Euro 2012: Germany Emerge as Favorites in the Early Going

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Euro 2012: Germany Emerge as Favorites in the Early Going
Martin Rose/Getty Images
Bastian Schweinsteiger is in his prime.

"Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win."—Gary Lineker
 

With their 1-0 victory over Portugal in the second of the first round of "Group of Death" matches, Germany demonstrated their ability to simply outclass a solid side like the Portuguese.

What particularly bodes well for the Germans was the palpable affirmation of two particular decisions recently made by skipper Joachim Löw: one, to bench the legendary Miroslav Klose in favor of the younger, in-his-prime Mario Gomez at striker; second, replacing defender Per Mertesacker with Mats Hummels.

Die Mannschaft witnessed a performance by a man possessed, as the 23-year old Hummels emulated a helicopter on balls in the air and effectively erased the great Christiano Ronaldo from the match.

Meanwhile, Mario Gomez stuck to give the Germans a win despite failing to replicate the kind of football that obliterated their qualifying opponents to the tune of a +27 scoring differential in 10 qualifying matches: all victories.

Germany will receive Holland's best effort in their second group match, as the Dutch face oblivion following a 1-0 shocker to Denmark in their opening match.

World-class players like Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie will fight for their international careers in what could amount to an elimination match, should the Germans and Danish manage to win their contests.

A cross-cultural study...

 

If Germany can avoid the loss in against the Netherlands, they guarantee themselves a place in the next round. Should die Nationalelf knock de Oranje out of the tournament, they kill two birds with one stone by advancing themselves and eliminating one of their most dangerous competitors before the elimination round.

Klose represents the last of a fading generation of German stars, constituted of mega-stars like Oliver Kahn and new ESPN analyst and Matt Damon doppelgaenger Michael Ballack.

Germany's deep, talented and adaptable midfield allows them to dominate the center of the pitch and control the tempo of the match, regardless of whether the offense can find a rhythm.

Offensively, Mehmet Özil and Thomas Müller make world-class incisions in opposing defenses with their precise delivery and frenetic pace.

Bastian Schweinsteiger and Phillip Lahm have settled into leadership roles in the middle of the field and at the wing, respectively. The two were mere teenagers when Germany suffered a humiliating loss to Latvia at the 2004 European Championships. After three crushing disappointments in their last major world tournaments, Germany's leaders are ready to deliver.

A win against the Netherlands would all but assure Germany passage through the Group of Death, but even a tie would cut the Dutch down to their last thread, as they would need results to go their way in hopes of qualifying for the last eight.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Russia's Alan Dzagoev.

Darkhorses: Russia

 

 

Right at home in the rowdy Eastern European setting of the 2012 Euro Cup, the Russians demonstrated some firepower early on in their 4-1 dismantling of the Czech Republic.

 

The 21-year-old Alan Dzagoev has proven a dangerous offensive player under the skilled instruction of Dick Advocaat. With lightning quick pace and a devastatingly accurate touch to boot, Dzagoev has scored three goals in his first two matches and is the early favorite for the tournament's Golden Boot award.

Hosts Poland survive at two points after Tuesday's emotionally-charged 1-1 tie. Russia leads Group A with four points and the Czechs now trail close behind at three. Poland and the Czech Republic enter the final round of the group stage with the hosts fighting for their lives and the Czechs assured of advancement with a tie. Russia also controls its destiny from the top of the table.

With an enthusiastic fan base more than willing to travel throughout Poland and the Ukraine, Russia will play with a virtual home-field advantage against all but the host nations.

You can follow me on Twitter: @StepanekButton 

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