Euro 2012 Bracket: Stars Who Will Push Their Squads Past Group Stage
With the second round of matches in group play complete, each team has just one game remaining before the knockout round commences. Even if things look bleak for some squads, most are still alive depending upon what they do in the coming days. You never know what might happen, but there are certainly a lot of teams in great shape right now as well.
Getting that last point (or three points) can often be the most difficult, so teams are going to need their studs to step up in order to ensure that they aren't going home. Every squad has a star or two that they count on to do most of the heavy lifting offensively, but unfortunately, not all of them are going to come through.
Here are three stars who will lead their respective teams into the next round with strong performances in the closing contests of group play.
Euro 2012 standings and bracket via ESPN.com
Fernando Torres (Spain)
Which player will be the biggest key to his team advancing?
Striker Fernando Torres wasn't used until late in Spain's draw with Italy as the Spaniards tried their luck without a true forward up top, but it was unsuccessful. Torres was given the starting nod against Ireland and it certainly paid dividends, as he scored in the fourth minute and added another marker later in the contest.
Torres struggled in club play with Chelsea this past season, but his outburst last match proved that his immense talent is still present.
The good thing about Torres is that he doesn't even have to be particularly great to succeed because he has so many incredible playmakers around him that can get him the ball in dangerous areas. With the likes of David Silva and Andres Iniesta serving the ball up on a platter, Torres is quite likely to score against Croatia and ensure that Spain moves on.
Andrei Arshavin (Russia)
Much of the attention regarding Russia's offensive prowess thus far has gone to exciting young striker Alan Dzagoev, who has scored three goals in two matches, but the lifeblood of the Russian attack is veteran midfielder Andrei Arshavin.
There is no doubt that Arshavin was looked at as a scapegoat at times during his stint in the EPL, but he has been a big-time player in this tournament while leading everyone in assists with three.
Arshavin constantly looked dangerous in Russia's opening-match rout of Czech Republic, and he was very strong against Poland as well. Arshavin is great because while he is very adept at setting up his teammates, he won't hesitate to strike for goal and score either.
Russia needs a mere point against struggling Greece to advance in the tournament, and Arshavin is going to be the player who secures it thanks to his spectacular skill and creativity.
Mario Gomez (Germany)
Along with Dzagoev and Croatia's Mario Mandzukic, star German forward Mario Gomez leads all scorers in Euro 2012 with three tallies in two games thus far.
Gomez is surrounded by a ton of talented players such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski, but he has essentially been their only source of offense to this point. His strikes have been enough to push Germany past Portugal and Netherlands, and he will look to do the same against Denmark.
The Danes are very pesky and play good team defense, so they won't be easy to break down, but Gomez has the craftiness and accurate shot to get the job done. The Germans don't need to win the game in order to move on as a draw would do the trick.
Germany would love to assert its dominance by sweeping the group stage, however, so expect Gomez to be given offensive license, which should bode well for him and his team.
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