After the second round of group stage games, we have reached the final roulette of matches before nations start getting eliminated (two have already clinched failure to advance past the group stage.) Almost every game has implications as to whether a team’s knockout-stage hopes will be realized or be a mere dream.
Russia: 1-1-0, 4 points
Czech Republic: 1-0-1, 3 points
Poland: 0-2-0, 2 points
Greece: 0-1-1, 1 point
Russia is still the favorite to advance from the group as they play a struggling Greece side for their last group stage game. The Czech Republic’s victory over the Greeks was a great way to rebound from their opening 4-1 loss to the Russians, as the Czechs now sit in second place. Host Poland is in third place after drawing both of their games, including an exciting 1-1 draw against Russia. The Poland-Czech Republic game may be a case of “winner take all”, but a draw would ensure the Czechs advancing out of the group at Poland’s expense.
Unbelievably, the Dutch have solidified their case as the biggest disappointment in the tournament. Even more unbelievably, they still have a chance to advance if they win their game against Portugal and Denmark loses big against Germany. However, this looks to be unlikely, considering the Portuguese are in great form after their thrilling 3-2 win over the Danish. Germany has been the best team this summer, being the only team to win their first two games. This group’s games could certainly have the most amount of drama, as tiebreakers could be utilized to figure out the advancing teams.
The Irish have officially lost all chance of advancing past the group stage with their 4-0 shellacking to Spain and can only play the role of spoiler as they take on an Italy squad that is in a must-win situation. The Italians not only need all three 3 points in this game, but also a negative result for Croatia, who will represent one-half of one of the more attractive matchups in EURO 2012’s group stage as they take on the Spaniards. A draw of two goals or more between the two sides will ensure the advancement of both Spain and Croatia, much to the chagrin of the Italians.
France and England are in control of their own destiny after resounding wins over Ukraine and Sweden (incapable of advancing) respectively. France now plays the Swedes, who can merely hope of pulling an upset, while England (and the returning Wayne Rooney) compete against the host Ukraine in a game where the team that can take all three points will advance at the other’s expense. Both games should be tightly contested.