Germany, Spain Front-Runners to Capture Euro 2012 Crown as Knockout Rounds Loom

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Germany, Spain Front-Runners to Capture Euro 2012 Crown as Knockout Rounds LoomThe third matchday of the Euro 2012 tournament has provided plenty of drama as Groups A and B went down to the wire. That means that we’ve finally got our first look at the two matchups we’ll see in the quarterfinals, which is the commencement of the knockout round.

Euro 2012 — Outright Winner
Germany 9-4
Spain 9-4
Portugal 6-1
France 7-1

In Group A, the Czech Republic surprisingly came away with the top spot in the group and that’s surprising considering it started the tournament getting drubbed 4-1 by Russia. Meanwhile, Russia, who led Group A going into the third wave of games, shockingly lost to Greece in its third match. That allowed Greece to advance and sent Russia packing.

Meanwhile, Group B saw Germany cruise with three wins but the second playoff spot was up for grabs entering Sunday. Holland, who made it to the finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, suffered its third loss of the round and has been eliminated. Portugal rocked the Dutch to bed on the strength of two Cristiano Ronaldo goals.

That means we’ll see Portugal challenge the Czech Republic on Thursday, and Germany will square off with Greece. As an aside, there’s some irony in Germany is taking on Greece considering those two countries are going head-to-head in regards to bailouts and clashes in the European Union. Germany has been hard on debt-stricken Greece, and now the underdog might have a chance for some revenge.

On the field, Greece is going to have its hands full. You’d be hard-pressed to find a team that’s played better than Germany to date in Euro 2012. Greece showed plenty of moxie to survive Group A, but it had trouble with Poland and the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, Germany’s strength of schedule has included wins against Denmark, Netherlands and Portugal –- all of whom are in the top 10 of the world FIFA rankings.

Germany’s blistering offense is going to be a real problem for Greece, who can ill-afford to fall behind or get into a shootout.

On Thursday, the Czech Republic will square off with Portugal in Warsaw, Poland. Portugal has looked stronger and stronger in each outing, and it looks like the monkey is final off of Ronaldo’s back. In the team’s first game against Germany, he was tightly marked and couldn’t get going. In the second contest, he missed plenty of easy opportunities appeared to be gimmes.

At that point, we were again left wondering if Ronaldo simply had too much weight on his shoulders carrying his country (and too much on his mind), but the tension eased against the Netherlands as Ronaldo scored twice to give his team the win. He’s arguably the best player in the world and if he’s going to find his form, Portugal will be a tough team to stop.

All of that can change in a heartbeat, though, if Portugal were to fall to the Czech Republic. The latter was pounded 4-1 by Russia, but rebounded with wins against Greece and Poland. A loss by Portugal in this spot will be yet another disappointing result for the talented team that’s never won a UEFA European Championship.

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