Hosted by Poland and Ukraine, the European Championships proved to be an exciting, unpredictable and entertaining tournament for football lovers everywhere. Here are the hits and misses of Euro 2012:
The Netherland’s Disappointing Exit
The biggest disappointment for me was the performance by the Netherlands. As runner-ups of the World Cup, they were a favorite to win despite being in the “Group of Death” alongside Germany, Denmark and Portugal. With world class players such as Van Persie, Robben, Van der Vaart and Sneijder, it was a shame to see their lack of chemistry and inability to defend well. After losing all three group matches, Van Marwijk has stepped down as head coach; what the Netherlands will bring to Brazil in 2014 will be interesting to see.
Prandelli’s Strategic Approach
After a devastating World Cup two years ago in South Africa as defending Champions, Italy surprised everyone with their attacking style of play. Primarily known for a more defensive philosophy, Prandelli strategically formulated line-ups that worked to perfection against specific teams by creating great chemistry amongst the team. Despite their 4-0 loss to Spain in the finals, Prandelli restored Italy’s hopes by providing them with a sense of pride. I would be disappointed to see him leave, as his management will be vital for a team with great potential in the near future.
At 33 years of age, it was incredible to watch Andrea Pirlo in this tournament. His control and vision in Italy’s midfield made it hard for any team to defend against and his experience, leadership and exquisite skill led Italy to place second in this year’s European Championships. Although likely to retire from International football, I don’t think he is anywhere near the end of his career, and after a successful first season with Juventus, I only hope he remains a part of Italy’s squad for the World Cup.
I use the word “consistency” in two contexts here; firstly, Germany has always been a strong team, advancing to consecutive semi-finals and finals over the years. However, they have also been consistent at losing in those finals. A personal favorite of mine, I believed they had what it takes to finally win this year. However, a score of 4-2 in the quarterfinals over Greece made me a bit nervous. I think it could be concluded that their loss to Italy in the semi-finals was primarily due to defensive mistakes. However, as the youngest team in the tournament, and with players such as Ozil, Khedira and Muller, newcomers Reus and Hummels and backed-up with the experience of Schweisteiger and Lahm, they have a bright future ahead of them, and I cannot wait to see their development in 2014.
Criticized at times for their boring style of play, Spain has become the first country to defend a European Championship. With a convincing 4-0 win over Italy, I think it is fair to say that Spain are enjoying a great era in football, witnessing a generation of gifted players, such as my personal favorites Ramos, Iniesta and Fabregas. Although inarguably the best team in the world, I would have liked to see a side other than Spain raise the trophy. With blooming young players and an impressive bench, I don’t think Spain are anywhere near done. However, I do hope to see other teams being able to compete at their level at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, because at the end of the day, the beautiful game is all about unpredictable surprises. Spain can’t have everything. At least I hope not.