Euro 2008: "The Group Of Death"
It seems that every international competition has one group that is stacked with three good teams and one team that is destined to be out after the group stages, while the other three are locked in a dogfight to fill two spots.
In the 2006 World Cup, it was Group C pitting Argentina, Holland, the Ivory Coast, and Serbia & Montenegro against each other.
This year, as Euro 2008 rapidly approaches, one group seems to grab the majority of the attention.
Aptly dubbed the "Group of Death," this group sees the 2006 World Cup finalists, France and Italy, plus Holland and Romania vying for two spots in the knockout round.
Seeing the nations in this group, it seems impossible that Romania will have a good showing in this year's competition.
What intrigues me personally is how the other "Big Three" will do.
You have to figure that France and Italy will play a great game with emotions running high on both sides. I'm sure everyone remembers that the last time these two teams met on such a big stage, Italy won on penalties to win the World Cup.
You can be sure France will want to erase the bad memories with a convincing win, but during the recent round of international friendlies, France looked like a team in trouble.
A 0-0 draw with Paraguay coupled with a 2-0 win over Ecuador that only came as a result of a late breakthrough, shows France as a team that isn't yet ready to challenge for the title of European Champions.
Italy, on the other-hand, beat Belgium convincingly 3-1.
It seems every time Italy has a chance to compete internationally, they show up big.
I don't expect this year to be any different.
Italy has lost only one game in international competition (not including friendlies) in the past two years. This is a team that is ready to play (it should be said, however, that the game they lost was to France in qualifying).
And that leaves us with the Dutch.
Traditionally a strong team, the Netherlands will no doubt provide a challenge for every team they come up against. With the likes of Van Persie, Van Nistelrooy, Kuyt, Robben, the underrated Huntelaar, and the ever-present Edwin Van der Sar in goal, the Dutch have one of the competition's strongest side.
Do not be surprised if they make it out of the group and France doesn't.
I have not included Romania in this preview of the group, because let's be serious, it is Romania. They aren't exactly a powerhouse.
Personally, I expect to see Italy and the Netherlands come out of this group, but in all honesty that could easily be France and Italy or even France and Holland. We will all just have to watch and find out.
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