New Delhi: The Euro 2012 is into its second round of matches and it still remains unclear as to what the outcome might be. The first round has been a bumpy ride for some of the fancied sides but it also has been a rosy ride for others those were pretty much unheralded.
For the hosts:
For the hosts, the initial phase at the Euro 2012 could be termed as a rather auspicious beginning. In Euro 2004, the hosts Portugal lost their opening encounter to eventual champions Greece. Ironically, they lost to Greece in the finals too. In 2008 championship, both the hosts - Austria and Switzerland - lost their opening games to Croatia and the Czech Republic respectively. Both of them could not go past the first round. In the 2012 tournament though Poland have drawn both their games and hang on in the competition by the skin of their teeth. On the other hand, Ukraine have made a dream start, defeating the much fancied Swedish side, helped by a brace from veteran striker Andreiy Shevchencko.
For the top rankers:
The Netherlands with a FIFA ranking of 4 and Portugal ranked 10 have proved that top billings does not mean top results. Although Portugal were beaten by a classy and youthful German side, ranked 3 in the world, Netherlands, who were shocked by Denmark, sure have some work to do in terms of their accuracy. The Oranje would be looking to 1988 tournament for inspiration where they came back from a loss in the group stages to win the Euro. Portugal do not have to look back that far as they reached the finals of the Euro 2004 after a shocking loss to Greece in the first round of the group stages.
Spain-Italy and France-England:
For Spain-Italy and France-England, it was almost an expected beginning as their games ended without any side celebrating. Although both the games were not dud draws, yet not one of the sides looked to go that extra mile.
England were determined to play a Chelsea against France but could not manage a victory. It was all Manchester City at the Donbass Arena as Joleon Lescott netted one for England, while Samir Nasri probably scored the goal of the tournament so far for France. Joe Hart, again City boy, did well to keep the French out. Yohan Cabaye did well for the Les Bleus and almost won it for them late into the game but for a Danny Welbeck interruption.
Defending champions Spain looked as if they did not want to win the game against the Azurris as they fielded 6 midfielders in their line-up. It was the 'under-the-pump' Italy who took away the accolades. If not for Fabregas' brilliant equaliser, Spain would have been in the doldrums quite early into the championship. Spain must also take heart from the way they played after Jesus Navas and Fernando Torres were introduced; And Italy must be disheartened by the way their much heralded striker Mario Balotelli played.
Croatia reached the quarter-finals in 2008 Euro and that too topping a group that featured Germany. They are currently ranked 8th in the world. The Croats do have some very talented players in their squad in - Luka Modric, Darijo Srna, Vedran Corluka, Niko Kranjcar, Nikica Jelavic, Nikola Kalinic - among others. Their thumping 3-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland is a testament to their credentials and Croatia are not to be taken lightly.
For the co-hosts Ukraine, ranked only above Portugal in the whole of the tournament, it was a dream start against Sweden. But they looked far from convincing. Ukraine might be buoyed by the home support but going far may not depend only on that factor.
Denmark have probably been the most unnoticed side. Their surprise victory over the Netherlands does prove that they are no pushovers. Infact the Danes do rank a decent 9 as per FIFA rankings. With Daniel Agger leading them from the front, they do have some surprises up their sleeves as Michael Krohn-Dehli proved. An in form Nicklas Bendtner, supported by a well-knit unit under experienced coach Morten Olsen, could be the giant killers of the Euro 2012.