FIFA have released their latest rankings just days before the start of Euro 2012. Unsurprisingly, Spain remain on top of the pile, whilst Germany have swapped positions with Uruguay and now occupy third place. The Netherlands remain in fourth place whilst England move up one spot to sixth.
Meanwhile Portugal whose squad morale has been questioned in recent times, have dropped five places to tenth as a result of a goalless draw against Macedonia FYR and a 3-1 defeat to Turkey, this despite being at home in both matches.
Nonetheless, the FIFA rankings can often tell a misleading tale. In this blog, PlayUp Nico runs through the nations he believes will make the Euro 2012 semi finals.
Germany (Group B)
Having qualified for the tournament from a group which included Belgium and Turkey without dropping a single point, the Germans have earned their place in Poland and Ukraine by playing free flowing, expansive football. They have lost just three times in twenty-one games scoring fifty eight goals in the process.
A sturdy defence marshalled by the reliable Philipp Lahm will provide a stern opposition to any attack which it faces. However, their lack of pace in the centre of defence could potentially be exploited if their attack orientated midfield over commit.
With much of the squad playing for large Bundesliga clubs there will be a strong understanding between the players coupled with a dedicated, professional attitude to all aspects of the game.
For many the Germans are the tournament favourites, much like Bayern Munich were in the Champions League final. Whether this squad of players can cope with such pressure remains to be seen, however that’s almost certain is that they will be one of the easiest teams on the eye over the coming weeks.
The Netherlands (Group B)
The Dutch side have faced much criticism in their national media for playing a more aggressive and direct style than the Total Football which many of their fans were brought up watching. However, an attack spearheaded by talented flair players such as Robin van Persie, Rafael van der Vaart, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar suggests that Bert van Marwijk’s men have the firepower to win the competition for the first time since 1988.
Despite having three world class goalkeepers in their squad, questions remain about the Netherlands defensive capabilities. Time will tell if Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel are able to provide the defensive stability that the team so desperately needs.
Recent defeats to Bayern Munich and Bulgaria were followed by a 2-0 victory over Slovakia and a 6-0 drubbing of Northern Ireland suggest that the side are inconsistent and may have too great an emphasis on attack.
The Dutch will be one of the favourites to lift the trophy, but there seem to be more likely contenders than them.
Have your say on PlayUp, the leading mobile social network for live sports and get connected with like-minded fans around the world in the PlayUp mobile App. Follow all the games live during Euro 2012 and get involved with the banter. Download the iPhone and Android App today or visit www.playup.com to play games and for more information.
Spain (Group C)
The defending champions will be desperate to retain their crown and further establish themselves as one of the greatest international teams of all time. Their group could be easier, however they’ll be confident of overcoming off-form Italy and an experienced Croatia side.
With Cesc Fabregas, Santi Carzorla, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo all unable to guarantee themselves starting births in Vincent del Bosque’s side, their strength and depth is unquestionable.
A worry for Spanish fans is that their style of play lacks variation and at times could do with being more direct. Additionally they will be missing key players such as Puyol, who Pique relies heavily on and David Villa who was the top scorer at Euro 2008.
Nonetheless, Spain have enjoyed three successive friendly victories since the end of May, comfortably beating Serbia and South Korea. They haven’t lost since a 1-0 friendly defeat to England in November last year.
France (Group D)
This French side are a completely different entity than the egotistical and unprofessional outfit that embarrassed the nation in South Africa. Laurent Blanc has overhauled the squad and lists twelve players who weren’t included in the squad two years ago.
The current squad represents a healthy balance of youth and experience despite just eight members of the squad having twenty or more international caps. France have approached the tournament in reasonable having beaten Serbia and Iceland before comprehensively dispatching a poor Estonia side 4-0.
In a recent interview star striker Karim Benzema stated “We’re looking good after three very good matches. We’re ready for the Euros.” The rest of Europe has been warned.
PlayUp is the leading mobile social network for live sports, cover 23,000 live games across nine sports. Keep up-to-date with your favourite sport at www.playup.com/blog/uk/ or for more information, to play games or download the App visit www.playup.com