Teenage

Group of death picks

Euro 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012    

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Netherlands

Background: The talents of Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman drove the orange machine to their only trophy to date in 1988.

Appearances: After their debut in 1976, the Oranje have been regulars and have not missed out since 1984.

How they made it: Wins over San Marino, Finland and Moldova were enough to book their tickets for the Euro 2012, before losing their unbeaten status to Sweden.

Key Players: Klass-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke), Robin Van Persie (Arsenal), Arjen Roben (Bayern Munich) and Sneijder (Inter Milan).

Coach: Bert Van Marwijk

Strengths: With a large talent pool at their disposal, there are limited weak areas in the Netherland's team with the Barclays Premier league top scorer Roben Van Persie upfront and midfield maestro Wesley Sneijder.

Weakness: There is a large number of injury-prone players and Netherlands will surely need to keep a fully fit team, if they are to be at their best.

Expected Finish: At least the quarter-final round.

Portugal

Background: Portugal has never won the European Championship. However, the Portugal Football Association hired former Brazil head coach Luiz Phillip Scolari, who led Portugal to the European final in 2004, where they lost to Greece.

Appearances: Since the inception of the European Championship in 1960, Portugal has only failed on two attempts to qualify for the tournament, 1982 and 1998.

How they made it: Portugal finished second in their group and had to book their place through a play-off with Bosnia.

Key Players: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Nani (Manchester United), Raul Meireles (Chelsea).

Coach: Paulo Bento

Strengths: Real Madrid star Christiano Ronaldo, and young sensation Nani are Portugal's strengths.

Weaknesses: There is not a great deal of solidarity in the defensive third.

Expected Finish: Quarter-final round.

Germany

Background: Germany won the European Championship in (1972, 1990, and 1996). They have also been runners-up three times in the European championships.

Appearances: In 1960 and 1964, Germany did not part-take in the tournament. They decided to enter the competition in 1968, but failed in their attempt. However, since 1972 the Germans have never failed to qualify for a European tournament.

How they made it: Germany ended atop Group A with the maximum 30 points from 10 games.

Key Players: Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Phillip Lahm (Bayern Munich)

Coach: Joachim Low

Strengths: Very patient in their build-ups, precision passes, and quick off-the-ball movement. Very strong in defence and excellent on penalty kicks.

Weakness: Lasps in concentration is a sign of weakness for the Germans in recent years.

Expected finish: Should at least make the semi-final

Denmark

Background: In 1992 Denmark takes the trophy in Sweden. They knocked out England and France in the group stages, before beating reigning European champion Netherlands on penalties and then reigning world champions Germany 2-1 in the grand finale.

Appearances: Denmark has appeared seven times in the European championship.

How they made it: The Danes were handed a tough qualifying group for Euro 2012 after been paired with Portugal and regional rivals Norway. Denmark finished first in their group with 19 points from eight games, finishing three points ahead of Portugal and Norway.

Coach: Morten Olsen

Strengths: Providing pin-point passes to their marksman Nickolas Bendtner, they are known for their burly appearance. The Danes are physically strong in the air.

Weakness: Can be a frustrated figure if their talisman Bendtner becomes isolated.

Expected Finish: Hard to see Denmark making it out of this group, but expect some enterprising attacking plays from the Danes.

— Dwayne Wiliams

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