Euro 2012 Quarterfinals: Power Ranking the 8 Nations Left in the Tournament
And then there were eight.
After a Euro 2012 group stage packed with thrills and spills, the knockout stages have finally arrived with all eight teams having one eye on the trophy. Most of the teams that fans expected to advance to this point in the tournament still remain, with the exception of the Netherlands, who fell victim to the group of death, and Russia, who looked like dark horses to win before their shock exit following a loss to Greece.
While all eight teams will believe that they have a chance at winning the tournament and will give their all in the quarterfinals, some teams are clearly superior to others.
Here are all eight countries remaining in Euro 2012, power ranked.
Euro 2012 will be nothing like Euro 2004 for Greece.
Advancing from Group A is as far as their fairytale run will get, and I just can't see Greece as one of those teams who pulls off an upset against all odds. Germany are too strong and too professional to let it slip against one of the weakest teams in the tournament, and Greece will likely be picked apart by the tournament favorites.
Greece's highlight of the tournament will remain as their unexpected 1-0 win over Russia, and they should go home with pride if they're even in this quarterfinal around the 70-minute mark.
7. Czech Republic
Czech Republic have shown a remarkable amount of team spirit by bouncing back from their 4-1 loss to Russia in their first match of Euro 2012.
After that crushing defeat, many predicted that the Czechs would bomb in Group A. But they responded well, beating Greece thanks to two goals in the first ten minutes of the match, followed by a very close win against Poland, the tournament hosts.
The Czech Republic will definitely believe that they can cause an upset against the inconsistent Portugal, and I do think that the Czechs will fight this game down to the very last minute. In the end, though, Michal Bilek's side will go home against Portugal.
France went into this tournament with bundles of confidence coming off of an undefeated streak consisting of over 20 matches, as well as impressive wins in friendlies. Many people, including myself, predicted that they'd be dark horses to win Euro 2012.
But Laurent Blanc's side have somewhat disappointed. Their opening match resulted in a 1-1 draw with England, which was understandable. But at the same time, Les Bleus demonstrated that they lack a cutting edge to turn their possession into chances and ultimately goals.
Their 2-0 win over Ukraine was more of what people expected from France, and they went into their final match against Sweden as favorites to win Group D.
Needing a win or a draw in order to confirm their place in the semifinals, France did neither with a shock 2-0 loss to Sweden. Because of Ukraine's loss to England, France still finished second in their group, but they now face Spain rather than Italy.
The loss to Sweden showed how many problems France have at the back, and I think those defensive issues will be extremely exposed against Spain's dynamic attack.
I think most people will agree that England have overachieved so far in Euro 2012.
After hiring a midtable club manager weeks before the tournament and having three key players injured as well as their best player (Wayne Rooney) suspended for two matches, many predicted an unsuccessful tournament for England, with some even predicting a group-stage exit.
That's not to say that any of the Three Lions' performances have been particularly great, with all three of the results they've gotten so far having been just squeaked out. Roy Hodgson has England playing like a mediocre English club, relying on crosses and set-pieces for their goals.
England's quarterfinal against Italy will be close, too close to predict.
Italy went into Euro 2012 in shambles. They were on the back of three straight losses in international friendlies with the most recent being a 3-0 loss to Russia, and the country was engulfed in a football match-fixing scandal.
But Italy have a knack of getting it together for the big tournaments (bar South Africa 2010), and sure enough, they advanced from a tricky Group C in second place.
The Azzurri are surely the most unpredictable team in the tournament: They could either show up with complete defensive solidity and dynamic attacks fueled by Andrea Pirlo, or they could look like they've run out of ideas in attack and lose the ball every time they gain possession.
Which Italy will show up against England in their quarterfinal date? If they want any chance at winning Euro 2012, the likes of Pirlo, De Rossi and Balotelli will have to be at their best.
I was thoroughly impressed by Portugal's performance in their 2-1 win over the Netherlands to seal a place in the quarterfinals.
Although they've struggled in the past and are often criticized for being too reliant on the best player of the tournament in Cristiano Ronaldo, Portgual were brilliant against the Dutch. Their counterattacks were quick and efficient, and with Ronaldo at the end of their numerous chances, the Portuguese are a side that like to score goals. Even their defense was solid.
Many people are underestimating Portugal in Euro 2012, but I think they can make a good run in the tournament if the likes of Ronaldo and Nani play the way they did against the Netherlands.
Spain haven't disappointed as defending World and European champions, topping Group C with their tiki-taka style of play.
Besides the stumbling block in the form of Italy, Spain have outpassed and outclassed every team that they've come up against, crushing Ireland 4-0 and edging past Croatia in a 1-0 win. Vincent Del Bosque's midfield has lived up to its expectations, with Xavi and Iniesta running the show in the middle of the park while David Silva scores goals himself.
But Spain can't underestimate France. Although La Roja are sure to make a long run in Euro 2012, France are a strong side despite their recent struggles and will give Spain a good fight in what should be a very close encounter.
Germany went into Euro 2012 as tournament favorites, and they've more than lived up to the hype so far.
Winning all three of their group stage matches in "The Group of Death," the Germans got arguably the easiest quarterfinal draw in Greece. Strong in every position, Joachim Loew's side have been firing on all fronts, with Mario Gomez scoring goals left and right while the likes of Ozil, Schweinsteiger and Khedira feed him with through balls and crosses.
Germany are a tough nut to crack in Euro 2012, and whatever team beats them will thoroughly deserve to win the tournament. But will any team manage defeat the Germans?