Euro 2008 Group B: Eastern European Goulash
Group B is a regional round robin tournament in and of itself. Group B features, Austria, Croatia, Germany, and Poland.
I suppose if these four nations were to agree to hold a tournament amongst themselves that Austria would be given home advantage for two reasons. The first being that it is a central location for all four countries, and the second being that Austria need all the help they can get.
This group has produced one of the most memorable pre-tournament stories involving co-hosts, Austria. Apparently in the fall some ten thousand Austrians signed a petition requesting that the Austrian team withdraw from Euro 2008 in order to save the country from humiliation.
When looking at the players to watch in this group, starting with Austria, one gets the feeling that their might have been something behind that petition.
Oh here's one!
Erwin Hoffer: If you saw this guy play at BMO Field in Toronto at the U20 World Cup then you know that this guy was impressive. However, this is a whole different level, with much better teams, but here's hoping he provides the Austrians with some much needed hope.
Hrvati (The Croats)
Where to begin? Eduardo Da Silva may be gone, but this team has enough depth in midfield to make up for it.
To name a few.
Vedran Ćorluka: A solid young defender, will provide stability to a shaky D.
Niko Kovač: This is old faithful's curtain call, but there has never been a tournament where his leadership was needed as much as it is now.
Luka Modrić: Spurs fans know all about this young CM, but the rest of Europe will after this tournament.
Niko Kranjčar: Many believe this guy will be the star player for Croatia this tournament, and if you saw him at Portsmouth this season you'd believe it.
Eduardo's Empty Boots
Nikola Kalinić: Maybe if he was two years older, he will most likely make his presence felt in the fall during the World Cup qualifiers.
Ivan Klasnić: This guy's been through the trenches and overcome two kidney transplants in the last year and a half, and though he has been effective for his club, Werder Bremen, he has yet to be anything spectacular for Croatia.
Ivica Olić: Only effective as a sub, sorry Olić fans.
Igor Budan: Although he had a good season this year with now relegated and former Serie A team, Parma, he is not even close to being the answer.
Mladen Petrić: He could be the answer, but he will have to elevate his game to another level.
Speaking of depth, Germany are tournament favorites for a reason.
Philipp Lahm: Simply put, one of the best defenders in the world.
Michael Ballack: Had his best season with Chelsea this year, and might just carry the already talented German team on his back.
Miroslav Klose: He has been the go to guy for Germany over the past five years, though he is nearing his twilight, expect him to produce for Germany this tournament.
Mario Gómez: An exciting young German striker, waiting in the wings to take over Klose's position, an excellent option off the bench for an extra offensive push.
Lukas Podolski: In 2006, he showed the world that he was the real deal, expect him to leave an even bigger mark on this tournament.
With midfielder, Jakub Błaszczykowski out due to injury Poland have only two men to rely on, one on and one off the pitch.
Artur Boruc: The Celtic FC goalkeeper was arguably the number one reason why Poland qualified first in their group ahead of Portugal.
Leo Beenhakker: Sure, he's not a player, but this coach is a genius and should give the Poles a much needed mental boost.
As mentioned above, Germany are tournament favorites, and therefore are also group favorites. However, claiming all nine points in this group will be tough.
Poland is always ready to give Germany a run for their money and Croatia is a quality side. Austria should not even factor into this groups equation and should give the former three teams three points each.
Unless, Croatia or Poland surprise the favorites second place should come down to the final game between Croatia and Poland. Croatia will most likely be too much for the Poles, and Germany and Croatia should go through to the next round.
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