It’s much more fun to pick a dark horse team when it comes to sports predictions, and hope that the team of your heart will overcome the deficiencies that your mind sees. But for Euro 2008, my mind put its foot down and I simply cannot choose anyone but the Germans to win it all.
First, you cannot keep a powerhouse team like Germany down for too long, and the team will be keen to avenge its past two appearances, where it didn’t garner a single victory. One could sense that this was a team on a mission through its performance in the qualifiers, during which it had the highest goal differential by a wide margin.
The Germans were also favorites in the last World Cup, but they finished a disappointing 3rd. But there are some key differences between that team and this year’s version. First, they are not burdened with the enormous pressure of playing at home, where a whole nation’s hopes rested on the team’s shoulders.
Also, the iconic Oliver Kahn has officially retired, and there is no controversy involving him and Jens Lehmann as there was heading into the World Cup. Also, as successful as Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure was, the charismatic coach was still green in terms of managing experience. Now they are playing under a more experienced manager in Joachim Low, Klinsmann’s former right hand man, who will be looking to usurp Klinsmann’s shadow.
As Zidane showed in the last World Cup, an experienced captain can carry a team on his back, and the Germans have a midfield maestro of their own who is currently in a rich vein of form. Michael Ballack has quieted all his critics at Chelsea, and he will try to do the same on the international stage, with the bitter taste of a heartbreaking Champions league defeat only intensifying his hunger.
Germans have always been known for their rock-solid defense and efficient play, but this year’s version features a plethora of attacking options. The attention will be on the Bayern Munich duo of Klose and Podolski, but look for young and in-form Mario Gomez to make a splash on his first major international stage. Don’t sleep on the talented Kevin Kuranyi, a star in the Bundesliga who will be looking to make a name for himself on the international scene.
The Germans also have a favorable schedule on their side; the only challenge in the group stage will be their second match against Croatia. Plus, if they advance their toughest opposition until the final will be Portugal and/or the Czech Republic, two teams they have the talent to beat.
Since it first entered the tournament in 1972, Germany has never gone more than two consecutive tournaments without making the finals. Look for that trend to continue as the Germans add another championship to their already proud Euro heritage.