Group A: Russia, Poland
Group B: Germany, Netherlands
Group C: Spain, Croatia
Group D: England, France
In actuality the groups finished like this:
Group A: Czech Republic, Greece; 0%
This group demonstrated that a percieved powerhouse in Russia is just as vulnerable as an underdog like Greece, especially when considering the rules concerning who advances to the knock-out stage in the event of a tie on points. I think the difference in the method used in this tournament compared to the World Cup threw a few people for a loop, myself included. But hey, what's football without a range of permutations for a team's future on the last day of play.
Group B: Germany, Portugal; 50%
Germany were widely favored to win this group and they didn't disappoint. 3 wins in 3 matches is admirable, but this isn't the free-scoring Germany from the 2010 World Cup. Each of Germany's 3 wins was by a single goal, and when considering the wide range of offensive talent that the Germans possess, this team has underperformed up to this point. Germany is of a special class of nations that can win 3 in 3 and be considered underperforming.
The Netherlands, my pick as runners-up, had a dismal showing considering they were knocking on the door of the world title just 2 years ago. Portugal demonstrated that they are more than just Cristiano Ronaldo + 10, and while it may be a stretch to call them underdogs, they did very well for themselves to emerge from the Group of Death after falling to Germany in a close 1-0 match.
Group C: Spain, Italy; 50%
Unless you're a fool for crazy odds and big returns, you probably picked Spain to go through on top of their group, as they should have. The defending European and World champions may have been expected to advance without a hitch, and while drawing Italy wasn't the worst result for them, it could have given the Spanish players the motivation they needed to buckle down for the tournament.
Italy, despite the ongoing match-fixing controversy going on in their domestic league, gave a good acconut of themselves in the three matches. Had they dropped the point in either of their ties they risked being eliminated.
Group D: England, France; 100%
While much can be said about hometown moxy, football pillars England and France were clearly the favorites to go through in this group. Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have scored what could be the goal of the tournament (latching onto a wonderful Seb Larsson cross with a leaping volley), but good form a group does not win. Apparently neither does goal differential.
Not my usual 60% when it comes to handicapping matches, but it could have been (slightly) worse. I guess I should stick to the Premiership
So, what will happen in the upcoming matches? Here are my picks
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Czech Republic: Petr Jirácek
Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo
Spain: Iker Casillas
France: Samir Nasri
Germany: Mario Gomez
Greece: Giorgios Karagounis
England: Steven Gerrard
Italy: Andrea Pirlo
My Big Upset: Portugal over Spain. Cristiano Ronaldo is finally showing that he can turn in performances on equal par for his country as he does for his club. Clearly he's not the only elite player for Portugal, but he is certainly the talisman that all eyes are focused on. As I said in part 1, I feel like Spain could be in for a shock. Granted, they could come out and completely destroy France, Portugal, and whoever they face in the finals, but my gut tells me that this rivalry could send shockwaves through the tournament with such a result.
My favorite to win: Germany. This is a team bordering on greatness. They're good in competition, but a string of 3rd place and runners-up finishes for the players on the international and club level to me signal a hunger. Not just for the glory, but for pride. If this current crop of German players fail to take home a trophy having fielded a similar team in the past 4-6 years, they could be considered to be the best team never to win it all.