Breaking News: Frank Lampard Out of Euro 2012

31/05/2012

England midfielder Frank Lampard will miss Euro 2012 with a thigh injury.

The news comes days after Gareth Barry was ruled out of the tournament. This is a tough break for England, as Lampard was expected to start with Scott Parker in the center of  the midfield.

Midfielder Jordan Henderson will fill in for Lampard. He is one of five Liverpool players on England’s roster, which is the most of any club team playing for the Three Lions this summer.


Team Preview: Denmark

31/05/2012

FIFA Ranking: 10

Euro history: Denmark won Euro 1992 after being allowed in the tournament in place of Yugoslavia. The Danes failed to qualify for Euro 2008.

How they qualified: Denmark won Group H ahead of Portugal, Norway, Iceland and Cyprus. The Danes only allowed six goals in eight matches.

Group information and schedule: Denmark is in a group with Netherlands, Portugal and Germany. All three group matches will be played in the Ukraine.

June 9 vs. Netherlands in Kharkiv

June 13 vs. Portugal in Lviv

June 17 vs. Germany in Lviv

Early roster thoughts: Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, 101 caps, picked up an injury and will miss the tournament. Manchester United’s Anders Lindegaard is an option to start in the net. Denmark has two defenders playing at big clubs in Simon Kjaer (Roma) and Daniel Agger (Liverpool). Denmark only has two players on their roster that has recorded double-digit goals in international play. Forward Dennis Rommedahl has 21 goals in 115 appearances. Younger striker Nicklas Bendtner has 18 goals in 47 matches for Denmark. He plays his club soccer at Arsenal, but spent the 2011-2012 season on loan at Sunderland.

How they will do: Denmark got a nightmare draw. They are ranked 10 in the FIFA rankings, but that is the lowest ranking amongst Group B teams. If they find a way to make the quarterfinals it will probably be the biggest shock of the group stage.


International Friendly Recap: Wednesday May 30

31/05/2012

Spain 4, South Korea 1

Three second half goals carried Spain to a big victory. Xabi Alonso broke a 1-1 tie from the penalty spot, and Santi Cazorla and Alvaro Negredo scored to ice the win. Fernando Torres drew first blood in the match, which is very encouraging to see from the Chelsea forward.

Sweden 3, Iceland 2

It took Zlatan Ibrahimovic two minutes to get Sweden on the board, and the Swedes held off Iceland. Ola Toivonen and Christian Wilhelmsson netted the other tallies. Iceland fell short against France by the score on 3-2 on Sunday, and are proving to be an appropriate test for teams preparing for Euro 2012.

Netherlands 2, Slovakia 0

The Dutch got back on track with a victory over a team they beat in the round of 16 in the 2010 World Cup. A seventh minute own goal gave the Netherlands a lead and Rafael Van der Vaart came off the bench and provided an insurance goal with a quarter-hour remaining.


Team Preview: Portugal

30/05/2012

FIFA Ranking: 5

Euro history: Portugal hosted Euro 2004. They fell short of a championship and disappointingly lost to Greece in the final match. Portugal was knocked out by fellow Group B opponent Germany in the Euro 2008 quarterfinals.

How they qualified: Portugal is familiar with another Group B opponent in Denmark. Portugal finished behind Denmark in qualifying, and beat Bosnia-Herzegovina in the second place playoff.

Group information and schedule: Portugal is in a group with Germany, Denmark and Netherlands. All three group matches will be played in the Ukraine.

June 9 vs. Germany in Lviv

June 13 vs. Demark in Lviv

June 17 vs. Netherlands in Kharkiv

Early roster thoughts: The Real Madrid defender duo of Pepe and Fabio Coentrao aren’t the best defensive minded players, but can push up to help the attack. Chelsea defensive midfielder and Manchester United winger Nani must flourish for the Portuguese. Cristiano Ronaldo is coming off a great season with Real Madrid, and will be asked to elevate his play in big games.

How they will do: Portugal got a brutal draw. They have to play two of the top three teams in the tournament in the group stage. Denmark isn’t a walk through as both teams are familiar with each other, and the Danes have gotten the better of Portugal recently. If Ronaldo isn’t scoring it will be a quick trip to Ukraine for the Portuguese.


International Friendly Recap: Tuesday May 29

29/05/2012

Russia 0, Lithuania 0

Another friendly, another draw for Russia. They earned a 1-1 draw against 2011 Copa America champions Uruguay on Friday. Russia played a scorless tie against Lithuania on Tuesday, which could cause concern in the Russian camp. Igor Akinfeev started in the net and should be the starting goalkeeper for Euro 2012. Roman Pavlyuchenko made an appearance as a substitute after not playing against Uruguay. Friday’s goalscorer Alexander Kerzhakov started with Andrei Arshavin in attack, and forward Pavel Pogrebnyak didn’t play. There are still questions on who will start with Arshavin up top on June 8.

