Group B “Power” Rankings
1. Germany – Clearly the tournament’s best team, it remains to be seen if they’ll improve. In South Africa, we saw them find another gear in the knockout rounds, taking apart England then Argentina. Do they have that same push in them this year?
2. Netherlands – Last place and second in the rankings? Yep. Who do you think will win on Sunday when they face Portugal? That’s why they’re number two. They lost to Denmark in a game where they created two matches worth of chances, then they lost to Germany. On form, it’s still more impressive than the teams below them. Form can’t get you into the quarterfinals, but it can push you up some meaningless blogger’s meaningless rankings.
3. Portugal – Had they not come back to claim full points, the first half would look aberrational – like a gift from a Danish defense that lost focus for a few minutes. The final goal showed there was a bit more to their performance.
4. Denmark – Morten Olsen has to be very disappointed with how his team played. In the second half, they showed the quality that allowed them to claim two wins and a draw from their previous four meetings with Portugal. When nobody was there to help Simon Poulsen against Silvestre Valera, it all went for naught.
Crystal Ball: What Needs to Happen Next Round
Group B resumes play Sunday, with both matches kicking off simultaneously
Portugal vs. Netherlands
Paulo Bento’s instincts will have Portugal playing conservatively against the Dutch, hoping Germany takes care of business versus Denmark while they hold out for a draw. As we saw Wednesday, Portugal should feel confident going at the Netherlands. The prospect of Portugal’s wide play attacking the Netherlands’ weak point should give Bento confidence.
It’s unclear how the Dutch can prevent that. They could start Dirk Kuyt instead of Ibrahim Afellay in an attempt to protect left back Jetro Willems, but as much as Portugal’s likely to draw the Dutch attackers in, the responsibility for protecting the left may be better placed with Nigel de Jong.
Without some solution, the Netherlands won’t be able to stop Portugal’s best player: Nani.
Germany vs. Denmark
Denmark’s plan for Germany will be the same one they used against the Dutch. Morten Olsen will hope his team executes it better.
Denmark got a win on Saturday, but they relied on Robin van Persie being wasteful. Mario Gomez is the logical choice if you want somebody to replicate that performance, but with three goals in two games, Gómez isn’t likely to oblige.
Then there’s the problem of Niki Zimling. The Danish midfielder left Wednesday’s match early. If replacement Jakob Poulsen’s up-and-down performance is any indication of what’s to come, Denmark’s going to have a difficult time offsetting Germany’s advantages in midfield.
For Germany, if they play like they did in their first two games, they’ll win. But that’s also not the point. The group stage is a process for the Germans. They want to win the tournament. The group is incidental. Everything Germany does on Sunday should be evaluated against one question: “Does this get us closer to winning the tournament?”
PST’s Euro 2012 “More Powerful” Rankings
1. Germany (-) – Perfect, top of group after a commanding win over the world’s fourth-ranked team. Clear favorites, at this point.
2. Spain (-) – The holders may be second – a distant second – but more important is how they match up against Germany. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look so good either.
3. Italy (-)
4. Russia (-)
5. France (-)
6. Portugal (NR) – Vaulting them to six reflects our respect for Denmark. The Danes didn’t play as well as they could, but Portugal still showed they can beat most teams in this tournament.
7. Croatia (-)
8. England (-)
Previously ranked: Denmark (7)
… and PST’s Player of the Tournament Wunderlist
1. Alan Dzagoev, Russia
2. Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine
3. Mario Mandzukic, Czech Republic
4. Andres Iniesta, Spain
5. Daniele de Rossi, Italy
6. Andrea Pirlo, Italy
7. Mario Gómez, Germany
8. Andrei Arshavin, Russia
9. Mesut Ozil, Germany
10. Fabio Coentrão, Portugal
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