The finalists: A consistent selection policy, Vicente Del Bosque’s Spain look strong. However, so did France before the 2002 World Cup, and the on-pitch implosion highlighted the over reliance on one player. Whilst David Villa is not the creative force that Zidane was, he is the Spanish national team’s top scorer of all time. Missing their potency, will their attack’s limpness be a major disappointment?
Despite this, a semi-final spot should be within their reach. If predictability is followed, a Germany v Spain final is possible. The German side are packed full of attacking prowess, but like faecal incontinence, they are a little leaky at the back. The most frightening aspect about Jogi Low’s team is that the first choice attacking four of Podolski, Ozil, Muller and Klose can be replaced by Schurrle, Reus, Gotze and Gomez. The latter’s horrific howler against Austria in Euro 2008 made him an international laughing stock, but his resurrection has been a steady one. I predict Germany to reach the final, but Spain to fall at the quarter final stage.
If they can truly be considered a dark horse, my prediction to be runners up are Italy. This isn’t just based upon eerie similarities to 2006, with the squad engulfed by scandal, but rather a fresh incentive to succeed. Most of the winners from the 2006 World Cup have retired, and a new generation, led by a charismatic, untypically Italian manager in Cesare Prandelli could find themselves kicking off the final in Kiev. Germany to beat Italy 2-0 in the final.
Top Scorer: Harder to predict than the biggest inbred in Leicester award, the top scorer is rarely the favourite. A hat-trick in the group stages is often enough. In 1996, Alan Shearer hadn’t scored for twelve international games before his strike against Switzerland turned him into a monosyllabic, Geordie version of Hugh Hefner. Marco Van Basten started as a substitute in 1988, and Milan Baros was an unlikely winner in 2004. Germany’s Thomas Muller won the World Cup golden boot but is not prolific, and the Italian team like to spread their goals around. With this in mind, I have decided to point at a random name, and ended up with Olivier Giroud of France, who will undoubtedly begin the competition in reserve.
England’s chances: The English media’s staple opening assertion seems to be talking the team down, before saying that, because of this lack of pressure, they may just go on and win the tournament. Roy Hodgson is a wily old tactician, but for all his experience, he has rarely reached the pinnacle of his profession. A quarter final exit would not be a debacle, but with a team that lacks a creative player who can dictate play and also keep possession; this England side are looking at a sagging, first round exit.
Other predictions: Before the Ukraine v Sweden match on June 11th, Gary Lineker will ask the panel what they know about the Ukrainian team. Alan Hansen will make a sarcastic comment, before Shearer starts talking about Shevchenko’s failure at Chelsea. For any media outlet, especially a state one, to be so incompetent at rudimentary research is indefensible.
The English media will be unable to contain themselves at building up needless nationalist fervour. A point against France should be enough, and the gutter press will start to sprout words such as passion, belief, spirit, and anything that ignores football tactics. When England are eliminated, a Radio Five Live pundit will call for a widespread overhaul of the grass roots game, which will then be largely ignored thanks to some World Cup qualifying victories in September.
For most games, the cameras will zoom in on a smiling female, clad in a slightly too tight vest-top, emblazoned with the name of her nation written in English, beaming to the masses as a vaguely sexist reference is giggled.
On July 2nd, I can look back and wonder why I predicted Italy to be runners-up. I have also bet a friend £10 that the Dutch will be eliminated at the group stage. Let the football begin.