Euro 2008 Group B preview

by Dexy Longshot

Thursday, June 5th, 2008
 

Austria

The Austrians are not a race renowned for great football, remember, this was the country that lost to the Faroes in 92 resulting in coach Josef Hickersberger 1st stint in charge coming to an embarrassing end. But now, he’s back to show he can really take them down! The nations expectations are so bad that a petition was set up by their own fans to stop them from entering! The thing is, the co-hosts aren’t as bad as their fans think they are, in fact they recently came 4th in the under 20 World Cup so the future looks bright in the Alps. In defence, they have a reliable-ish back-line with Boroughs Pogatez lining up with Stranzi of Spartak Moscow, Prodl who is Werder Bremen bound & gooner old boy Manninger may be in goal too. The main stumbling block for the young team will be on the attack. They stunned Holland in March going 3-1 up only to lose 3-4 with Prodl bagging a brace, gutted.

Dexy’s Diamond

24-year-old Captain Andreas Ivanschitz is Austria’s version of Becks except with a left foot doing all the goal damage from midfield and slightly blonder highlights in his barnet. The Panthinaikos playmaker is the fulcrum for the Austrian team and will be hoping to spread the balls to Fuchs (who is competing with Portugal stopper Quim for best name, although Kuntz could come out of retirement) whose penetrating flank crosses should allow Kuljic to get some headers on target.

 

Croatia

The Vatreni (On-Fire ones) under the guidance of former hammer Slaven Bilic did the job over The 3 Lions and boasts one of the most attractive teams in the tournament, a sort of Brazil/Arsenal crossbreed but can they deliver on the big stage? They came 3rd in 1998 although that game is mostly remembered for Laurent Blanc’s phantom nut ruling himself out of the final, not Slavs finest hour. Brainy Bilic has a law degree and can speak 4 languages, he has also moulded an excellent passing team where all the players know their job. Formation wise, they incorporate 2 playmakers with Luka Modric & Pompey’s Kranjcar pulling the strings just behind the adjusted forward-line of the majestic Petric & Klansic. The one down-side is the loss of Da Silva who smashed home a dozen in qualifying before that injury, his goals and intelligence in the build-up play will be a major set-back for Croatia. I think they may have gone all the way to the final with him in the side but I think that will be a bridge too far this time, I’d keep close tabs on them for the next World Cup mind, they have been grouped with us again and with Bilic master-minding them, I think we may be in trouble again for the top spot. Incidentally, Bilic refused to accept anything over the national salary when he recently negotiated a new deal with the National team, what a breath of fresh Alps air, I love him!!

Dexy’s Diamond

The loss of Eduardo will put the playmaking load firmly on the back of spindly Yossi-ringer Luka Modric. Fear not though, the former Dinamo Zagreb midfielder has definitely got it in the locker to unlock the defences of Poland & Austria and a nose for goal. Bilic even touted him to eventually take Kaka’s crown as the world’s best playmaker, high praise indeed. In North London, Ramos snatched him under the nose of Wenger a few weeks back & I expect big things from him this summer, bigger than his hooter anyhow.

 

Germany

Like their Mercs, The Germans are an efficient well-oiled machine of fine working components. The only problem is that there are only a dozen Merc parts, the rest are moody scrap. The squad lacks depth and they might stall in the latter stages if they pick up some knocks. Klose up front is guaranteed a starting berth, his goal stats on the big stage is second are to none. Joined by Mario Gomez who has been in fine fettle for Stuttgart, the Nasshenshraft will not be short on goals, especially with the 2006 best young player Podolski waiting on the bench. But will goals alone be enough for Deutschland? It’s at the back where the problem may lie, They only let in 7 in qualifying but recent results in the last 2 games drawing 2-2 with Belarus and in the 2-1 victory over Serbia have raised a few doubts among punters looking to cash in on the tournament favourites. But we’ve seen this all before haven’t we, The Terminator like mental aptitude when the chips are seemingly down are when Ze Germans are at their most dangerous. What’s the old Clive Dunn proverb “Never bet against the Germans Mr Mannering!” or something like that.

Dexy’s Diamond

Michael Ballack is the complete midfield player, he tackles, dribbles, passes and can shoot with either foot or head from distance, and he also looks well‘ard in his blue vest. The only thing the captain has lacked in the last couple of years is some pace but this has been compensated with mental awareness and an increasing maturity. His influence in the Chelsea engine room over that last 6 months pretty much ousted Mikel to the bench and Essien to right back. This form leaves me in no doubt that this tournament could be the one when he finally gets the chance to lift the cup.

 

Poland

This June, armies of Poland fans will be making their way over the vast mountains of middle Europe leaving the building sites of London to fend for themselves for a fortnight. I was in Germany two summers back and thought the Red Army of Polska were among the best supporters at the World Cup despite a mediocre squad. Tactical genius Leo Beenhakker has done an outstanding job securing qualification again and pushing Portugal into 2nd place while having the cheek to nick 4 points of the 4th favourites. The defence isn’t the best in the comp by a long way, letting in 12 but they scored the same amount of goals as Portugal and they have the excellent Celtic keeper Artur Boruc in goal, if they do get to knock-outs and it goes to pens, I’d fancy him to come up trumps. The fans will be over the moon if Polska can get out of the group stages for once. There has been a huge match-fixing scandal in the Polish league recently but a good showing from Leo’s team will be seen as “The Last Bastion of Hope” as one paper so nicely put it.

