Euro 2008 Preview – Group D

Group D is arguably the weakest of the 4 groups in terms of not having at least two teams that are clearly better than the other two. Spain should win this group but who comes second is a very open contest. Sweden are always very good qualifiers and tend to get through group stages before being eliminated and so should be favourites to join Spain in the quarter finals, but both Russia and Greece will be thinking that they should be getting through from this group too.

Group D will play their games in Austria at the Tivoli Neu in Innsbruck and EM Stadion Wals-Siezenheim in Salzburg.

Spain have entered each of the big international tournaments over the last decade or so with one of the most talented group of individuals on the planet, yet have disappointed each and every time. The provincial nature of the country, with different parts wanting their own Independence from Spain, means that it is more difficult for the country to put out a unified team that wants to represent Spain. The job of the coach and the captain is to get these players to play for each other under one flag. If anyone manages that then Spain will be up there with Brazil, Argentina and Italy as world beaters and perennial favourites. The Spanish team will have to make do without Raul for the first time in a big competition since the Real Madrid star made his debut. Raul has rediscovered his form of old this season and has been one of Madrid’s best performers, but this wasn’t enough to see him selected for the Euro Champs. Instead Spain will look to Torres and Villa to lead the line, with Guiza and Sergio Garcia providing back up. These two were picked ahead of Raul and as such will be players to keep an eye on. Guiza was the top Spanish scorer in La Liga for Mallorca and is said to be wanted by the top teams in Spain, Italy and England. It is in midfield where the Spanish are spoilt for choice, with the likes of Fabregas, Xavi, Silva and Iniesta all competing for starting places. Spain have the players to be a world force, they just need the motivation and team spirit. This could be their year, and the beginning of something special for Spanish football.

The rest of the group seems to be on an equal level. Sweden, who finished just behind Spain in qualifying, are a very difficult team to beat, combining a great team ethos with the individual talents of Kallstrom and Ibrahimovic. Each player knows his role and gets on with the job. The experience of Henrik Larrson will be a huge asset to Sweden, but look for him to make an impact from the bench rather than starting. Russia, as you’d imagine, are a well disciplined team with a great sense of national pride. They finished ahead of England in qualifying, but this could prove one step to far for them. Defending champs Greece benefited from an one of the easier qualifying groups, thanks to being seeded first because of their triumph in 2004. That year they won primarily because of fatigue by the players in the other nations, with a lot of Greece players not regular starters at club level or playing in weaker leagues, like Greece, they were fresher and had stronger legs then everyone else. This time they won’t find it that easy and will do well to get out of this group. In Otto Rehhagel they have an astute coach who will look to mastermind another surprise this year.

Spain will be favourites and will probably be joined by Sweden.

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