Expect the unexpected here
Favourites can be knocked out, underdogs can bite, it's all possible as Europe's best battle it out. Franz Beckenbauer writes. Stage set | Match box | Numbers gameUpdated: Jun 08, 2012, 01:20 IST
There are experts who contend the European Championship is stronger than the World Cup. This time, it's not only the list of participants at Euro 2012 which makes it a more elite event, but the make-up of the four groups means one or two favourites will probably be eliminated at the quarter-final stage.
Group B with Germany, Netherlands and Portugal is particularly tough. Germany are being seen, along with world and European champions Spain, as one of the top favourites, while the Dutch were World Cup finalists two years ago.
Germany coach Joachim Loew must, however, lift the spirits of the Bayern Munich bloc in the squad. Bayern's Champions League final defeat to Chelsea on penalties in their own stadium was a real psychological blow.
I am not sure the likes of Philipp Lahm can easily shake off this defeat. I can only hope Mesut Oezil and Sami Khedira, following their Spanish league triumph with Real Madrid, will be able to carry the Bayern players a bit, if needed.Fresh style
With Netherlands, expert opinion is split. Some say the team is too old, others say it is too attacking. It is definitely a problem of plenty when you have the two top scorers in the English and German leagues, Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, available. And coach Bert van Mawjik has gone against Dutch tradition by playing two strikers.
Both Germany and the Dutch could stumble against Portugal. Cristiano Ronaldo is not the only danger man upfront. Whichever team drops points against Portugal will go out. The first game in group C between Spain and Italy will show which way this group will head. Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has a problem like Joachim Loew. His strong Barcelona bloc, including midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta, has had domestic setbacks.
New Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has got the team playing fast, modern football, with young players under the guidance of a veteran like 34-year-old keeper Gianluigi Buffon.
In group D, the top match comes right at the beginning with France up against England. France have gone 19 games without a defeat but England, despite striker Wayne Rooney being suspended for the first two games, have an experienced coach in Roy Hodgson with plenty of experience at the back with John Terry in central defence, and at last a good 'keeper in Joe Hart.
The writer is former Germany captain