Euro 2012 Draw: 10 Key Matchups to Watch in Poland and Ukraine

Vijay MuraliAnalyst IDecember 3, 2011

Euro 2012 Draw: 10 Key Matchups to Watch in Poland and Ukraine

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    The Euro Championships are one of the most prestigious tournaments in international sports and will undoubtedly see plenty of quality football considering the quality in the teams. The draw for the tournament took place in Kiev and includes some big teams facing each other in the group stages. It will be difficult to progress to the next phase of the tournament for many big teams. 

    The groups that were decided by the draw were:

    Group A: Poland, Russia, Greece, Czech Republic

    Group B: Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Denmark

    Group C: Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Croatia

    Group D: England, France, Sweden, Ukraine

    The draw means that some of the biggest teams in the competition have the chance of being eliminated early in the competition. It will be a difficult task for all the players and managers to ensure that they have a successful campaign in the Euros in Poland and Ukraine.

    There will be a number of key matchups that could decide the winners of the tournament. Here are 10 key contests to watch out for in the tournament.

    You may also be interested to read this group-by-group guide, written by Thomas Atzenhoffer, and games to watch in the Euro Cup, written by Tony Mabert.

Jack Wilshere (England) vs. Samir Nasri (France)

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    Samir Nasri departed Arsenal in acrimonious circumstances, and it is likely that England's Jack Wilshere would not have been pleased with that. However, both will concentrate on bringing success to their countries in the World Cup after their dismal displays in the World Cup.

    When England played France in a friendly after the World Cup, France dominated the game, with Nasri proving to be a major player for the French side.

    Though he plays mostly on the wings for Manchester City, Nasri is most likely to operate in a central role, and he will be expected to provide the creativity to the team. Wilshere, who is likely to be in the squad if he does not suffer any setbacks in his recovery from his long-term injury, will be the key player for England in midfield.

    The Arsenal and England youngster is not only expected to do his defensive duties from a deeper role but also drive England forward with his dribbling skills. He is the key player for England if they are to play a possession game. The battle between Wilshere and Nasri could be the key in deciding who dominates the encounter. 

Petr Cech (Czech Republic) vs. Wojciech Szczesny (Poland)

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    Petr Cech of Czech Republic and Wojciech Szczesny of Poland are both top goalkeepers in the Premier League, and they will go up against each other in the Euro championship. Neither is the strongest team in the tournament, and both will be happy with the draw considering that they could have received a much tougher draw.

    Russia are the favorites to qualify from Group A, but the other team could be any of the three. It is clear that the game between Poland and Czech Republic will be extremely important.

    Both goalkeepers will be crucial in deciding who progresses to the next stage considering that both of them are among the best players for their respective sides and could have plenty to do in the tournament. Szczesny has displayed a sense of confidence for the Gunners as well as the Polish national team. Cech is one of the world's best keepers, though he has not looked at his best this season.

    It will be imperative for the Czechs that their best keeper and also the other quality players like Tomas Rosicky do come well if they are to progress. Poland have a decent side featuring some youngsters, and with home support on their side, they will hope to go a long way in the tournament.

Mesut Ozil and Schweinsteiger (Germany) vs. Van Bommel and De Jong (Netherlands)

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    Germany are one of the most exciting sides in the tournament and have an array of young talents. Under manager Joachim Loew, they have played exciting attacking football and have plenty of talented players like Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Mueller who can excel in the team. They were one of the best teams in the World Cup but were knocked out by Spain in the semifinals.

    Netherlands are also one of the top sides in the competition, and it will be an exciting encounter between the two countries. Manager Bert Van Marwijk is a pragmatic manager and despite the criticism he endured, he employed tactics that he felt could beat Spain in the World Cup final. They have two of the best defensive midfielders in Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong and could employ the duo to break up play and give no time to the German midfielders.

    It is clear that the Germany team consists of some of the best players in the world, and they play beautiful attacking football. From the Netherlands' perspective, it is important that they do not dominate the game as they did in the recent friendly, which is why De Jong and Van Bommel could be crucial to the Dutch.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden) vs. John Terry (England)

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the best strikers in the world, but he has not achieved much with his country, which is why he needs to step up in this tournament. It will be a very important tournament for the AC Milan striker, who has been in excellent form for his club, and he will fancy his chances against the England defense, which is not the best in the world.

    John Terry, the England captain, has been a controversial figure but is likely to lead his team in Poland and Ukraine and will have an important task of marshalling the defense. His partner is still uncertain, which is why he is the most important player in defense for the Three Lions. Terry has not been in good form of late for the Blues and will be severely tested in the Euros, where he will come up against quality strikers like Karim Benzema and Ibrahimovic.

    This group is also difficult with hosts Ukraine also having a good chance of qualifying in the tournament. Every result in this group will be very important, which is why England need to win this game if they want to be alive in the competition.

