more to do with his aggressive defensive play. Zimling does not shy away from contact, and there’s a good chance he ends up with a yellow card or two, or worse, one of those red ones.
Reason to Root: In recent years, the Germans have been known for being the bridesmaid and never the bride. In 2002, they finished runner up in the World Cup to the mighty Brazilians, and at Euro 2008, they fell just short again, losing to Spain in the finals. Will this be the year they can get over the hump and win it all?
Likely to Reach: Finals
As mentioned at the top, Germany is the #2 team in the last FIFA rankings, so pretty much anything short of a finals appearence, or win for that matter, will be a disappointment. However, getting out of this group will be no easy task, and even if they do, who’s to say they won’t be drained after facing three top 10 squads.
Superstar: Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid)
The 24 year old attacking midfielder was the face of the German squad in the 2010 World Cup, as he was one of the 10 players nominated for the Golden Ball, the trophy that goes to the top player in the tournament. He also registered 5 goals in 10 qualifying games for Germany, and has racked up an impressive 48 assists for Real Madrid in his last two seasons.
Rising Star: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)
This 22 year old attacker has made a living by playing big in the big games. When he was just 20 years old, Muller registered five goals in six games in the 2010 World Cup, earning best young player as well as the Golden Boot, which goes to the tournament’s top scorer. Muller also played in the Champions League final against Chelsea, where he narrowly missed out on being the hero. He will be looking to bounce back in this competition, and he will certainly have his chances with this team likely making a deep run.
Tick, Tick, Boom: Pick your poison. The German team isn’t the best at keeping their emotions in check. Anyone of them could be a ticking time bomb.
Reason to Root: Very similar to the reason that I mentioned for Germany. The Dutch national squad made a fantastic run at the World Cup in 2010, knocking off Brazil along their way to a 1-0 loss to Spain in the finals. I’m sure they would love to get another shot at Spain in this tournament for a shot at revenge.
Likely to Reach: Finals
Other then being stuck in this stacked group, there’s no reason to think that the Netherlands won’t be able to make a run at the title. They have a veteran led squad that can throw some young players at you, and they notched an astonishing 27 goals in their 10 qualifying games(they beat San Marino 11-0).
Superstar: Robin Van Persie (Arsenal)
This is a pretty easy decision here. Van Persie is the star of Arsenal, and one of the most feared strikers on the planet. He notched 4 goals in the aforementioned 11-0 win over San Marino, and has scored 132 goals in his 8 year career at Arsenal. Van Persie had a relatively quiet World Cup, only scoring in the Group Stage for Netherlands. He will need to do more then that if they want to hoist the Euro 2012 trophy.
Rising Star: Kevin Strootman (PSV Eindhoven)
It will be tough for him to see some playing time, but at 22, Strootman is one of the youngest players on the roster. He only has a pair of goals for the Netherlands in international play, but he will be looking to improve on that number in this tournament.
Tick, Tick, Boom: Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)
This has less to do with any incidents he has had on or off the field, and more to do with what happened earlier this month, when Robben missed what would have likely been a game winning penalty in extra time against Chelsea in the Champions League Final. Robben is a veteran, and he could easily shake it off, but what happens if he needs to make a big penalty to help his team move on? Will be step up, or fall short again?
Reason to Root: Portugal is one of the most talented teams in the world, but man do they have bad luck when it comes to the teams they draw. In Euro 2008, they drew the eventual runner up Germany in the quarter finals, losing 3-2. In the 2010 World Cup, they drew Brazil in their group, then faced off with the eventual champion Spain in the 2nd round, losing 1-0. And now, they are in this group. Feel sorry for them yet?
Likely to Reach: Semi Finals
Does this team have the talent to make the finals? Absolutely. Do they have a shot at winning it all? Yes. But it will be a tall mountain to climb. If there is any positive to their schedule, they should get a softish matchup in the quarterfinals if they make it out of the group stage. But they will likely have a rematch with whoever else makes it out of this group in the semis.
Superstar: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Duh. Arguably the most famous soccer player in the world, and athlete in the world for that matter, Ronaldo is the face of this nation and its team. However, the teams that he have led haven’t done much on the big stage yet. Again, much of that is due to awful luck in the draws, but at some point, Ronaldo will have to come up big on the biggest of stages, not just in a Real Madrid uni.
Rising Star: Nelson Oliveria (Benfica)
Going out on a bit of a limb here with Oliveria, who has virtually no international experience. But the kid is only 20 years old, and he has shown promise with his club. He should be a great addition off the bench.
Tick, Tick, Boom: Nani (Manchester United)
This is going out on a bit of a limb here, but I’m going to do it. Nani is one of the best players in the world, yet he is constantly in the shadow of his Ronaldo. This means he will likely be extremely motivated to one up his teammate, and that could go one of two ways. He could have a career making tournament, and help his team make a run at the tournament, or…this could happen.
What are your thoughts on the group of death? Who will make it out? Does Denmark have a chance? Let us know in the comments!