Why Euro 2012 Will Be Harder to Win Than the 2014 World Cup
The upcoming Euro 2012 tournament may be one of the tightest and toughest international tournaments to win in recent years.
Euro 2012 kicks off on June 8, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland and will feature many of the best players in the world. Spain are among the favourites, having won the trophy last time around and adding the World Cup to that two years later.
This tournament will be a little bit harder to win than the 2014 World Cup for a variety of factors, and here's why.
Strength of European Teams
Judging by the FIFA rankings as of February 15, 2012, the lowest-ranked competitor in the upcoming Euro 2012 tournament is Poland at No. 70.
In the top 30 teams in these rankings, there are 20 teams from Europe and 10 from other confederations. Fourteen of those 20 teams are participating in Euro 2012, including No. 1 Spain, No. 2 Germany and No. 3 the Netherlands.
Poland and the Ukraine—the co-hosts for the tournament—are at No. 70 and No. 59, respectively, but home advantage will possibly give them some good help in this tournament.
These rankings display a great amount of strength from Europe, strength that will likely continue at the 2014 World Cup. This is not a knock against the other teams in the top 30 but an affirmation of the strength in Europe.
No Weaker Teams in Euro 2012
No offense to New Zealand and the Democratic Republic of North Korea, but they wouldn't stand a chance in this tournament. Back in May 2010, before the World Cup, these teams were ranked at No. 78 and No. 105, respectively, lower than all of the teams in the tournament then.
Right now, New Zealand is currently ranked at No. 120 and Korea DPR is ranked at No. 106 in FIFA's rankings. Admittedly, these teams, more so New Zealand than Korea DPR, had decent showings in the tournament.
New Zealand actually got three straight draws, two against European opposition, but it has to be said that Italy were weaker then than now, and Slovakia were fellow first-timers.
North Korea lost all of their games, though the team's performance against Brazil has to be noted. Still, North Korea's presence gave way to a 7-0 drubbing from Portugal. That is something very unlikely to happen in Euro 2012.
Group Stages Are Harder
Take a look at the groups below. One group stands out for sure—Group B, if you don't realize—but every single game in every group will be tough for the competitors.
The World Cup certainly provides its tough groups and the usual “Group of Death,” but you could say that all these groups are a “Group of Death.”
A Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic
B Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal
C Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Croatia
D Ukraine, Sweden, France, England
The strength of these groups goes in hand in hand with the next reason why Euro 2012 will be harder to win than the 2014 World Cup.
Euro 2012 Is a Shorter Tournament
There is just one less knockout stage in this tournament than in the World Cup, but it makes all the difference when you consider the group stages.
As a result, teams have to step up from the start to get into the quarterfinals. Along with the idea of tougher groups is the fact that it is imperative to get off to a positive result from the start.
A loss in the first game will be even harder to come back from considering the opposition within each group. That kind of situation is similar to the World Cup, but again, the higher quality in each group makes the difference here.
Europe Had the Strongest Contingent in the 2010 World Cup Knockout Stages
The 2010 World Cup semifinals consisted of three European teams—the Netherlands, Spain and Germany—along with one South American team, Uruguay.
The first two teams were finalists, and Germany eventually won third place over Uruguay. If you look at the Round of 16, you can see that there were six European teams in the knockout stages.
The three European semifinalists reduced the amount of European teams for the remainder of the competition, as they knocked out their confederation counterparts.
That is another example of the strength in Europe. Is it possible that Slovakia, England and Portugal would have progressed further if they didn't meet their better European counterparts?
Maybe, or maybe not.
Less Likely Winners in the Euro 2012
Greece's Euro 2004 win is a perfect example of an unlikely winner. Since 1964, there have been nine different European Championship winners.
Other confederation tournaments like the African Cup of Nations and Asian Nations Cup can provide similar parity, and I am not trying to knock African and Asian teams—I'm a fan of teams like Ghana and Japan—but the overall performances of both confederations in the World Cup show their strength, or lack thereof.
We all know the pedigree of the World Cup and the select group of winners. In 19 tournaments, there have been eight different winners; five of those have been European.
While the landscape of the world game may change, it may not change so much that the likes of Germany, Brazil, Italy and so forth are not the most likely winners in each tournament.