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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

Hitting it from 60 yards

Editor’s Note: Due to the nature of summer deadlines, this column does not take into account games played in Group A on Thursday, June 11. Sue me. \nThreatened with slumber-inducing boredom brought on by this Greece-Sweden final first group match of Euro 2008, I thought I’d tackle a new kind of prediction column – one that allows me to watch these teams in Cup form before making my picks. \nPerhaps a few of you will shirk my words because I got to see Italy fall apart against the Netherlands or Spain dismantle Russia. I’ll admit, those results might tamper with my predictions.\nSo consider this more analysis if you’d like; let’s get to it.

El favorito: \nSpain produced the most obviously convincing first-round display in their absolute dismantling of Russia, everyone’s dark-horse darling because of famed coach Guus Hiddink. If Luis Aragones can almost stay out of his own way in the side selection and keep the good chemistry between Fernando Torres and David Villa bubbling, Espana’s rich vein of form could take them deep into the knockout stages.\nThey were my pick to win it all at the beginning because of their striking options and their midfield depth, and nothing’s changed since.

In serious Dutch:\n I won’t lie, I was much higher on the Italians than the Dutch coming into the tournament. The men in orange have plenty of attacking options, but losing Ryan Babel coupled with everyone’s suspicions about Marco Van Basten’s defense left me thinking the Dutch might find themselves left out after the group stages. \nBut it appears even I underestimated Italy’s age and lack of pace. I’ll admit to getting caught up in the belief that the Azzuri could ride their World Cup victory to the round of 16 and then get knocked out, but the Dutch dispelled that.

Prediction:\n Italians are out, not because they lost 3-0 but because of how they lost 3-0. Holland is now the “group of death” favorite, as France has no teeth in attack. \nWhat else is there to talk about? The truth is, not much. Portugal dispatched Turkey, no surprise, and the Czechs narrowly passed the host Swiss in Group A. Not many surprises there, but not much to make me think either Portugal or the Czech Republic are on top form right now, which can often be vital to success in these kinds of competitions. \nGroup B same thing, with Germany and Croatia dispatching Poland and Austria, respectively. There’s no real question who should come out of this group, but Croatia’s one goal four minutes into the game can’t be too promising can it? Austria is just bad; there should have been much more there.

Nopa: \nThe performance ‘King’ Otto Rehhagel’s defending champions put up against Sweden did absolutely nothing to suggest they are capable of defending their 2004 title. The Greeks made just two changes in their squad from four years ago, and perhaps that could be the problem.\nObviously, the rest of the world hasn’t spent the last four years just figuring out how to beat Greece, but to call the Mediterranean country’s championship in 2004 anything but an absolute shock would fail to do it justice. \nTo think the Greeks could win this contest again is foolhardy, but they certainly should have done a much better job defending their title and creating an offense than they did in their lackluster 2-0 loss to Sweden. Now they have it all to do, still having to go through Spain and a tough Russian team to get out of the group. I wouldn’t count on seeing the Greeks past the group stage.\nIn summation, it was a rather boring first round, but things will get better. Some of the best match-ups are still yet to come, including Italy-France (I would have head-butted Materazzi too Zizou) and France-Netherlands in the group of death. I was excited about Greece-Spain, but not so much anymore.\nSo there’s my scoop, but you probably think I’m wrong. We’ll see by this time next week. Until then, enjoy some European football and please – no matter what – resist the urge to bend it like Beckham.

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