Is the future Oranje? Can Denmark draw inspiration from 1992 and defy the odds? Is this Germany’s year? And will Portugal stop the 28 year old rot?
The Coach: Bert van Marwijk
Since taking over the reins of the National Team in 2008, the 60 year old has guided the Oranje to a runners-up finish at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and enjoyed a successful 2012 European Championship qualification campaign. His progress has been rewarded with a new four year contract.
Key Player: Wesley Sneijder
Despite enduring a disappointing season with Internazionale, the 27 year old playmaker remains a key asset to the National Team set-up, demonstrated by his outstanding displays at Euro 2008. The former Real Madrid player’s versatility and inventiveness will have to come to the fore in a group which could be decided by a few moments of sheer brilliance.
Van Marwijk has worked hard to shrug off the ‘anti-football’ tag that the Dutch have become synonymous with following their performance in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final. In truth, the formation has changed little from that of the previous coach Marco van Basten. In a team with plenty of competition for places, the question remains as to whether a balance can be established between attack and defence.
How Did They Qualify? Winners of Euro 2012 Qualifying Group E
Best European Championship Finals Performance: Winners (1988)
The Coach: Morten Olsen
The longest-serving head coach at Euro 2012, the 62 year old has led his country for 12 years. He has guided the Danes to every major international tournament during his spell in charge and the ex-defender was the first from his homeland to achieve a landmark 100 caps.
Key Player: Nicklas Bendtner
Hit and miss. Infuriating. Talented. The mystery that is Nicklas Bendtner. Whilst his club form is distinctively average, the tall striker has been impressive for his country, scoring 18 goals in 48 games. This year’s tournament may well prove to be the vital catalyst for the 24 year old to match his glittering words of potential with actions.
In order for Bendtner to succeed then much of Denmark’s creativity will lie at the feet of their highly-rated Ajax midfielder Christian Eriksen. If he can replicate his excellent domestic form on the international scene then Denmark could spring a few surprises. If not, then a lack of other game-changers, creativity compounded with doubts in their backline may mean that their stay in this year’s tournament is cut short.
How Did They Qualify? Winners of Euro 2012 Qualifying Group H
Best European Championship Finals Performance: Winners (1992)
The Coach: Joachim Löw
Since taking over from Jürgen Klinsmann, the 52 year old has led the National Team to a runners-up spot at Euro 2008 and a third place finish at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. His brand of free-flowing football has won his team many plaudits from around the world.
Key Player: Bastian Schweinsteiger
If the Germans are to be got at, then it is in defence. Thus the role of the holding midfielder to shield the defence becomes of paramount importance. The FC Bayern Munich player’s ability to break up play and retain possession for his team, who like to play with the ball to feet, will be pivotal.
Since 2010, Germany have looked a more technically gifted and tactically aware team. They now have strength in depth, a host of exciting youngsters who have forged an excellent team spirit and, above all, an age-old winning mentality. They can more than make up for their uncertainty in defence with pace, energy and creativity in the attacking third.
How Did They Qualify? Winners of Euro 2012 Qualifying Group A
Best European Championship Finals Performance: Winners (as West Germany in 1972 and 1980 and as Germany in 1996)
The Coach: Paulo Bento
The former Sporting Lisbon midfielder took charge of the National Team in September 2010 following the dismissal of Carlos Quieroz. They were pipped to top place by Denmark in their qualifying group however progressed through the play-offs with an emphatic 6-2 triumph over Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Unquestionably one of the most talented footballers the game has ever seen, the country’s 27-year-old captain has yet to make his mark on the international stage. He is at the heart of all of Portugal’s creativity and will be heavily relied upon by both his coach and teammates to destroy defences with his pace and trickery.
Retaining possession and using the flanks effectively will be key to Portugal’s success. Individual brilliance from the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani as opposed to team cohesion could well see them sneak into the Quarter Finals. Bruno Alves and Pepe will have to be resolute in defence but their main problem could lie upfront with no real goal poachers at Paulo Bento’s disposal.
How Did They Qualify? Qualified through the play-offs having been runners-up in Euro 2012 Qualifying Group H
Best European Championship Finals Performance: Runners-up (2004)