Euro 2012 Bracket: Breaking Down Group Stage Fixtures

Justin WeltonAnalyst IIJune 7, 2012

Euro 2012 Bracket: Breaking Down Group Stage Fixtures

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    Only one can become champion. 

    Sixteen teams will be looking to be crowned European champions, but only one will find the result they are looking for.

    Drama will be at a fever pitch for the 2012 European Football Championship, and the anticipation is at an all-time high.

    Group play will begin Friday, June 8 and will conclude Tuesday, June 19. Here is how each fixture will play out. 

    To check out the entire group stage schedule, visit bbc.co.uk.

Group A

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    Group A consists of Russia, Czech Republic, Poland and Greece. Any one of these teams could go to the knockout stages, but here is how I see things panning out. 

    June 8

    Poland vs. Greece

    Greece won Euro 2004 by stifling opponents with technical defensive tactics. If they can replicate what they did in 2004, Greece has an opportunity to get out of the group stages.

    Difference Maker: Greece's defense

    Disrupted passes, frustrating opponents and capitalizing on the counter attacks is what Greece will attempt to do in this tournament. 

    Prediction: Poland 1, Greece 1

    Poland will use the home folks to get enough energy to muster a goal in the first half. Greece will open the doors slightly by pushing men forward late, and it will pay off.  

    Russia vs. Czech Republic

    Russia played unbelievable football at Euro 2008. They reached the Semifinals. They looked like a replica of Spain with how they moved the ball with great precision, and every player looked as dangerous as ever.

    They might not be able to duplicate that performance, but they can be close. 

    Difference Maker: Russia's chemistry

    They played like they had the best team on the pitch four years ago, and that confidence went a long way. Russia can continue that success if they can match their confidence from four years ago.

    Prediction: Russia 2, Czech Republic 1

    Russia's passing will frustrate Czech Republic early and often. Roman Pavlyuchenko will finish his opportunities in the final third. 

    June 12

    Greece vs. Czech Republic

    Will Czech Republic be patient enough to play Greece's game? That's the question with this intriguing matchup.

    Difference Maker: Tomas Necid

    Tomas Necid will most likely be a bench player in the group stages, but he brings quality to the pitch when he's given the opportunity. He has scored seven goals in 26 appearances for his country. 

    Having a player like Necid on the bench could really give Czech Republic a shot in the arm when nothing is clicking. 

    Prediction: Greece 0, Czech Republic 0

    Greece will take this result because that's the style they want to play. 

    Poland vs. Russia

    Russia will have a great opportunity to seize control of this group with a victory. Poland will be looking to get back on track in a winnable group.

    Difference Maker: Andrei Arshavin

    Andrei Arshavin did not exactly play up to his expectations last season with Arsenal, but he is a player capable of striking at any moment. He gives Russia that star-quality performer when he is on top of his form.

    Prediction: Russia 2, Poland 1

    Arshavin scores the game-winning goal to secure the group for Russia. 

    June 16

    Czech Republic vs. Poland

    Making it out of Group A will be a possibility for every team on the final day. Czech Republic and Poland will be looking to push the tempo so this game should be exciting to watch.

    Difference Maker in game: Milan Baros and Tomas Rosicky

    Czech Republic does not have a fantastic offense, but they have a few weapons. Milan Baros and Tomas Rosicky will provide multiple scoring opportunities and they will cash at least two.

    Baros has scored 41 goals and Rosicky has totaled 20 for their national side.  

    Prediction: Czech Republic 2, Poland 1

    Baros tallies two goals en route to a 2-1 victory for Czech Republic. 

    Greece vs. Russia

    In a game Russia will not need to have, Greece will be looking to take full advantage of their opportunities. Greece will play their style of football while looking for a goal on the counter attack.

    If it doesn't come in the first half, Greece will send a few men forward in hopes of scoring that elusive goal.

    Difference Maker: Patience

    Greece must stick with the game plan of staying defensive minded. Despite what is going on in the other group game, Greece could advance with a victory. 

    Patience is a virtue, and it will do wonders for Greece if they can maintain that patience. 

    Prediction: Greece 1, Russia 0

    Russia does not need to play its stars so Greece will be given every opportunity to steal this game. They score before the half and lock it down the rest of the way. 

    Final Prediction

    1. Russia

    2. Greece

    3. Czech Republic

    4. Poland 

Group B

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    The "Group of Death" or Group B features high-powered Germany, Netherlands and Portugal. Denmark receives the raw end of the deal by being the fourth team entered.

    Here is how the group of death will play out. 

    June 9

    Netherlands vs. Denmark

    Germany and Portugal may be stealing headlines from the Netherlands, but they will be talking more about them when this group stage is over with.

    The Netherlands will begin their run by playing Denmark in the opener. A win would set Netherlands up perfectly in this group.

    Difference Maker: Netherland's explosive talent

    Arjen Robben, Rafael Van Der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, Mark Van Bommel and Robin van Persie provide a wealth of talent few in this tournament can match up against.

    They have speed, athleticism, craftiness and great goal-scoring ability.