Dexy’s Diamond

Racing Santander star Euzibiusz Smolarek is the one player who could be the difference between success or failure. The 27 year old scored 9 in 10 in the qualifiers with 2 of them in the 2-1 defeat of Big Phil’ Portuguese outfit. He knows where the onion bag is and his father Wlodzierz was a national legend finishing 3rd with Poland at Espana 82. The problem with Smolarek junior is will he get the service at this level?

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  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    I think we can safely say that Austria are the worst team ever to host a Championship. Does anyone remember (I don’t) the Austria v Germany game in 1982 world cup? Or was it 72? Both teams needed a point to qualify to the knock out stages, the game ended 0-0 with the keepers touching the ball 200 times minute, lets hope we don’t have a repeat of that!

    Germany once again are strong favs for the tournament, they are not even that good but somehow know to to prepare for every championship. Mario Gomez won’t start but he looks a class act, I’ve seen his youtube footage, the guy is a goal machine. Klose only seems to come to life every 2 years.

    As for Poland, dull, dull, dull! Surely they won’t get out of this group, Croatia v Poland is key to this group.

  • Dexy Longshot

    Remember , there’s only a few more hours to join up the UKFF dreamteam comp.
    Ideally you wanna get your team in by 5 Friday arvo. He’s the gumph.

    Log onto:
    http://eurofantasyfootball.metro.co.uk/

    Hit the “register here” button half way down on the left,
    then fill in all your details and put the screen-code in at the bottom.

    This takes you to the main team page.
    There is a tab for joining an existing league. This is where you put in the league name and password which is;
    League name is: ukfootballfinder Euro2008 League
    Password is: noengland
    It will then send your details to the administrator which is moi, this takes a bit of time but you can still register your team anyway and make changes up till the first game on sat.

    It’s dead simple to play, each player has a value but instead of Millions, they use stars and you have to make a team with 11 players using 75 stars. All the instructions are on the site.

  • Aslan

    This group should be an easy one for the croats and the germans to get through. The other two teams are beyond poor to say the least…..Germany could pip it this year ….mark my words…dark horses of euro 2008

  • dexylongshot

    Hardly dark horses, they are 4-1 favourites with a p*ss easy route to the latter stages. I’m getting on them for top goalscorer. Klose has done twice in the 2 world cups and is favourite, although i might have a shufti at Gomez if he’s a starter. The longshot is Ballak, he’s gonna be taking the pens and i might lump on him at a cheeky each way.

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    how poor were Croatia? Average in every department with nothing up front. Austria deserved something out of that game.

    Germany 4-1 favourites dark horses, what u banging on about Aslan? Man United fan all day long! Ie: u know nothing about anyone outside of Old Trafford!!

    I don’t get why they have done the tournament in two halves, Germany always get the easy route, they woun’t have to play anyone decent until the final. Typical bloody German, dark horses to win I’d say!

  • dexylongshot

    how poor were Croatia?
    how good were Ze Germans! Liquid football, they just looked different gravy on the attack, klose, gomez and poldolski pulling the Poland defenders all over the park. Good-looking Schweinsteiger played well when he got on. I bet Gomez is gutted he didn’t get on the end of that ball early doors, it could have a been a mauling. That’s not to say Poland didn’t have shots, it’s just that most of them were from 30 yards. The smolerek offside was close and lehmans fingertip save near the end could have made it an exciting finish. Brilliant game, and i had a germany to win by two goals, the same as portugal, I’m flying!!!!

  • micky444

    Some well made points there Dexy.
    The Romanians do appear to be giving The Italians some problems, this could end up being a draw. I still think Holland will get through but think the Romanians could beat them if the dutch field a weak team in the last game.

    PS: Rats, what a excellent name.

  • rajkorale

    jea wright.. hehehehe german will win.. NOT…
    for me favs from the start are: CROATIA AND NETHERLANDS…
    croatia is strong don’t fool your self.. one of these are winners ….mark my words…
    croatia is boiling.. and with “vatreni” players and bilić.. hmm croatia is winner 4 shure..
    ZA DOM..

    …SPREMNI..
    U BOJ, U BOJ ZA NAROD SVOJ..
    AJMO BRAĆO HRVATI PODRŽITE NAM HRVATSKU KAO ŠTO STE TO DO SADA RADILI..
    NAVIJAJUĆI ZA NAŠU ZEMLJU UJEDNO SLAVIMO I NJEZINO OSAMOSTALJENJE..
    STOGA SLAVIMO BRAĆO…

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    A Croatia v Holland final would be class, although I’m sure Spain will have something to say about it.

    Don’t write the Germans off, they will have the last laugh. Mark my words!

  • Al

    Darren you got that completely wrong. In Spain 1982 West Germany needed to win and Austria not to lose by more than 1-0, for both to go through. Germany attacked the game for 10 minutes, scoring in the process. Then the farce followed as both teams just knocked the ball about without any attempt at goal, or tackling. Algeria were rightly outraged at the match fix but gutless FIFA refused to punish West Germany or Austria. They did however chnage the rules for subsequent World Cups, so that the final 2 group games were played similtaneously. This hardly helped Algeria though.

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    oh yeah, I remember now, well I was only 11 at the time!

    Games being played simultaneously has improved the comps no end.

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