Nothing like waiting as long as possible to do your Euro 2012 predictions, is there?
That's what we at SBI are doing as we try balancing our coverage of the U.S. Men's national team with some coverage of the tournament that will dominate the headlines for the next month.
The Euros are always an exciting event to follow because the quality of the field usually means we see at least one, and many times two, quality games a day for a two weeks straight. There is also the fun of seeing some new faces, and getting familiar with some rising stars we may not have known that much about before the tournament.
What we will see this time around is a serious Group of Death, a mighty champion poised for a repeat, a contender in Germany that looks primed to knock Spain from the top spot, and a plethora of top talent about to entertain the world.
So how do we see the Euro 2012 tournament going? SBI managing editor Avi Creditor and I give our predictions after the jump:
FIVE YOUNGSTERS WHO WILL DAZZLE
Ives– Christian Eriksen (Denmark), Mario Gotze (Germany), Alan Dzagoev (Russia), Yann M'Vila (France), Luuk de Jong (Netherlands)
Avi – Mario Gotze, Christian Eriksen, Jordi Alba (Spain), Yann M'Vila, Luuk de Jong
TEAMS THAT WILL SURPRISE
Ives– Poland and Croatia. Two teams will great midfield talent and two teams in groups they can absolutely advance from their groups. Poland will be the biggest surprise of the tournament, though it's tough to call a host a surprise.
Avi– Poland and Croatia. Few give Croatia any respect despite their lofty FIFA World Ranking, but Luka Modric & Co. are capable of getting out of their tough group and making a deep run through the knockout round; Poland might be the lowest-ranked team in the tournament field, but the co-hosts have an easy group and are led by some of Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund's top players.
TEAMS THAT WILL DISAPPOINT
Ives– Italy and England. Injuries to the defense prove too much for Italy to overcome, and that's assuming Mario Balotelli doesn't have a meltdown that destroys team chemistry. England will escape the group stage but fall flat in the knockout round. Their injury-hit defense might cause them to be eliminated even sooner.
Avi– England and Portugal. Considering everything that's taken place in the last number of months, England is almost a sure bet to disappoint. Cristiano Ronaldo bowing out in the group stage would be a shame for the tournament's sake, but Portugal will have a rough go of it in the Group of Death
GOLDEN BOOT WINNER
Ives– Fernando Llorente (Spain). Not necessarily projected to start for Spain, but Llorente is too good to keep on the bench and will emerge as Spain's top option.
Avi – Robin van Persie (Netherlands). His Arsenal form carries over to the Oranje, who are poised for a deep tournament run with World Cup revenge on their minds.
GROUP STAGE SURVIVORS
Ives– Russia, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Croatia, France, England
Avi – Russia, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Croatia, France, Sweden
Ives– Spain repeats as champions, with Llorente benefiting from all of Spain's service and with the Spanish defense holding its own without Carles Puyol. Look for the Spanish to beat Germany in a final that will be more entertaining than the 2008 Euro Final.
Avi – Spain over Germany. The defending champions might be missing David Villa and Carles Puyol, but the up-and-coming generation of La Furia Roja is poised to break out, and Xavi and Iniesta can still dominate the best in the world to spark a repeat run and a repeat result from the 2008 final.