Excitement mounts now that Euro 2012 has reached the Quarter Final stages and it is Germany, the only team left in the Tournament with a 100% winning record who head the betting at odds of 9/4, narrowly ahead of defending champions, Spain who are a 5/2 chance.
The first of the Quarter Finals takes place in Warsaw on Thursday night and will bring together surprise Group A winners, the Czech Republic against Group B runners up, Portugal. The second game up will see Group B table toppers, Germany take on Greece, who surprised everyone by snatching the runners up spot in Group A. That game takes place in Gdansk, while the third game takes place on Saturday in Donetsk between Group C winners, Spain and France, runners up in Group D. The fourth and final Quarter Final game between Group D winners England and Group C runners up, Italy, takes place in Kiev on Sunday night.
Looking ahead to Thursday’s game, it is hard to believe that having been thrashed 4-1 in their opening game by Russia, that the Czech Republic qualified for the last eight, it is even more surprising that they qualified as group winners, illustrating the fickle nature of tournament football. The Czech’s of course won their two remaining games against Greece and Poland, which was enough to see them through.
Portugal also lost their opening game against Germany but were good enough to see off Denmark in a thrilling second group match before convincingly outplaying Holland in their final game which they won 2-1 thanks to an inspirational performance and two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo could once again prove to be the difference between these two sides and a good performance from him should see Portugal into the last four.
In Friday’s game, winners of all ten of their qualification games and now winners of their three group games at the finals, Germany, are justifiably the 4/11 hot favourites to win this match and move a step closer to winning the Euros for the first time since 1996.
They should certainly have too much about them for plucky Greece, who have been playing their hearts out in the tournament but are simply a long way behind Germany in terms of ability. The match provides German striker, Mario Gomez, the perfect opportunity to take a commanding lead in the Golden Boot race in which he has already scored three times.
In the third Quarter Final, Spain are the favourites to also reach the Semi Finals after conceded just one goal in their three group matches. They scored six in those games and although they appear to have lost none of their ability in keeping the ball, they have not looked as authoritative as they did when winning the World Cup two years ago, which may provide some hope for France or any team that may have to play them in the final four or final.
France played their best football of the tournament in their opener against England, where they proved themselves a better all round team but were unable to do better than earn a 1-1 draw. They finished the Group off very disappointingly, losing 2-0 to Sweden who were already eliminated from the tournament. Based on that performance, Spain has to be the pick to go through in this game and they 4/5 to do so in 90 minutes.
In the final last eight match, although England do not have a particularly good head-to-head record against Italy, hopes are high that they can reach the European Semi Final stage for the first time since 1996.
It has to be said that England have not played as well as they can in any of their three matches to date but they are unbeaten, playing with great resolve and in mental terms they are becoming tougher. Steven Gerrard has been key for them in midfield and with Wayne Rooney back in the fold after a two game suspension, the Man Utd forward should be a major threat to Italy on Sunday.
The Azzurri have not played too impressively either in their three games so far in the tournament, 1-1 draws against Spain and Croatia and a 2-0 win over the tournament whipping boys, Republic of Ireland, is hardly form to boast about. However, as always, they are proving a hard team to score against and one able to frustrate most opposition.
England for once in the knock out stages of a major tournament will be hoping that “lady luck” will be on their side. Roy Hodgson’s side never expected to win the group, they also defeated Ukraine whose clear cut equaliser was missed by the officials in the same way as Frank Lampard’s had in the 2010 World Cup. Perhaps luck will prevail once more in this match and give the England fans what they really want a Semi-Final against the Germans! The bookmakers are certainly struggling to separate England and Italy with both teams rated 10/11 to progress to the last four. One thing is for certain though, given their record, England will not want to rely on penalties to win this match.
Predicted Semi Finals
Portugal v Spain
Germany v England