Euro 2012: Predicting All 8 Quarterfinalists
The second round of group stage matches is finished, and we now head into what will be the most dramatic matches of Euro 2012 so far.
Not one team is assured a place in the quarterfinal yet, so everything will come down to the third and final round of group stage matches. Only two teams are officially out of the Euros (Ireland and Sweden), but the rest will fight for their lives as they look to seal a place in the quarterfinals.
Here are predictions of all eight Euro 2012 quarterfinalists...
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Ironically enough, Group A has probably been the most interesting group of Euro 2012 so far, and it certainly feels like the tightest heading into the final round of group stage matches.
Many predicted the group would be dull because of its lack of quality and no major powerhouses, but it's been far from boring with the quarterfinals still a real possibility for each team.
First Place: Russia
Russia have been one of the most convincing sides so far in Euro 2012. Although they failed to beat Poland in their 1-1 draw, they dismantled Czech Republic with a 4-1 victory in their opener. The Russians have been playing good football, with Andrei Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev commanding the wings by finding space with both their passes and runs.
I'm predicting a comprehensive win over Greece to confirm Russia's spot in the quarterfinals.
Second Place: Poland
Only a win over Czech Republic will give Poland a place in the quarterfinals, but I think the co-hosts will dramatically get the job done in front of their own fans. If their star outfield players in Jakub Blaszczykowski, Robert Lewandowski and Lukasz Piszczek perform well, Poland should be able to get past an on-and-off Czech Republic side without their best midfielder in Tomas Rosicky.
Expect another dramatic day of matches in Group A and a fairytale host story.
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The "Group of Death" will go down to the wire. While Germany have won their first two matches, they still don't have a place booked in the quarterfinals, and while the Netherlands have lost their first two matches, they still aren't out of Euro 2012.
Denmark have proved to be the surprise of the group after springing an upset against Netherlands and nearly Portugal. Portugal have been hot and cold, seemingly too reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo and just scraping past Denmark to give them hope in their final match against Netherlands.
First Place: Germany
Germany went into Euro 2012 as favorites and haven't disappointed. Although their win against Portugal wasn't the most convincing, the win over Netherlands was well earned, and they go into a match against Denmark full of confidence but wary of the Danes at the same time. Nonetheless, I don't think Denmark will pull off another upset.
Germany will win by at least two goals to book their place in the quarterfinal.
Second Place: Portugal
Portugal haven't been the most convincing side in Euro 2012 so far. Although they do have arguably the best player at the Euros in Ronaldo, the Real Madrid forward has been misfiring and ultimately letting his country down.
I think Portugal will lose to the Netherlands, but only by one goal, meaning Ronaldo and company will go through on goals scored while the Dutch will suffer a heartbreaking early exit by the narrowest of margins.
The Group of Death will have claimed its first victim with the Netherlands bowing out as pre-tournament favorites. Denmark won't make the quarterfinals either despite their impressive efforts.
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As arguably the second-hardest group in the tournament, Group C has proved to be as exciting as any other, with Spain, Italy and Croatia battling it out for two quarterfinal spots on the final day. When Spain play Croatia, the winner will be guaranteed a quarterfinal spot, and the loser will go home if Italy win their match over the Republic of Ireland.
First Place: Spain
Despite being held by Italy in their opener, Spain have impressed as favorites going into the tournament (that is when they play a forward, of course). Their comprehensive 4-0 win over Ireland was a showcase for Spain's superstar midfield and proved Fernando Torres as a source of goals for the Spaniards in Euro 2012.
Despite Croatia looking good against Ireland and Italy, I think Spain will beat them comfortably and advance to the quarterfinals.
Second Place: Italy
With my prediction of Croatia losing to Spain, Italy will be in pole position to seal a quarterfinal spot with a win over Ireland. Although their fans have been brilliant, the Irish team have been horrible in their Euro 2012 campaign thus far.
Their defending against Spain in particular was shockingly poor, and Shay Given has been far from his best for both of Ireland's matches. I think Andrea Pirlo and Italy will be too much for Ireland, and the Azzurri will get their place in the quarterfinals despite the criticism they received going into the tournament.
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France and England are now in perfect positions to go on to the quarterfinals, with each team having four points and knowing that a win on the final day will see them advance from their group.
While Sweden are officially out of the picture, co-hosts Ukraine aren't. Andriy Shevchenko and Ukraine will do everything in their power to overcome England, knowing that only a win will take them to the quarterfinals.
First Place: France
Although they've struggled to finish their chances and turn their possession into goals, France looked good in their 2-0 win over Ukraine and will beat already eliminated Sweden, booking them a spot in the quarterfinals. Les Bleus were outside favorites going into Euro 2012.
If the resurgence under Laurent Blanc continues, they'll only have to add three more matches to their remarkable undefeated run in order to win Euro 2012 altogether. Can they do it?
Second Place: England
Despite the possibility of a fairytale win for Ukraine that would take the co-hosts and massive underdogs into the quarterfinals against all odds, I just don't see it happening. England were full of spirit against Sweden, and I think that match may mark something of a turning point for them.
The usual England would have cranked out a 1-1 draw or even given up after going 2-1 down, but the Three Lions fought on and got a massive three points. With England so close to a quarterfinal spot that even a portion of their own fans predicted they wouldn't get, I think Roy Hodgson's men will show a different side to themselves and get the right result against Ukraine.
All in all, the two "better" teams in Group D will get through according to my predictions, setting up an interesting few quarterfinals.
Who do you think will be the last eight in Euro 2012?