With another epic Premier League season completed, this summer we turn our attention to the European Championships. With three out of the four 2010 World Cup semi-finalists being European, the “Old Continent” is the king of world soccer right now, which means this summer should be a mouth-watering feast of some of the best international soccer seen in years. With Spain, Germany and Holland among favorites to claim silverware in July, and nations such as England, France and Italy looking to reclaim their tags as heavyweights on the international scene after recent disappointments at big tournaments, the winners of this year’s tournament will have to be at their very best throughout, from the Group stage right up to the final and you can learn all about their journey as well as Betfair Euro 2012 Tips right here on EPL Talk.
The format for Euro 2012 is simple and straightforward, with sixteen teams having qualified for this midsummer event. These teams are broken down into four individual Groups.
Group A consists of co-hosts Poland, Euro 2004 winners Greece, the surprise package of 2008 who went all the way to the semi-final that was Russia and the 1996 runners-up, Czech Republic.
Poland and Greece starts the tournament on June 8 at Noon ET. The same evening, Russia takes on Czech Republic at 2:45 p.m. ET. Most games taking place in Poland will kick off strictly in line with the aforementioned times, which is all of both Group A’s and Group C’s fixtures.
On June 9, Holland plays Denmark at Noon ET. Later on, Germany faces Portugal (2:45pm ET).
Most games played in Ukraine will kick off strictly in line with the aforementioned time, which is all of both Group B’s and Group D’s fixtures. The tournament ends on July 1 with the last two teams played in the Olympic Stadium in Kiev at 2:45 p.m. ET.
Group B will be, without a shadow of a doubt, the most eagerly anticipated set of fixtures early on in the tournament. Three-time winners of this tournament Germany, 2010 World Cup finalists Holland, 2004 runners-up Portugal and 1992 winners Denmark will all duel in this Group with two major names certain to be denied knock-out round soccer.
Group C contains defending European and world champions Spain, 2006 World Cup winners Italy, the Republic of Ireland – who is making their first appearance at an international tournament in 10 years – and Croatia, whose adventure to the quarterfinals the last time was stopped short in dramatic fashion by Turkey.
Finally, Group D holds co-hosts Ukraine, 1992 semi-finalists Sweden, 2000 winners France and England, who humiliatingly didn’t qualify for the 2008 edition of this tournament.
How Euro 2012 Works
The Group stage will operate as a type of mini-league, with 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and nothing for a loss. The team with the greatest amount of points tops the table and the side second in the table joins the top team into the quarterfinal stage. In the event of two teams being level on points after they have finished all their Group games, the nation with the superior goal difference will be placed ahead of the other team. However if the teams also boast the same goal difference, whatever team has the greater amount of goals scored will be put ahead of the other team.
The first quarterfinal of the championship will see the winners of Group A take on the runner-up of Group B. Should any match in the knock-out stage finish in a draw after ninety minutes of action, thirty minutes of extra-time will be played to find a winner. However if the match is still even after two hours of soccer, a penalty shoot-out will take place to determine who advances.
The second quarterfinal will have the winner of Group C clashing with the runner-up of Group D. The first of these quarterfinals takes place on June 21. The second one is exactly 24 hours later.
The winner of these two games then competes in the semifinal, scheduled June 27, with the winner then advancing to the showpiece finale.
Similarly on the other side of the draw, the winners of Group B will play the runner-up of Group A on June 23. To complete quarterfinal formalities, the winner of Group D will fight it out with the runner-up of Group C a day later, to earn a spot in a semifinal. Likewise, on June 28, the winners of each of these quarterfinals will compete in the second semifinal to earn a spot in the final of the tournament at the beginning of July.
As Germany is favorites to win Group B, they are likely to compete against Poland in their quarterfinal, who are odds-on to finish runner-up in Group A.
Holland, as probable runners-up to Germany, should be taking on Russia in their quarterfinal.
Spain, who is expected to win Group C, will likely take on France, who the bookies believe will finish runners-up in Group D.
England, should they win Group D, will likely face Italy, should they finish second in Group D, in their quarterfinal clash.
Although Spain is favorites for the title, my gut instinct says that Germany will emerge as winners from what is sure to be a fascinating tournament. After a wonderful World Cup campaign ended in a 1-0 semi-final defeat to Spain, the then youthful side have come on leaps and bounds. The star-studded trio of Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Mario Gotze will dictate proceedings from the middle of the field but it is their strong rearguard, highlighted by the world class Manuel Neuer and embellished by strikers such as Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose which is why I’m backing Joachim Low’s team to return to their country with the trophy come early July.
As international tournaments come, I believe only the World Cup ranks higher. With the two heavyweights of Brazil and Argentina not enjoying their most productive periods, European soccer has dominated the latter stages of the last decade and it is definitely carrying that dominance on into this one. As Spain basks in the glory of producing one of the finest soccer teams of all-time, Germany returns to their good old days and the Netherlands coming agonizingly close to ending their trophy drought in recent years, the continent of Europe is enjoying its status of kings of the game at the moment.