Euro 2012: Group B Preview
As we know, football is absolutely riddled with unimaginative clichés that are regurgitated on an almost daily basis, many of which we will hear, read and say during this summer's European Championships but I feel that the phrase, ‘Group Of Death', is not too far from being the best way of describing Group B.
The Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv and the Arena Lviv in Lviv, both situated in Ukraine, will exclusively host the current World Cup runners-up, the current European Championships runners-up, possibly the best European player on action in Euro 2012 and the 1992 champions to boot.
Germany, beaten finalists by Spain four years ago, have been backed into clear 3/1 second favourites for the tournament outright and it is not difficult to see why many punters are backing Joachim Loew's men to wrestle the Henri Delaunay away from the clutches of the hitherto peerless Spanish.
The Germans won every one of their qualification matches and a similarly fantastic feat here would see them progress in style. Priced at 2/7 to qualify from Group B and 6/5 to finish on top, Germany's pedigree in major tournament goes before them, World Cup and European champions on three occasions apiece, it sometimes seems that the German players reserve their best performances for display on the world's biggest stages.
In a squad packed with quality, experience and attacking ability, it is difficult to single out a single player for individual praise. Their 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa saw the international emergence of a rejuvenated, youthful German team that played like none of it's predecessors. The likes of Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng all came to the fore when destroying England and Argentina before pushing eventual winners Spain all the way in a close semi-final.
The man many expect to steal the show for Germany is Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil. After bursting onto the scene two years ago the former Borussia Dortmund star has blossomed under Jose Mourinho into one of Europe's finest attacking midfielders. He is the second favourite to win the Player of the Tournament at 12/1, interestingly it his compatriot Mario Gomez, scorer of 41 goals in 2011/12 who is the favourite at 10/1.
Ozil is also the subject of a tournament goalscorer match bet against Barcelona rival Andres Iniesta. William Hill cannot separate these two great players and it's 5/6 the pair to outscore the other.
Dutch manager Bert van Marwijk came under severe criticism from experts back in Holland and across the world for the way he sent out his team for that ill-fated World Cup final in South Africa two years ago. Abandoning the flair and ‘total-football' that had been associated with the ‘Oranje' since the days of Johan Cruyff, van Marwijk's team of 2010 instead adopted a more robust, aggressive, some would even say dangerous approach to dealing with the technically superior Spanish.
This time around and priced at 13/2, many are touting the Dutch as more than just a team with great potential, but as a team with a serious chance of lifting the trophy in Kiev on July 1st.
The nation can boast a squad containing world-class talent, with none in more devastating form than Arsenal's Robin Van Persie. The 28 year old forward bagged an impressive 30 league goals to drag a mediocre Gunners team into next season's Champions League. Van Persie also has 26 international goals to his name but only managed one at the last World Cup and will look to improve this statistic when Holland travel east.
The ‘Flying Dutchman' is the 10/1 second favourite to end the tournament as the leading scorer and a short priced 14/1 to be named Player of the Tournament.
If Holland are to emerge from their group (4/9) then their showdown with old rivals Germany could prove pivotal. The match betting for this potentially explosive tie sees the Dutch installed as pre-tournament 19/10 underdogs and the highly fancied Germans 23/20 favourites. If the outcome is a win for Holland then the 7/4 for them to win Group B suddenly seems much more appealing.
The dark horses in Group B are the enigmatic Portuguese (7/2 to top the group, 5/2 to finish second). When you look down their squad list, the talent is undoubtedly there. Any team that can call upon possibly the best player in the world Cristiano Ronaldo must surely be in with a shout of going deep at any major tournament. Unfortunately for fans of A Selecção, their consistency can often be difficult to come by, with outstanding attacking skill being based upon weak defensive foundations.
Paulo Bento's team lost twice to group rivals Denmark in qualifying, eventually having to progress via the play-off route. If the 2008 quarter-finalists are to have any hope of qualifying for the knockout stages this time around, they must beat Denmark, and improve their goal difference in the meantime. Ronaldo and co are the 8/11 favourites to see off the Danes in Lviv but must first see off the Germans a few days earlier.
As alluded to previously, that man Cristiano Ronaldo will need to be on his very best. The arrogant, dynamic superstar we see every week illuminating the stadiums all over Spain with his puffed out chest and thunderous finishing, this is the Ronaldo the Portuguese public are pinning all their hopes on this Summer. The former Manchester United player can be backed at 12/1 to finish the tournament as leading goalscorer and 14/1 to win the Player of the Tournament. Both these prices seem a little on the skinny side given the difficulties that await Portugal just in order to qualify from the group, never mind if they make the quarters and semi-finals.
The Portuguese support cast contains some excellent footballers that will need to provide their captain Ronaldo with the ammunition and the assisting goals to fire their nation to glory. The likes of Nani, Raul Meireles and Helder Postiga are all well known to British fans and on their day can mix it with the very best.
Rank outsiders of this group are Denmark, who qualified for the tournament ahead of Portugal but are as long as 14/1 to win Group B and 4/1 just to qualify through. It does look a tough task for the Danes to make the last eight of Euro 2012 but they do have some very decent players in their squad and with a great team ethic anything can happen.
The 1992 European Champions are capable of causing another major upset 20 years later but even at best odds of 100/1 they look worth avoiding to even the most optimistic Denmark fan. If they do manage to qualify from their group it will be surprising enough, but if they emulate the heroes of 92' it would arguably be an even bigger surprise than when Greece won Euro 2004.
This is a great plateau though for their 20 year old starlet Christian Eriksen to show his great promise. Eriksen was outstanding for the Danes in a friendly game against England last year and has gone on to improve his game at Dutch giants Ajax. At 150/1 to be named the Player of the Tournament it is unlikely that Eriksen will garner much interest with punters, but he is definitely one to keep your eye on.
The best bet for me in this group has got to be the 21/20 Group Reverse Forecast with Germany and Holland. These two teams are well fancied to do well in the tournament and both should have the discipline and firepower to see off the tricky Portuguese.
Germany are the favourites in the Highest Scoring Team market at 5/6 in contrast to the 16/1 on offer for Denmark. Holland can be backed at 2/1 here while the value could lie with the 4/1 given for Portugal.
My option for the Highest scoring match is the clash between group outsiders Portugal and Denmark. At 4/1, this game represents both teams best opportunity to go out and claim three points and surely Paulo Bento and Morten Olsen will be sending their respective teams out to attack.