Euro 2012 Bracket: Teams with Toughest Paths to European Crown

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Euro 2012 Bracket: Teams with Toughest Paths to European Crown
Michael Steele/Getty Images

While Group B is labeled the "group of death" in the Euro 2012 tournament, there are more than a few teams who have a rocky road ahead of them in order to hoist the title.

Here's a look at the nations who will have to dig down deep in order to reach the final game.

 

Spain

The Spaniards are indeed the defending Euro and World Cup champions, but Group C is no walk in the park for the talented squad.

Vicente Del Bosque's unit already drew against Italy, where arguably the Azzurri looked like the more complete team on the pitch. Spain could not penetrate the "blue wall" defense of the Italians and still have underrated Croatia and Ireland to play.

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The Croats annihilated the Irish 3-1 to start their tournament off, which is impressive considering the momentum Ireland had coming into Euro 2012 after their 5-1 aggregate win over Estonia to qualify.

While both are on the same level in terms of points, Italy emerged from their draw with Spain with momentum, as the Azzurri were not favored to win or draw that contest.

Andres Iniesta and the rest left that field in disappointment, which cannot carry over into their next contest. They face Robbie Keane and the Irish, who are out to avenge their loss to Croatia by defeating the defending tournament champions.

Spain needed to defeat the Italians to control this division and have an easier ride to the knockout stage, but now they find themselves in the trenches with two of the tournament's favorite underdogs left to play.

 

Netherlands

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Speaking of missed opportunities, no team has shot themselves in the foot like Holland have with their loss to Denmark.

With that devastating loss in the group of death, the Dutch need victories over Portugal and FIFA No. 1-ranked Germany in order to have the best chance of advancing—tasks that aren't even easy to say, let alone accomplish.

Germany defeated Portugal in a tight contest. Cristiano Ronaldo and Company will be playing in desperation just as the Netherlands will when they face each other in their final Group B match.

If Wesley Sneijder's squad can't at least draw against the Germans, their run for European immortality will end faster than any other favorite in the tournament.

The tournament is still young, but it would take a historic comeback on the part of the Dutchmen to find their way past the group stage of Euro 2012—thanks to the Danes, of all teams.

 

England

Scott Heavey/Getty Images

The Three Lions find themselves in probably the second-easiest group in the tournament in Group D. That doesn't mean they'll coast to the final round.

The English needed to come out against France and show they can spark offense even without Manchester United's Wayne Rooney on the pitch, and that did not happen.

Joleon Lescott did score off a header thanks to a perfect pass from Steven Gerrard, but the French shut down England's attack for 95 percent of the match.

France were the biggest competition for Rooney's squad before he returns against Ukraine, but scrounging just one point in the contest means they'll need to win a game against Sweden or the Zhovto-Blakytni.

There's still a strong chance England can grab the first- or second-place spot if they can defeat at least one of their two remaining opponents, but both Ukraine and the Swedes put on quite the show yesterday.

Even if the Three Lions emerge from the group stage, they'll be taking on one of the best from Group C, which could easily spell their doom. Italy and Spain are the likely two to come out of that group, who both look more tournament-ready than their English counterparts.

While Rooney will have returned for the Englishmen by that time, I'd argue that the Italians and Spaniards are better units than their possible Group D opponent in the knockout stage.

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