The next in our end-of-week fixtures, the Friday Question is simple: Each of our writers takes a brief crack at one burning question. This week’s is simple.
Quite obviously, England are gonna win this year’s Euro’s. It’s clear. They have world-class players and a world-class manager. They have a great fanbase, who are going to innocently and guilelessly will them on regardless of how they perform. They have a penchant for showing up in big matches, always winning the games that matter. I’ll focus on one player in particular, John Terry. Terry is solid as a rock. Dense as a rock too. He leads one of the least permeable backlines in the Premier League. I can’t think of a single time he’s failed when he had the pressure on him to come through in the clutch. He can be taken as a symbol of the spirit of England. Nothing can keep a group of 21 moral, humble, athletic, virtuous men down, not least teams with the ethical decrepitude of Italy or Spain. I suspect the punditry will rise up as one and acknowledge the fact that this is the best England team in years (ask FIFA!), and nothing will hinder them in their ascent to the summit of European sport!
Germany. In the past decade’s worth of major tournaments, Germany has finished: group stage; second; group stage; third; second; third (though really, they would have murdered that Dutch team, so I’d argue they were the second-best team of the tournament). A) That’s a long time for Germany to go without winning anything. B) They have an absolute wealth of attacking talent at their disposal right now, most of which is still getting better. The only team I see possibly standing in their way is Spain, but if age or complacency or lingering club team blood feuds take any kind of toll on the Spanish juggernaut, then I think Germany will be there to twist the knife. If there’s two things the Germans are good at, it’s A) Winning tournaments while other strong nations are transitioning between generations and B) Beating more acclaimed sides to trophies. They’ve gone out to Spain the last two major competitions. Third time proves the charm.
Germany. In the early months of 2010, friend of the blog Ogo Sylla wrote an impassioned treatise proclaiming them heir apparent to the World Cup title. In some fifteen hundred words, he outlined the formations and lineups that would drive Die Mannschaft to victory. And it all seemed very believable, except it skipped over one fine detail: a possible encounter with Spain. As it turned out, that was all that prevented Ogo’s prediction from being spot on. The Germans obliterated perennial contenders Argentina and England by an aggregate of 8-1 in the preceding two knockout stages. Getting past Spain was their only test – one that they ultimately failed to pass.
There’s a good chance that we’ll get to see a rematch in Euro 2012 – probably in the knockout stages, possibly in the finals. For the love of a good match, I’ll put my money on the finals. Except this time, La Furia Roja will walk away…furia. Chalk it up to age on both sides. Spain’s two most important players (Puyol and Xavi, by my reckoning) will be two years older than they were in the World Cup and four years older than they were in Euro 2008. (Real smooth math there. You’re welcome.) We’ve already seen that injury is starting to hamper Puyi’s impact at Barca, while Xavi is playing fewer minutes than ever (yes, he’s in a packed midfield, but it’s also a fitness concern).
On the other hand, Germany is beginning to develop a core around young players such as Mesut Ozil (23) and forwards Mario Gotze (19) and Thomas Muller (22). If they can make a good case on a solid defensive line (where youth may not be an asset) by next year, Germany will be frontrunners to dispute Spain’s supremacy.
The Friday Prediction
Wes: Turkey 2-2 Germany. Turkey scores twice in the final ten minutes of the game.
Eric: Turkey 2-1 Germany. The home crowd and the desperate need for points to stay ahead of Belgium get Turkey the win.
Adams: Germany 3-2 Turkey. Yes, they’ve already booked a ticket, but Low uses this match to field another match-winning side. Ozil assists a Youtube-worthy goal.
The Friday Recommendation
Wes: The Rugby World Cup. We have a ton of great quarterfinal match-ups to work with here, with the best probably being New Zealand vs. Italy. NZ are going for their second title, and trying to do so on their home turf. One of the All-Black’s better players (and one of the best fly-halfs in the world), Dan Carter, is out for the tourney, so it will be interesting to see how they cope without him.
Eric: The Shin Guardian’s always excellent pre-match coverage of the U.S. National Team. No one article here, they’re all worth a look.
Adams: Stanford is offering a free online course on artificial intelligence. You don’t need to be interested in AI (I’m not) to take advantage of this opportunity. It’s a live, homework- and test-evaluated class delivered by a world class institution, and it’s also a revolutionary way of delivering esoteric information to the general public. It starts next week, so sign up now.