    Prediction: Netherlands 3, Denmark 1

    Netherlands must avoid a slow start so this game is crucial. Robben scores once and van Persie scores twice to lead Netherlands to the victory.  

    Germany vs. Portugal

    The second game on June 9 is intriguing to say the least. Germany is a well-oiled machine, but Portugal have one of the top-two players in the world.

    Difference Maker: Cristiano Ronaldo

    Cristiano Ronaldo will have a good tournament as the go-to guy for Portugal. It will start in the opening game.

    He will need to be strong if Portugal has any chance of making it into the knockout stages, and I think he will do fine.

    Prediction: Germany 1, Portugal 1

    Ronaldo equalizes late to give Portugal a great result in the opener. 

    June 13

    Denmark vs. Portugal

    After a thrilling first game, Portugal will be looking to pick up three points against Denmark. A win would give them four points, and it would set them up well heading into the final game.

    Difference Maker: Lack of focus

    Portugal will be coming off a positive result against Germany. They will be liking the situation they are in, but they must stay focused on the task at hand.

    Denmark is a formidable side led by Nicklas Bendtner, a player who was previously with Arsenal. He hasn't been what people thought in his time in the English Premier League, but he is still only 24 years old. 

    He is plenty capable of scoring a few goals in a game this competition. 

    Prediction: Portugal 2, Denmark 2

    Bendtner scores a pair and Portugal fail to capitalize on a glorious opportunity. 

    Netherlands vs. Germany

    This is the game of the group. Netherlands vs. Germany, two of the titans of football. It is going to be a classic.

    After Germany's draw in the opener, a positive result will be needed against the Netherlands. 

    Difference Maker: Mario Gomez

    The goal scoring machine, Mario Gomez, will need to show up to the party. He scored 26 goals in the BUNDESLIGA yet failed to come up big against Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea in two of the biggest games of the season.

    Prediction: Netherlands 1, Germany 1

    Germany will be happy with the result because it will keep them alive. Netherlands defense will play surprisingly well, and Germany's will be strong throughout. 

    June 17

    Denmark vs. Germany

    A must-win game for Germany will result in a big-time performance to keep its title hopes alive. 

    Difference Maker: Back against the wall

    When your backs are against the wall, and you need to play your best to stay alive, that's when you see the urgency come to life. Germany will play free football and will capitalize on chances early.

    Prediction: Germany 4, Denmark 0

    Germany will get four goals which will be enough to get them through to the knockout stages. 

    Portugal vs. Netherlands 

    Portugal will be in some trouble when they meet Netherlands because of goal differential. As they watch the scoreboard to see the goals Germany is scoring, the pressure will increase.

    Difference Maker: Netherland's counter-attack

    Portugal will be looking to score early and often to have a better goal differential than Germany. Once they see the Germans scoring at a rapid pace, we will see them push more players forward.

    This will open the door for Netherlands which, in turn, will cause several dangerous scoring chances on the counter attack.

    Prediction: Netherlands 2, Portugal 1

    Netherlands plays solid defense, and they score two on the counter-attack including one late to send Portugal packing.

    Final Prediction

    1. Netherlands

    2. Germany

    3. Portugal

    4. Denmark

Group C

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    Group C features Spain, Italy, Croatia and Republic of Ireland. Here is how things will shake out for this group. 

    June 10 

    Spain vs. Italy 

    Group C opens up with the match of the group—Spain vs. Italy. Spain will be looking to control the ball and Italy will be looking to keep the score low, capitalize on set pieces and maximize on the counter attack.

    Difference Maker: Spain's talent

    Spain's talent and chemistry is just as great as any team in the tournament. They pass the ball with swift precision, know where each other are and several players can put the ball in the back of the net.

    Prediction: Spain 2, Italy 1

    Spain's talent rules out, and they receive a late goal to secure victory. 

    Republic of Ireland vs. Croatia 

    If Republic of Ireland plans on making it through to the knockout stages, this is a game they must win. It would set them up perfectly for the group if they could earn a quick three points.

    Difference Maker: Ireland's lack of goal scoring

    Robbie Keane has more than 50 goals for his international club side but nobody on the roster has scored more than 10. 

    Keane will need help if Republic of Ireland plan on making a run, but it's going to be difficult to receive. 

    Prediction: Croatia 2, Republic of Ireland 0

    Keane cannot find the back of the net, and neither can any of his comrades. Croatia gets one before the break and one on the counter-attack late. 

    June 14

    Italy vs. Croatia

    This game is going to be crucial in Group C. It could determine who makes it to the knockout stages.

    Both will probably see a negative result to Spain, and both will hope they can defeat Republic of Ireland, but it will not mean much if they cannot defeat one another.

    Fantastic theater.  

    Difference Maker: Mario Balotelli

    Italy's Mario Balotelli is a goal-scoring machine so I have to give the edge to Italy although anything can happen which is why tournaments like this are so great.

    He scored 13 goals for English Premier League champion Manchester City this season, and he's capable of striking at any moment.   

    Prediction: Italy 1, Croatia 0

    Balotelli scores after the half and Italy plays tight defense the rest of the way to hold on to get a massive three points. 

