So now, I suppose, I have to predict what’ll happen in the tournament. Mmm…a trap! Maybe I can run right into it!

Especially considering that Greece just had Nikos Dabizas ruled out by injury, they’re not springing a surprise on Portugal. This is the one group that I expect to go exactly as the pundits expect, with Portugal finishing first on goal differential, and Spain finishing second.
Country W D L GF GA Points
Portugal 2 1 0 5 1 7
Spain 2 1 0 6 3 7
Greece 1 0 2 4 7 3
Russia 0 0 3 3 7 0


POR   2:0     GRE
ESP    2:1     RUS
GRE   1:3     ESP
(with Morientes scoring a hat trick and getting a 15 million euro move to Chelsea)
RUS    0:2     POR
GRE   3:2     RUS
(out of sheer mediocrity in defense as opposed to any form of attacking skill)
ESP    1:1     POR


I really, really, really wanted to pick Croatia to advance out of this group as opposed to England – unfortunately, their starting keeper Stipe Pletikosa, who I mentioned as being the best keeper in this group, is injured and may miss the entire tournament. That’s a bigger loss than England losing their first, third, and fourth choice center backs; England will look artifically good as a result, just setting them up for their big letdown. France will survive with Fabien Barthez in goal through this round.
Country W D L GF GA Points
France 2 1 0 8 4 7
England 1 2 0 6 3 5
Croatia 0 2 1 3 5 2
Switzerland 0 2 1 2 7 1
SUI    1:1    CRO
FRA    2:2    ENG
(I am thinking, like Portugal four years ago, England goes up 2:0, France gets two back, and maybe they miss a penalty or something and England barely holds on for a draw. Maybe.)
ENG    3:0    SUI
CRO    1:3    FRA
CRO    1:1    ENG
SUI    1:3    FRA

Now, it’s time to start dropping the hammers in. How about Italy nearly missing out on going to the second round? I think they’ll make it over Sweden, but only on goal differential. Denmark’s definitely going places. I love me some Danish football. Even without Stig Toftig.
DEN 2:1 ITA (in the first shock result of the tournament)
DEN 3:2 SWE (we’ll have our first huge referee controversy here – a late penalty gives Denmark the win, and gets Italy in on goal differential)
DEN    3 0 0    6  3     9
ITA    1 1 1    6  3     4
SWE    1 1 1    4  4     4
BUL    0 3 0    0  6     0


And the real hammer falls, now — Germany’s not making it out of this group. The best player in Group D is Pavel Nedved. The second best player is Ruud Van Niistelrooy. I could name ten players I’d rather have from those two teams than any of the guys on the German team – let’s do it. Nedved, Van Niistelrooy, Kluivert, Van der Vaart, Rosicky, Koller, Cech, Davids, Makaay, and Van Der Meyde. Ballack MAYBE beats out Van Der Meyde but only based on previous form. Germany’s not going to be happy with this. Maybe Stefan Effenberg can co-write a book with Oliver Kahn on it.
GER 1:2 HOL (maybe Oliver Kahn scores the German goal. Who knows?)
CZE 2:2 HOL (this is right up there with Denmark-Sweden for MUST SEE matches of this tournament)
HOL 3:2 LAT (maybe Latvia gets up for this one?)
GER 1:3 CZE (as Germany explodes…)
CZE   2 1 0     7  3     7
HOL   2 1 0     7  5     7
GER   1 0 2     3  5     3
LAT   0 0 3     2  6     0


Here’s where things get hectic.
I already mentioned how I thought England would be lucky to get out of their group. When you’re playing the host nation AFTER that, you’re in trouble — especially when the host nation is actually good. Even if John Terry’s back, England’s defense isn’t good enough to put up with the Portugese midfield — especially if Steven Gerrard is hurt by then. 2:1, Portugal.
France also has a problem, as I mentioned — the biggest flaw in this tournament, Fabien Barthez. It is possible, I guess, that Barthez could suddenly decide to go to his half-dozen games of great form that has kept him employed these last eight years. But why now? Spain will be the beneficiary of France’s stupidity and age in the back. 2:1, Spain.
If I was really excited about Denmark-Sweden and Holland-Czech Republic, how excited am I about Denmark-Holland? The answer is a whole lot. A whole freaking lot. I guess my reasoning on Holland winning is that Denmark’s defense will be more troubled by Holland’s wingers than vice versa. It’ll be exciting, though. Let’s say 2:1, Holland, with the winning goal coming in extra-time. Maybe Andy Van Der Meyde puts it in to make Michael Ballack officially eleventh in that group.
As for Italy, I’m still not comfortable with their midfield; the country already knows how good Pavel Nedved is, and they’ll begin to learn just how good Tomas Rosicky is alongside him. 2:0, Czech Republic.


The first semifinal is Portugal vs. Holland; a team that grossly underachieved in the 2002 World Cup versus a team that grossly underachieved in the qualifiers for that event. What will let Portugal win is that they learned more from their losses than Holland did; you’re not going to find Joao Pinto, Vitor Baia, or Jorge Costa playing in this tournament. Being at home won’t hurt, either. 2:0 Portugal.
The other semifinal will be Spain vs. Czech Republic. I can only repeat my reasons for loving the Czech Republic so many times. I think the key to this match, for Spain, is Valeron — and I don’t think he’s going to be up to the task against Galasek this time. The Czech Republic offense goes nuts against a weak Spanish defense, with Baros scoring twice. 3:1(!), Czech Republic.


I’m not sure if I picked this final because I think it will happen, or because I want it to. Either way, I’d be really happy if this was how things turned out. It’d be pretty hard for these two teams to play the traditional curl-into-a-shell final — but Monaco tried it, so who really knows?
My only real concern about the Czech Republic are their central defenders – granted, it’s an important concern, and one that has me burying England, but I think they can cover for them up to this point. Portugal’s just got too many offensive weapons – Figo, Ronaldo, Quaresma, Pauleta, et al are just going to end up picking the Czechs apart one time too many. The Portugese defense will hold strong, and the Golden Generation will finally get their trophy, as Portugese football ascends to the same heights that French football did four years ago. 2:0, Portugal.

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