Robbie Fowler has joined the Paddy Power Blog as a columnist for Euro 2012. Every day you can read his insight and opinion on the topics that really matter in Poland and Ukraine. Here, the former Liverpool and England striker runs the rule over his favourites for Euro 2012.
Spain… Park the bus and you can stop them
If I could play in any team at the Euros, I couldn’t look further than the Spanish. They’re a great team who will create chances. I’d love to have played with Xavi and Andres Iniesta — players who can pick out amazing passes. I’d like to think my movement would have benefited them as much their passing would have benefitted me.
At every tournament you get a standout team but at Euro 2012 there’s a few teams who could be considered favourites. Spain’s form has been great over the last couple of years. They won the 2010 World Cup with Vicente Del Bosque in charge and the 2008 European Championships under Luis Aragonés. These tournaments are very hard to win.
And over the past few years, Barcelona have — by far — been the best club side in the world. The Spanish side have Barcelona’s Xavi and Iniesta at the heart of everything they do. So you know for a start they’re going to play great football and be pleasing on the eye.
But as we know, Barcelona struggled to break Chelsea down in the Champions League final and were pipped by Real Madrid for domestic trophies this year. For those reasons, to call Spain favourites is a big shout. Germany and Holland are serious contenders for me.
If teams ‘do a Chelsea on it’, block the goal and play a tight defence against Spain, it can stop them. Park the bus and you stop Spain from playing.
Germany… Ozil can destroy any team
Germany have won the Euros in 1972, 1980 and 1996. They have won the World Cup three times too, in 1954, 1974 and 1990. But they’ve still not won as many championships as they should. However, the Germans are always at the business end of things. It’s a cliche, because it’s true.
In the qualifiers Mesut Ozil was by far the most creative player with seven assists in nine games and Germany scored 34 goals in 10 straight victories. France, for example, scored just 15 in 10.
You are going to get a run for your money with Germany. Defensively they are not outstanding. But in Ozil they will have one of the tournament’s outstanding players. He can open up any defence and cause havoc.
And, despite his inept performance against Chelsea in the Champions League final, Mario Gomez has 64 goals in 94 games and is certain to knock in a goal or two. For these reasons, Germanyare my favourites for Euro 2012.
Holland… Bags of goals, but a leaky defence
Robin Van Persie has been unbelievable in the Premier League in 2011/2012, scoring 37 goals in 48 appearances for Arsenal. Then you have Klaas-Jan Huntelaar who plays for Schalke 04 and has a bag-load of goals — 31 in 53 appearances for his country.
The big decision for their manager, Bert van Marwijk, is whether they’re going to play one up front or both. Whoever plays will score goals. That’s never been a problem for Holland. But, like the Germans, where Holland will come unstuck is in their defence.
Holland are an exciting team to watch, but they will leak goals.
France… At 10/1 they’re not bad value
France are my dark horses and at 10/1 (in from 12s) represent good value. They’ve won the Euros in 1984 and 2000. They will do very well in this competition after a poor World Cup in 2010 when Nicolas Anelka was expelled from the squad and players fell out with coach Raymond Domenech.
Now, under Laurent Blanc, the players they have in the squad are more experienced and they know what to expect from the French Football Federation.
Despite only narrowly avoiding the play-offs, France were unbeaten in 18 games heading into the Euros. They’re in England’s group and will win the group, in my view.
Italy… I can’t see them going very far
When everyone seems to be against a team, the players get their backs up and say, ‘let’s prove to these people what we can do’. That’s what Italy did in the 2006 World Cup, but this time they don’t have the players or the manager.
You know the Italians, they’re going to sit and defend and try hit teams on the attack, but I can’t see them going very far, to be honest. They might get out of the group. The Juventus team have gone unbeaten in the last season, bar the Coppa Italia final, so their players will be confident in the national side. This Italian team can’t compete with the form teams: the Dutch, the Germans and the Spanish.
On his game, Mario Balotelli can be outstanding. He’s mad though. When he has a bad game, he has a really bad game. There’s no in-between. When you look at the season he’s had for Manchester City— some of it was ridiculous, and some of it was ridiculously good. He’s very temperamental.
You can take him off his game by needling him a little bit. He’s easily provoked. To be playing in major tournaments you can’t afford that. Would I start him? Cesare Prandelli would have started him, before his injury. But Balotelli is a liability.
The team with half a chance…
My outsider for the tournament is Poland. They’re not a bad side. Admittedly, they qualified through hosting Euro 2012, but in Robert Lewandowski they have a striker who’s on the top of his game.
He was named the Bundesliga Player of the Season and finished the year with 22 goals for Borussia Dortmund. Poland may surprise a few people. Yes, in the past outsiders like Denmark and Greece have won the Euros, but the top teams have too much nowadays so they won’t win it.
The Poles have home advantage, they’ve got a relatively easy opening game against Greece. If they win that they have momentum for the Russians and the Czechs. For me, Poland have half a chance — if they get that opening game win.