An analysis of the teams in Group B - The “Group of Death”

Netherlands

Fifa Ranking: 4

Manager: Bert van Marwijk (Since August 2008)

Captain: Mark van Bommel

Star Players: Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie

Penalty Taker/s: Dirk Kuyt, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Netherlands were in the “Group of Death” at Euro 2008 but managed to top the group with wins against Italy, France and Romania. However, they disappointingly went out at the quarter final stage to Russia. Under Bert van Marwijk, Netherlands reached the final of the 2010 World Cup. Along their way, they defeated Brazil and Uruguay, but suffered a bitter loss to Spain in extra time. This is the tournament where they hope to avenge that loss.

Netherlands dominated their Euro 2012 qualifying group. They won their first 9 qualifying group games but lost the last game 3-2 to Sweden. Netherlands managed to score 37 goals in their 10 qualifying matches. This makes them the highest scoring nation during the qualifying campaign. However, 16 of these goals come from two matches played against San Marino.

Netherlands have gained poor results in their friendly matches. They drew 0-0 at home to Switzerland, lost 3-0 to Germany and recently lost 2-1 to Bulgaria in Amsterdam. They looked poor against Bulgaria and were constantly caught out on the break. Although they defeated England 3-2 at Wembley, this was only achieved by a moment of magic from Arjen Robben in stoppage time. Furthermore, England had an interim manager at the time and were without a number of first team players.

Netherlands have a strong midfield and attack but the defence is certainly a weak point. The left full back position is a huge worry for Bert van Marwijk. First choice left back Erik Pieters is out of the tournament. Joris Mathijsen and John Heitinga is van Marwijk's first choice centre back partnership, but this is not the strongest centre back partnership at the tournament. To make matters worse, Mathijsen sustained a hamstring injury against Bulgaria and Heitinga's mistake led to Bulgaria scoring the winning goal. Gregory van der Wiel made a name for himself at the 2010 World Cup but he has not found the same form ever since. In their last four games, Netherlands conceded 2 goals against Bulgaria, 3 goals against Bayern Munich, 2 goals against England and 3 goals against Germany. The back four is certainly a cause for concern.

Another worry for van Marwijk is the form of the two men who led Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final. Wesley Sneijder has been plagued with injuries this season and has struggled for form with Inter Milan. Arjen Robben could still be affected by the Champions League final loss and being jeered by the Bayern Munich fans during the friendly match between Bayern Munich and Netherlands.

Although they are amongst the favourites to lift the trophy, Netherlands could be set for a shock early exit from Euro 2012. They are poor defensively and have been caught out on the break a number of times in the last few fixtures. Germany and Portugal possess pace on the counter attack, something Netherlands will struggle to cope with.

Denmark

Fifa Ranking: 10

Manager: Morten Olsen (Since July 2000)

Captain: Daniel Agger

Star Players: Daniel Agger, Christian Eriksen, Nicklas Bendtner

Penalty Taker/s: Christian Poulsen

Under Morten Olsen, Denmark failed to qualify for Euro 2008. Despite the fans call for the departure of Olsen, he stayed on and secured qualification for the 2010 World Cup. At the 2010 World Cup, due to a number of injuries, Denmark failed in their objective of making it past the group stage.

Denmark automatically qualified from Group H ahead of Portugal. They suffered one defeat and conceded just six goals during qualifying.

Denmark have looked out of their depth against their recent opponents. They were out classed by a young Brazil side in a 3-1 defeat. They also lost 2-0 at home to Russia and 2-1 away to Scotland. However, they did gain decent wins against Slovakia, Finland and Sweden in non competitive matches.

Denmark do not have the strongest squad at Euro 2012. The squad lacks quality and depth in all departments. Their goalkeepers are struggling for form and fitness, whilst the midfield and attack is heavily reliant on Christian Eriksen and Nicklas Bendtner. A lot of pressure is on these young players shoulders, and if they fail to perform at Euro 2012 then an early exit is imminent for Denmark.

Denmark do not have the squad to cope in this group. Although the pressure is off as they are not expected to advance from Group B, they will still need a miracle to make any impact in Ukraine.

Germany

Fifa Ranking: 2

Manager: Joachim Low (Since July 2006)

Captain: Phillipp Lahm

Star Players: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, Mario Gomez

Penalty Taker/s: Lukas Podolski, Bastian Schweinsteiger

In Joachim Low's first major tournament in charge of the German national team, Germany reached the final of Euro 2008. They lost 1-0 in the final to the future World Champions Spain. At the 2010 World Cup, Joachim Low opted for a young squad. This young side managed to beat England 4-1 in the second round, and Argentina 4-0 in the quarter finals. Germany met Spain in the semi finals, but once again lost 1-0. Germany finished third at the 2010 World Cup after defeating Uruguay 3-2 in the third place playoff. This young squad has grown in experience and should be confident of doing well at Euro 2012.

