Some call the Euros the best tournament in world football — and for good reason. With only 16 teams involved, you rarely see a side that’s in way over their heads.
Sure, you get hosts like Poland, Ukraine this year or Austria and Switzerland in 2008 that probably wouldn’t have made it on their own merits. But you would never see a country the quality of North Korea, Honduras, New Zealand or some of the African nations playing at the Euros.
That’s why it’s a shame that FIFA decided to expand the next Euro to 24 teams. When you consider the next best teams that didn’t qualify for 2012, it really makes you scratch your head. Turkey? Bosnia? Estonia? Do we need to see “soccer powers” like Norway and Armenia — both third-place finishers in their qualifying groups — make it?
But, for this year at least, tournament is reserved for the best and brightest of Europe and we should see some outstanding games.
We’ll get to see Cristiano Ronaldo face off with Real Madrid teammate Mesut Ozil. We’ll see Arjen Robben go up against a bunch of his Bayern Munich teammates. We’ll see France and England continue their ancient rivalry. We’ll see how far one-man teams like Croatia and Sweden can make it. We’ll see if Italy can be reborn with the start of a new generation of players. And finally we’ll see if Spain can defend its title without two key players from its past glories.
Hopefully the co-hosts, UEFA and FIFA able to curb the incredible amount of racism that allegedly exists in Eastern Europe. But that’s a sore subject meant for another day.
For now, let’s roll of some predictions for Euro 2012.
Winners and runners-up
Group A: Russia, Poland.
Group B: Netherlands, Germany.
Group C: Spain, Italy.
Group D: France, England.
Golden Boot: Karim Benzema, France.
Golden Ball MVP: Mesut Ozil, Germany.
Darkhorse team: Poland.
Semifinals: Germany over Spain, France over Netherlands.
Final: Germany over France.