With the first round of group matches in the bag, it's been an interesting tournament so far including a stalemate between tournament favourites Spain and Italy, a reliably solid if not predictable German 1-0 victory and a major upset as Holland fell victim to a lowly ranked Denmark. All this action sandwiched between a mediocre first match with the co-hosts Poland drawing with Greece and an eruption of joy from Ukraine supporters following a 2-1 victory over Sweden with their veteran talisman Shevchenko scoring twice to see them come from behind to win in Kiev to lead their group heading into the second round matches.
All those who bet their mortgage on Spain being the first ever country to retain the Euro crown might want to start considering alternative accommodation as the favourites looked very out of sorts against a robust looking Italy. Fielding 6 midfield players without a recognised striker in the starting line-up seemed odd to many and it didn't pay off as Spain struggled to create the clear cut chances they have been doing for the past 4 years that has seen them lift both the last Euro and World Cups.
Germany on the other hand look full of promise and a very organised team who turned a rather, dare I say, boring match with Portugal into a 1-0 victory. Group B, labelled the group of death at the start of the tournament was always going to lose one major name in World football, but with the way the first round matches panned out, both Portugal and Holland are looking vulnerable following the Netherlands loss to Denmark. Tomorrows matches for Portugal and Holland are you feel, must wins.
Surprise package of the tournament so far, Russia. An impressive display against the Czech Republic saw the evening match of the opening day liven up the tournament. As for the home sides, England saw out an unimpressive 1-1 draw with France despite going a goal ahead and I feel their lack of inventiveness and creativity will see them exit the competition prematurely. Despite the expectation being played down in the press pre-tournament, England still expects and as an Englishman myself, I don't expect them to win the tournament, but I do hope they up their game and give the more creative and danger players (those left in the squad at least!) a chance. As for the Republic of Ireland, a tough opener against a solid Croatia leaves then needing nothing short of a win against Spain. Gulp.
I'll stick to my guns and predict Spain to win, but they will need a strategic re-shuffle and to include maybe a striker, if only they had a £50m striker at their disposal, the most expensive bench warmer in history, to call upon!
Round 2 Score predictions;
Greece 0 - 2 Czech Republic
Poland 1 - 4 Russia
Denmark 0 - 2 Portugal
Netherlands 2 - 1 Germany
Italy 1 - 0 Croatia
Spain 2 -1 R. of Ireland
Ukraine 1 - 1 France
Sweden 0 - 1 England