Germany won all their Euro 2012 qualifying group games. In a group against Belgium, Turkey and Austria, Germany got maximum points, scored 34 and conceded just 7 goals.

Germany's non competitive games have all ended in high scoring matches which have resulted in mixed results. With an experimental line up, Joachim Low's team lost 5-3 to Switzerland. They lost 2-1 at home to France, but were missing a number of key players for this match. They drew 3-3 away to Ukraine and drew 2-2 away to Poland. Germany gained positive results against Netherlands and Brazil. They easily defeated Netherlands 3-0, and with a full strength team, Germany dominated against Brazil and won 3-2.

Germany arguably have the best squad at Euro 2012. Seven likely starters for Germany play for Bayern Munich. Although Bayern Munich did not win anything this season, their style of play saw them dominate throughout the Champions League campaign.

The Germany defence looks incredibly strong. Manuel Neuer is a very reliable goalkeeper, Jerome Boateng is a good versatile defender and Philipp Lahm is a very experienced full back. Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber are a young but very effective centre back partnership. Germany's strong point is their midfield. They have a world class midfielder in Bastian Schweinsteiger, and potential world class midfielders in Toni Kroos, Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil. They also have the likes of Sami Khedira, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller to call upon. Germany have the clinical Mario Gomez to the lead the line, but also have the option of bringing on the goal machine Miroslav Klose. With a strong starting line up, and a strong bench, Germany should be very confident ahead of this tournament.

This is Germany's time to shine. The young players from the 2010 World Cup have improved and have the necessery experience to win a major tournament. Their squad is ideal as it is a blend of young talent and experienced internationals. A lot of teams will struggle to contain Germany's attacking style of play, and that style of play will be key to them winning Euro 2012.

Portugal

Fifa Ranking: 5

Manager: Paulo Bento (Since September 2010)

Captain: Cristiano Ronaldo

Star Players: Pepe, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo

Penalty Taker/s: Cristiano Ronaldo

Although a lot was expected of them at Euro 2008, Portugal went out at the quarterfinal stage. Under Carlos Queiroz, Portugal looked very defensive at the 2010 World Cup. They managed to keep three clean sheets from four games but only scored in one game during the tournament. The lack of ambition saw Portugal go out to Spain at the second round stage.

Portugal struggled during the qualifying campaign for Euro 2012. Under Carlos Queiroz, Portugal failed to win their first two games. They drew 4-4 at home to Cyprus and lost 1-0 away to Norway. Once Paulo Bento took over, Portugal looked a completely different side. Paulo Bento employed an attacking style of play that resulted in success. They won their next five games, scoring 16 in the process. A loss in the last game against Denmark saw Portugal enter the play off stage of qualification. Portugal qualified after defeating Bosnia 6-2 on aggregate.

Portugal have looked very flat in their recent non competitive matches. They drew 0-0 to both Poland and Macedonia. However, they will be encouraged by their performances against Argentina and Spain. Although they lost 2-1 to Argentina, they put in a good performance against the South American side. Their best result under Paulo Bento came against the World Champions Spain. Portugal out played their Iberian neighbours and ran out 4-0 winners. These two matches are evidence that Portugal will not feel threatened against Germany or Netherlands.

Portugal have lost two important players in Danny and Carlos Martins. Both are ruled out of the tournament due to injury. Also missing are the two Portuguese defenders who retired under the regime of Paulo Bento. Ricardo Carvalho and Jose Bosingwa both decided to retire during the qualifying campaign. However, Portugal are not short of centre backs as they have Pepe, Bruno Alves and Rolando. Valencia's new signing Joao Pereira will start at right back but the lack of cover in this position is worrying.

The main area of concern for Portugal is the lone striker position. Portugal have failed to score in three of their last four international matches. Against Macedonia, Helder Postiga did not contribute enough. His replacement, Hugo Almeida, failed to make an impact off the bench. Although Postiga scored 5 goals during the qualifying campaign, he often goes missing in matches. A chance could be taken in playing the exciting Nelson Oliveira in that role. The youngster has shown glimpses of brilliance for Benfica. Thas led to interest from Barcelona and Chelsea.

Similar to the 2010 World Cup, Portugal will rely heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo. However, as Portugal are seen as outsiders in their group, the pressure on the players, especially on Cristiano Ronaldo, has dropped. With many of these players heading into Euro 2012 in form, Portugal can spring a surprise in Group B. Portugal have the potential to go very far at Euro 2012. A place in the semi final looks a realistic prospect.