    Spain vs. Republic of Ireland

    Spain will dominate the time of possession 70-to-30, if not more. It is just how they play, especially when they are against inferior competition.

    Difference Maker: Spain's midfield

    Time of possession is going to be a key area to watch. Spain will dominant the game by possessing it in the midfield. Xavi will do what he does best and that's controlling the tempo of the game. 

    Prediction: Spain 3, Republic of Ireland 0

    Too much Spain in this game, and it won't even be close. They break Republic of Ireland's defense three times in the first half. 

    June 18

    Croatia vs. Spain

    The final game for Spain and Croatia could be a huge game for both. Spain could be looking to secure the top-spot in Group C and Croatia could be looking to just make it out of the group fixtures.

    Difference Maker: Spain possibly resting players

    It should be an intriguing game especially if Spain has the top spot locked up. They would rest some of their stars which would leave the door open for Croatia.

    Prediction: Croatia 1, Spain 1

    Spain, after winning the first two games, would not need a victory to win the group so resting starters would be the logical idea. They rest a few starters and Croatia earns a result because of it.

    Italy vs. Republic of Ireland 

    Italy is going to be in a great position playing the final game of the group. All they will need is a victory to make it to the group stages. 

    Difference Maker: Set pieces

    Italy is well-known for its dynamic set piece game and we will see why when they capitalize on two against Republic of Ireland. Both will be from free kicks. 

    Prediction: Italy 2, Republic of Ireland 1

    With the score tied at one a piece, Italy will receive a well-placed ball into the mixer and someone will get their head on it to score the second goal of the game for Italy.

    Final Prediction

    1. Spain

    2. Italy

    3. Croatia

    4. Republic of Ireland 

Group D

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    Group D consists of England, Sweden, France and Ukraine. Another intriguing group should bring more great drama. 

    Here is how I see this group finishing. 

    June 11

    France vs. England

    Group D's opener is going to determine who wins the entire group. England and France have not exactly been great in national competitions of late so it makes for an exciting first game. 

    Difference Maker: Chemistry

    Chemistry issues were a major problem for France at the World Cup 2010. England has not been great with chemistry issues from the coach to the players, either.

    Whichever team brings more chemistry to the pitch will walk away with the victory.

    Prediction: England 2, France 1

    England will receive quality performances from their young players, and they will get a big-time goal from one of their veterans. 

    Ukraine vs. Sweden

    Sweden is a team to watch out for. They have talented players, and the draw of Ukraine is perfect in the first game.

    Both teams could win this contest, and a quick three points would be massive for each team. 

    Difference Maker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

    It's now or never for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He will be one of the best three players on the pitch in any game they play this tournament. He has to play like he's that talented. 

    Ibrahimovic has scored more than 30 goals for Sweden since 2001. He has to produce at a higher clip for Sweden to advance.

    Prediction: Sweden 3, Ukraine 1

    Ibrahimovic buries two goals en route to a two-goal victory for Sweden. The victory will put Sweden in a great position in the group stages. 

    June 15

    Ukraine vs. France

    France will be looking to bounce back after a defeat to England, and Ukraine will be looking to do the same. 

    Difference Maker: France's talent

    France has the superior talent in this fixture, and while that does not necessarily bring victories, it certainly puts them in a better position to win.

    Prediction: France 1, Ukraine 0

    Karim Benzema scored 21 goals for Real Madrid in La Liga this season, and he is ready to continue his goal-scoring ways. He notches one in a smooth victory for France.  

    Sweden vs. England

    If both teams win its first game, this contest will be real intriguing. Both will be looking to take control of this group with a victory.

    Difference Maker: England's defense 

    Manager Roy Hodgson will game plan for Sweden's Ibrahimovic, forcing other Swedish forwards to play more important roles.

    It will work, to an extent. Ibrahimovic will not be stopped but he will be contained.

    Prediction: England 2, Sweden 0

    An early goal accompanied by a second half goal will put a halt to Sweden's success. 

    June 19

    England vs. Ukraine

    England will be looking to finish on top of Group D with a victory, and Ukraine will be looking for a positive result in front of the home folks.

    Difference Maker: Joe Hart

    Joe Hart played a major role in Manchester City winning the English Premier League. When they needed a big save, Hart provided it.

    Prediction: England 1, Ukraine 0

    This game will be tightly played, and Ukraine will not go away easily. They will be looking to salvage something from this tournament, but Hart will stone them on multiple occasions.

    Sweden vs. France

    This game will decide who makes it out of the group stages. France will need a victory, but Sweden could win on goal differential with a draw. 

    Difference Maker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic has the entire country on his shoulders. You would not think that will 11 men on the pitch, but it's true.

    He is the best player on the pitch on most occasions yet he does not come through when they need him to. 

    It's time for him to step up.

    Prediction: Sweden 2, France 2

    France's struggles continue on the national level, and Sweden manages to get through to the knockout stages with a great draw.

    Final Prediction

    1. England

    2. Sweden

    3. France

    4. Ukraine