Giovanni Trapattoni (Republic of Ireland) vs. Cesare Prandelli (Italy)

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    Republic of Ireland were extremely unfortunate not to qualify for the World Cup, but they put that behind them and successfully qualified for the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine. They have not got an easy draw with their group also consisting of Spain, Italy and Croatia. However, Giovanni Trapattoni is one of the most experienced managers in the game, and he will know that it is possible to win against this Italy side, who have rebuilt steadily under Cesare Prandelli.

    Prandelli was appoined as the manager of Italy after their debacle at the World Cup in South Africa and has since ensured that there is steady progress. But with the injury to Giuseppe Rossi and the illness of Antonio Cassano, Prandelli is not sure of who will lead the line for his team. It could be a cagey encounter between the two teams, and tactics employed by the managers could have a big role in deciding the result of the game.

Luka Modric (Croatia) vs. Daniele De Rossi (Italy)

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    Croatia will not be the favorites for the competitions, but it would be a huge mistake by Italy and Spain to underestimate the team. The Croatian team have plenty of quality players in their side, like Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar and Eduardo, and can cause problems to others. Tottenham's Modric, in particular, will be the key player for the side as he will create chances and can help his team dominate the midfield.

    However, Italy's experienced midfielder Daniele De Rossi is one of the best central midfielders in the world and is of prime importance to the team. With the group also consisting of Spain and Republic of Ireland, this could be a very important fixture. Though Italy are an improved side under Prandelli, the manager is still uncertain of his best 11, but De Rossi is one of the key players for Italy. He will have a difficult job in dealing with Modric, and this is bound to be one of the key battles in the game.

Bert Van Marwijk (Netherlands) vs. Joachim Loew (Germany)

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    Bert Van Marwijk is one of the most experienced managers in the game, and the Dutch have made immense progress during his time as the manager. They had not performed up to their expectations in the recent major tournaments before the World Cup, but after he took over, he took them to the final, where they were beaten by Spain in extra time.

    He has an array of exciting attacking talent in Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and plenty of others, but he is a pragmatic manager and could sometimes employ tactics that may not be usually played by Dutch teams.

    Germany manager Joachim Loew is one of the best managers in the world and has encouraged his team to play free-flowing, attacking football, and several young players have got their chances in the team. They are likely to employ an attacking style of play, and it could be a clash of styles if Van Marwijk employs a style similar to what he did against Spain.  Loew has been influential in integrating many talented youngsters into his system, and it should be an exciting clash between two of Europe's best teams.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) vs. Netherlands' Defense

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    There is no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world, but he is yet to produce his best more consistently for Portugal. The Portugal captain is certainly capable of leading his team to wins against the best teams in the world and is Portugal's most important player. He has been criticized in the past for not being able to replicate his domestic form to the international stage.

    With Portugal drawn into the arguably the most difficult group of the competition, featuring Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, they need their best player to shine in Ukraine. Even if Portugal do beat Denmark, they would have to have good results against Netherlands or Germany in order to qualify to the next phase.

    The Netherlands' defense is not the best in the world, though they are quite solid as a team. Ronaldo will fancy his chances against their defense and will hope that he can lead his team to the next stage of the tournament.

David Villa (Spain) vs. Giorgio Chiellini (Italy)

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    Spain are the favorites in this tournament after having won both the Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, and they have many world-class players in their team. Though they have an abundance of midfielders, it is not the same with strikers, as Fernando Torres has endured a prolonged loss of form, which makes it difficult for Vicente Del Bosque. Also, there is a chance that Torres may be dropped and Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo selected ahead of him.

    However, Barcelona's David Villa is undoubtedly the favorite to start for Spain considering his goal-scoring exploits. Spain will rely on him to get the goals, and with the midfield that they have, they will undoubtedly create chances for the striker. The game against Italy could potentially be the one that decides who will finish at the top of the group, and Spain will hope to beat Italy.

    Italy's Giorgio Chiellini is one of the best defenders for his country, and he will have the difficult job of containing the lively striker. However, he does have the quality to shackle the striker, which is a necessity if Italy are to win against the world champions. It should be an interesting battle between the two, and if Villa does win the battle, then Spain are the favorites to win the game.

Fabio Capello (England) vs. Laurent Blanc (France)

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    Fabio Capello was heavily criticized for England's performances at the World Cup and will be keen to prove his managerial ability before he leaves the job. It will be extremely difficult for England to win the Euro Championship, but they will look to finish at the top place in the group, as it will give them more chance.

    Capello has given opportunities to some young players like Phil Jones, and it will be interesting to see how they perform at the World Cup, especially in the game against France where they will come up against some of the world's best players.

    Laurent Blanc was appointed as the manager of France following their debacle at the World Cup and has since managed to restore respectability to the team by achieving consistent success. He has also introduced a good possession-based style of play, and they are outside bets to win the tournament.

    Under Blanc, France beat England 2-0 in a friendly, but Capello has since introduced many changes to the team including the formation. This will be a key encounter that could decide the group.