Italy vs. Luxembourg POSTPONED 

An earthquake in northern Italy cancelled Italy’s Euro warmup against Luxembourg. The game was going to be played in Parma, and the earthquake occurred near the city. A similar quake hit northern Italy last week.


Top 10 Matches of the Group Stage

29/05/2012

Here are ten must watch games of the group stage in chronological order:

1. June 8, Poland vs. Greece in Warsaw: The opening match of the tournament always has to be a must watch game. Expectations are growing for host Poland and they need to start off well against a defensively organized Greek team.

2. June 9, Germany vs. Portugal in Lviv: The Germans are one of the favorites of Euro 2012. Their Bayern Munich players were part of a heartbreaking Champions League final, and it will be interesting to see how they rebound in their first competitive match. Portugal will rely heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo to play up to his potential in an international tournament.

3. June 10, Spain vs. Italy in Gdansk, Poland: Two soccer giants in Group C square off in the first game of the group. Spain is becoming injury-plagued, but are still strong enough to defend their 2008 European crown. Italy looks to rebound from an embarrassing showing in the 2010 World Cup. This game is a rematch of the 2008 quarterfinals, when Spain prevailed in penalty kicks.

4. June 11, France vs. England in Donetsk, Ukraine: England gets their toughest challenge of the group stage right off the bat. France is on the upswing since their meltdown in the 2010 World Cup.

5. June 12, Poland vs. Russia in Warsaw: The odd makers have Poland and Russia as the top two teams in Group A. This match could determine first place in the group. Whichever team loses this match will face pressure going in the third and final group game.

6. June 13, Netherlands vs. Germany in Kharkiv: An old rivalry will be reignited in the second game of group play. An important match for both squads, as they view Portugal as a threat to finish in the top two in the group. If Germany and the Netherlands finish in the top two in Group B, don’t be surprised if they meet again in the final in Kiev.

7. June 14, Italy vs. Croatia in Poznan, Poland: These two countries are close by geography and talent. This match could decide who finishes second in Group C, with Spain as the clear favorite.

8. June 17, Portugal vs. Netherlands in Kharkiv: The two teams have a history and it isn’t pretty. Portugal and Netherlands played in the round of 16 of the 2006 World Cup, and Portugal won 1-0. However, the storyline of the match was the 16 yellow cards and four red cards between the sides. The physicality and tension could be matched especially if players like Pepe for Portugal, and Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel are on the pitch.

9. June 18, Italy vs. Ireland in Poznan: Yes, I included all three Italy matches. The reason this game makes the list is because of the Ireland coach. Giovanni Trapattoni played for Italy in the 1960s and managed the Azzurri during the 2002 World Cup. He has been the Ireland coach since 2008 and has employed the Irish to play Italian style soccer.

10. June 19, England vs. Ukraine in Donetsk: England’s last game in group stage, but the first of the tournament for striker Wayne Rooney. If Andy Carroll, Jermain Defoe and Danny Welbeck struggle in the first two games, Rooney might have to save England from elimination against the host Ukraine. It will be a rocking atmosphere in Donetsk, especially if Ukraine is still in contention for the quarterfinals.


Team Preview: Germany

29/05/2012

FIFA Ranking: 2

Euro history: The Germans are three time champions in this tournament. They won in 1972, 1980 and 1996. Germany fell short of their fourth championship in 2008. They lost 1-0 to Spain in the final.

How they qualified: Germany was flawless in qualifying. They earned a maximum 30 points in ten matches against teams such as Turkey, Belgium, Austria, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

Group information and schedule: Germany is in Group B with Portugal, Netherlands and Denmark. All three group matches will be played in the Ukraine.

June 9 vs. Portugal in Lviv

June 13 vs. Netherlands in Kharkiv

June 17 vs. Denmark in Lviv

Early roster thoughts: Germany has one of the most impressive collections of young talent in the world. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer just turned 26 and is one of the best shot stoppers in soccer. Defenders Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng are all 23 and should start on the backline. The Germans are loaded in midfield. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira could start in holding midfield roles. Toni Kroos, 22, could slide into that position if needed. The only strikers Germany included in their final squad were Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez. Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller could also play as a center forward, but they have found success on the wings in a Germany uniform. Mesut Ozil is the attacking midfielder, who will play behind the striker. Look for 19 year-old Mario Gotze or 22 year-old Marco Reus to make an impact off the bench for the German midfield.

How they will do: Germany could follow up their perfect qualifying run with a perfect record in Euro. They are that talented and deep. However, they are in the hardest group and have to be ready to play Portugal and Netherlands in the first two matches. The Bayern Munich players, who were part of a heartbreaking Champions League Final, must regain focus and positively help their country.