With Euro 2012 upon us, I thought it might be fun (and foolish…in fact, mainly foolish) to have a crack at trying to predict the outcome of all of the matches in the tournament. To fully get the competitive juices flowing, however, what I really needed was someone (or something) that would provide a serious challenge. Thankfully, the excellent UEFA Euro 2012 downloadable add-on to FIFA 12 is about as close as anyone is going to scientifically simulating each of the matches ahead of time. And to spread out the embarrassment, I’ve also roped in my brother, Tim, and my good friend Chris to turn the contest into a tense, winner-takes-all Fatal Four-Way UEFA Euro 2012 Predic-arama.
The rules are simple: 3 points if you predict the outcome of a match exactly right (e.g. you say England will beat France 2-0 and they do). 1 point if you get the result right but the score wrong (e.g. you say England and France will draw 2-2 and they actually draw 1-1).
Alright, so let’s kick things off with our predictions for the first round of group matches:
Poland v Greece
James: Ok, here we go guys. Not the most thrilling of opening games in the history of international football tournaments. Here’s my killer stat: Of all the teams that finished top of their qualifying groups, Greece scored the fewest goals. Their successful Euro 2004 model of play (1 up front, everyone else – players, coaching staff, fans, massive national debt – behind the ball) is still in full effect. They’re so deathly dull, rumour has it they’ll be arriving for their games in a hearse rather than a team bus. You can get ridiculously long odds of 20/1 on them scoring 2 goals in this game. I’m not sure they’re capable of 2 goals in the whole tournament. That said, for obvious reasons, they don’t concede a lot and Poland will be desperate not to lose. They haven’t played a competitive game in 2 years and while Lewandowski’s a good striker, he’s not got the Dortmund midfield to put chances on a plate for him here. FIFA’s going for a 1-1. I’m going 0-0. What do you guys think?
Chris: I’m going for a 0-1 to Greece here. They may be low scorers but Poland are the lowest ranked team in the finals and I don’t see home advantage helping them too much. A dour one-nil to get the tournament off to a flyer!
Tim: Cagey. Hyper-tension meets hyper-inflation as both teams try to avoid disappointing their fans. Few chances but Poland will take the lead only to have their wild celebrations cut short by a late Grecian equaliser. 1-1.
Predictions – FIFA: 1-1; Chris: 0-1; Tim: 1-1; James: 0-0;
Russia v Czech Rep.
James: Alright, this is a bit better. Russia were decent, especially defensively, in qualifying, but really didn’t play anyone of the kind of calibre their going to be facing here. They did, however, beat an Italian side in minor turmoil 3-0 in a friendly last week in Italy. The Czech’s aren’t the team they were a few years ago. Their golden generation made up of the likes of Nedved and Jan Koller has slipped quietly away. I think this comes down to a straight battle between Rosiky and Baros for the Czech’s and Arshavin and Kerzhakov for the Russians. I’m saying it ends 2-2. The simulated game on FIFA finished 3-3. Thoughts please.
Chris: I’m thinking a 2-1 to Russia here. Both teams had little stumbles in qualifying and both have decent attacks but I see the Czech Republic as a little more fragile defensively. I can see a late winner for Russia when the Czech’s lose concentration.
Tim: National pride will get in the way of decent defending; this could also get a bit tasty. It will finish 2-2 giving us all hope that this could be really exciting tournament.
Predictions – FIFA: 3-3; Chris: 2-1; Tim: 2-2; James: 2-2;
Netherlands v Denmark
James: I have to say I feel slightly sorry for Denmark. They were extremely efficient in qualifying (topping a group that also contained Portugal), but I think getting out of the GoD (Group of Death) is going to be too big of an ask. Especially as they they’re immediately thrown to the wolves (or some other scary creature native to Holland…Um… tulip monsters?) against the free flowing, free scoring Dutch. The FIFA game played out 4-0 to the Netherlands (Van Persie 2, Sneijder, Hunterlaar), I’m going 3-1 Holland. What say you?
Chris: The Netherlands are flying and for me a tournament favourite. They’ve often failed to deliver when it comes to major finals but this could be their time. I don’t see Denmark getting on the scoresheet and see a 3-0 to the Netherlands.
Tim: Schexsy football and an efficient defensive performance will see the Dutch run away as 3-0 winners. Could this be their year? Denmark, on the other hand, are spearheaded by Nicolas Bendtner.
Predictions – FIFA: 4-0; Chris: 3-0; Tim: 3-0; James: 3-1;
Germany v Portugal
James: The thing with Portugal is, they’re never quite the sum of their parts. Their squad list stands up against that of any other team in the tournament, but when they try and bring all their undeniably talented individual stands together, they just end up tying themselves in knots. As for the Germans, what can you say? Wow, just wow. On paper, one of the three favourites (along with Spain and Holland). I’ve got Germany winning 3-1. FIFA says 2-1 to the Germans. What are you going for?
