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Euro 2012: Power Rankings – One Round In

We have one full round of matches behind us and it seems like a good time to weigh in on who has the best chances in world soccer’s second biggest tournament. Regardless of whether a team was able to get the big three points in the round, no one’s fate is sealed yet. But we do now have a clearer picture of what is and what isn’t working. Here are my thoughts:

1. Germany – The odds-off favorite going into the tourney, Germany was the pick by many, even if Spain was technically the odds-on fave. While the Germans didn’t look as sharp as they should have in their lead up friendlies (losing to both the French and Swiss), they did what they needed to beat a very aggressive Portugal side, and more importantly, keep them scoreless. With tough matches coming against Holland Wednesday and Denmark Sunday, if the Germans’ form keeps up and they’re able to find wins in both, it isn’t difficult to see the young team march all the way to the final. (FIFA World Rank: 3)

2. Spain – You won’t make much money betting on Spain, but with the challenge of winning three consecutive major tournaments looming large, not a lot of pundits have pegged La Furia Roja to lift the Cup this time. Who cares. This is Spain. This is the most talented soccer team ever assembled. Fernando Torres still knows how to score goals, I assure you, but he is going to need to start a match. Of the six midfielders that started in their draw with Italy Sunday, it was Andres Iniesta that showed the most spark. Look for him to get hot and catapult his team to easy wins against Croatia and Ireland. (FIFA World Rank: 1)

3. Italy – Not a lot of people had the 2006 World Champs picked to make much of a stir in this tourney, but with an inspired performance against Spain, the Azzurri are out to prove they’re not just a bunch of old guys struggling to keep up. The early second half switch bringing on Antonio Di Natale for Mario Balotelli proved inspired as Di Natale went on to score a wonderful goal with what was basically his first involvement. Count on Di Natale to get the start Thursday versus Croatia, though we certainly haven’t seen the last of Balotelli in this tournament. (FIFA World Rank: 12)

4. Holland – Oh the poor Dutch with their history of infighting and disappointing tournament record. This loss to Group of Death minnows Denmark would seem to give unlimited fodder to the pundits who have called the World Cup runners-up from two years ago overrated. I don’t buy it. Tactical changes should have been made and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Rafael van der Vaart should have come on earlier. A reworked lineup could see the team click into place and let Robin van Persie start knocking in the goals we all know he is capable of. Don’t forget, Spain lost their first match of the tourney back in South Africa, too. (FIFA World Rank: 4)

5. France – Much credit is due to England for holding my dark horse pick to a draw in Monday’s match. But France dominated possession and looked much the stronger team throughout. This team just has so much creative talent as evidenced by Samir Nasri, Franck Ribery, and Yohan Cabaye in the match. Unfortunately, their center back pairing of Philippe Mexes and Adil Rami does a bit less than inspire confidence. Still, if they put together a good showing in the tourney and coach Laurent Blanc keeps the squad playing like a team, France could be a major contender in Brazil 2014. (FIFA World Rank: 14)

6. Russia – With their dominating performance versus the Czechs on Friday, you’d be excused for thinking Russia are genuine contenders in this tournament. I don’t think they are quite there, though they should march quite easily to a first place seed out of Group A. But with a Quarterfinal matchup with the Group of Death’s second place team, any betting man would expect the fun to end there for the Russkies. (FIFA World Rank: 13)

7. Denmark – It is hard to take much away from the Danes after their victory over Holland on the weekend. This is a great example of a hard working team, made up of talented but mid-level players, who play together very well. With a big three points on the board, they certainly have a shot of advancing. But with matches versus Portugal and then Germany to come, those three could very well be the only points they see. (FIFA World Rank: 9)

8. England – No one seems to think England has any chance of advancing past the semis in this tournament, and that’s probably true. But these lowered expectations might be just what the Three Lions need to show a particularly positive performance for once. The squad looked very well organized versus France and exhibited just how dangerous they can be off set plays. Danny Wellbeck was less than impressive and it will certainly help when Wayne Rooney comes back to the side in their final group match versus Ukraine. (FIFA World Rank: 6)

9. Portugal – No one is doubting that Portugal has some incredibly talented players with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani both showing flashes of brilliance in the match against Germany. But with the Danes stealing three from Holland, it is pretty tough to see how Portugal makes it out of the group unless the Dutch completely fall apart when the two face off next Sunday. (FIFA World Rank: 10)

10. Croatia Scoring three goals versus Ireland made the Croatian squad look a bit better than they probably are. With matches against Italy and then Spain yet to come, you gotta think the fun for the Croats is just about over. (FIFA World Rank: 8)

11. Poland – If Poland didn’t have automatic qualification for the tournament as the co-host, there’s pretty much no chance they would be here. That being said, it looks like they’ll be able to hold their own in a rather underpowered Group A. If their very impressive young striker Robert Lewandowski can continue to find the back of the net against Russia and, more importantly, versus the Czechs, the Polish could find themselves advancing. (FIFA World Rank: 62)

12. Ukraine – This might be their first major tournament, but with home field advantage and a talent (and now national hero) like Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine will at least be a lot of fun to watch in the tourney. (FIFA World Rank: 52)

13. Sweden – One can’t help but wonder just how big of a star Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be on the world stage if he was part of a more powerful squad. As it is, it just doesn’t seem likely this Swedish team will make much of a foe for either France or England in the coming matches if they couldn’t even find a winner against Ukraine. (FIFA World Rank: 17)

14. Czech Republic – You get the sense that this Czech team’s best days are behind them as even Tomas Rosicky looked like an old man out there against the Russians. Still, the Czechs have a weak Group A placement going for them and could advance if they find form. (FIFA World Rank: 27)

15. Ireland – Things aren’t looking too good for the Irish after their thumping at the hands of Croatia. The team had plenty of chances but just couldn’t get much to go their way. With matches against Spain and Italy to come, it could very easily be a zero point tourney for the Irish. (FIFA World Rank: 18)

16. Greece – So what if the Greeks stole a point in their ugly match with Poland to open the tournament. This team looked completely out of sorts throughout the match, unable to even score a penalty against a cold backup GK. If you ask me, they’re better off heading home to start earning money to pay off their loans than to hang around as best-case-scenario fodder for a Group B runner up. (FIFA World Rank: 15)

Posted by enderzero at 3:55pm on Jun. 11, 2012