Euro 2012 Results: Squads Guaranteed to Advance After Initial Group Matches
With every squad having played one group match in Euro 2012 there is obviously a lot of soccer to be played, but for some teams it is already apparent that they will be moving on to the knock-out stage. It is technically true that anything can happen over the next week, but I feel pretty confident already advancing some teams in ink.
The men have been separated from the boys to some degree already and as the group stage progresses, the gap figures to widen even more. Most fans already had an idea of which teams were going to be the main contenders heading into the tournament and while some of them have faltered, others are in a great position.
Here are three squads that have only played one match to this point, but are already essentially guaranteed a spot in the next round.
Which team is the biggest lock to advance to the knockout stage?
There is no question that Germany can play better than it did in its 1-0 win over Portugal, but the fact that it is was able to beat a strong squad like Portugal without being at its best should be looked at as a positive. The Germans played a fairly boring and simple game, which was surprising due to the immense offensive talent on the team, but it was a successful style when it came to shutting down Cristiano Ronaldo.
With three points in their back pocket, the Germans will now have the luxury of opening things up moving forward. With offensive stars such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller, Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski on the team, it is only a matter of time before Germany explodes. The coming games won't be easy as Denmark is tied atop the group and Netherlands will be desperate after a loss, but Germany is the most skilled team in the group and perhaps the entire tournament.
Entering Euro 2012 nobody was quite sure what to make of Russia as it has stumbled on the big stage in the past, but after eviscerating the Czech Republic by a 4-1 tally, it looks as if the Russians should cruise into the next round. Many believed that the Czechs had a chance against Russia due to world-class goalkeeper Petr Cech, but Russia schooled Czech Republic's defense, rendering Cech absolutely helpless.
With the likes of Andrei Arshavin, Alan Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov running roughshod over the competition, Russia may very well dominate Poland and Greece too. It remains to be seen whether Russia can compete with elite squads like Germany and Spain, but based on the advantageous group that the Russians were placed in, there is almost no doubt that they will continue playing past the group stage.
One of the biggest surprises from the opening round of group-stage games was the fact that Spain was unable to defeat Italy. In fact, Italy had a 1-0 lead in the match, but the Spaniards were able to strike back and preserve a draw. A loss might have been catastrophic for Spain and a draw certainly wasn't the ideal result, but the defending Euro and World Cup champions will be just fine.
The fact that Croatia won its opening match puts some pressure on Spain, but the Spaniards are a more talented bunch than the Croatians, so they should be fine. A win over Ireland is automatic, so winning the group will likely come down to whether or not Spain can beat Croatia. Spain looked dangerous often against Italy, but had trouble finishing. That was likely due to the strange decision to go without a striker for much of the match, but I expect Fernando Torres to receive increased playing time and that should help Spain advance easily.
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