Chris: As with Holland, Germany are pretty much unstoppable and have had a massively successful qualifying campaign. I can’t see Portugal stopping that momentum given their defensive frailty and see 2-0 to Germany here.
Tim: Portugal have enough talent in their locker to score a goal, but that won’t be enough to see off the German machine. Vorsprung Durch Teamwork. 2-1 to Germany.
Predictions – FIFA: 2-1; Chris: 2-0; Tim: 2-1; James: 3-1;
Spain v Italy
James: In something of a minor surprise, the FIFA game between these two ended up 1-1, with Italy producing some heroic last ditch defending on more than one occasion, but also providing a threat on the counter attack. I have to say, I think that’s a great shout. I know domestically they’re currently embroiled in their latest match fixing soap opera, but making games tight and difficult is in the Italian national DNA. Spain often start tournaments slowly and I think lots of teams will try and stop them in the way various club sides have found success stifling Barcelona. The difference here is that, with the likes of LLorente, while they’re minus a Messi, they have more presence in the box. For that reason, I’m saying 2-1 Spain.
Chris: With both teams unbeaten in qualifying and Spain taking a 100% success rate, this is going to be interesting. The controversy in Italy will probably lessen expectations on the squad and may take some pressure off them. The Italian defense is as tight as ever and I actually agree with the FIFA game on this and predict a 1-1.
Tim: One for the purists. Pass-pass-pass, catenaccio-cattenaccio-cattenaccio. Spain will frustrate with their lack of end product, Italy will frustrate with their lack of will to do any serious attacking. It will be hyped up and thoroughly underwhelm. 0-0.
Predictions – FIFA: 1-1; Chris: 1-1; Tim: 0-0; James: 2-1;
Rep. of Ireland v Croatia
James: I’m really sad Ivica Olic is out of the tournament through injury. I think he’s an incredibly industrious little striker and a great finisher in the box as well. Despite that, Croatia are one of my two dark horses for the tournament, so I’m still going for them. I think they’ll win 2-1 in something of a heartbreaker for the Irish. Trapattoni’s been around so long, I think the first time he coached Italy they were still playing their home games at The Coliseum. He’ll set them up well, I’m just not sure they have a plan B. FIFA says 2-2.
Chris: Both teams had similar records from qualifying and I think Olic will be a major loss for Croatia. This will be the fixture the Republic will hope to get the most out of though I think the best they will manage will be a 1-1 to keep the group tight and interesting.
Tim: I’ve also gone for 1-2, a plucky performance by the Irish, ending in tears with a late Jelavic winner.
Predictions – FIFA: 2-2; Chris: 1-1; Tim: 1-2; James: 1-2;
France v England
James: Purely for the purposes of self-interest, we actually simulated this game twice, once with Ashley Young playing off Andy Carol, and a second time with him playing off Danny Welbeck. In the first game, the French central defenders had a real struggle marshalling Carol and England ended up winning 2-1. With Welbeck up front, they found thing much easier and France were victorious 1-0. So, Roy, if you’re reading this, there you go, some scientific data to ease your selection headaches. I actually think England will score. The problem is, I think France (and, more specifically, Benzema) will get two.
Chris: A 100% record from 2 friendly games is nothing to boast about for England and Roy Hodgson especially when you look at the difference in standards now. France are starting to show signs that their rebuilding work is coming to fruition and I think England’s low expectations will be even lower after this game. France 2 England1.
Tim: As usual England will be well organised but not very good in position. France will be less well organised but much better in possession, and will look threatening whenever they get in England’s half. They’ll be a penalty in this game and it will finish 1-1, which we’ll happily take until we fail to get what we need against Sweden.
Predictions – FIFA: 1-2 or 1-0; Chris: 2-1; Tim: 1-1; James: 2-1;
Ukraine v Sweden
James: I have to confess, I don’t have England making it out of Group D. The reason for this, is that Sweden are my other tournament dark horses. I think they’ll beat the Ukraine here 2-0 draw with England and draw with France. FIFA played out a 2-2 draw here. What are you guys thinking?
Chris: Despite Sweden looking like the favourites in this match i think it will be Ukraine and not Poland that will benefit most from host advantage. Sweden can be prone to stumble when at this stage and despite the loss of a keeper and defensive lynchpin I can see a surprise 1-1 draw for Ukraine with former Liverpool predator Andriy Voronin stealing a point and keeping alive England’s hopes of progressing after their defeat to France.
Tim: Sweden only turn up to annoy us. That said, Ukraine will be hindered by the added pressure of hosting the tournament so this will finish 0-0.
Predictions – FIFA: 2-2; Chris: 1-1; Tim: 0-0; James: 2-0;
We’ll be back on Tuesday 12th June with our predictions for the second round of group matches. Until then, hope you enjoy the start of Euro 2012.
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