This week’s main report looks at the qualifying groups of the 2012 European Championships that will take place in Ukraine and Poland next summer. There is a transcript below, while explanations of key vocabulary (in bold) can be found at the foot of the post.
The 2012 European Championship qualifiers resume this weekend and we take a look at how the groups currently stand and offer a tentative prediction on which 14 teams will join the Ukraine and Poland in the tournament next summer. Each of the nine group winners automatically qualify, along with the best runner-up, while the remaining eight second-place teams in each group will play-off to produce four more qualifying teams.
Groups A and B
Group A seems to be fairly clear-cut for Germany who are already five points ahead of second place Austria. The Austrians are battling it out for second place with Guus Hiddink’s Turkey and a Belgium side that were tipped by many to progress but who still only have 4 points from 4 matches. Turkey slumped to two recent defeats – a 3-0 thrashing against the fancied Germans and then more surprisingly 1-0 against minnows Azerbaijan, while Austria and Belgium payed out a crazy 4-4 draw recently. Hidink’s team, however, should have enough experience to bounce back and claim second spot behind the Germans.
In group B, Russia are top with 9 points from 4 games with the Republic of Ireland, surprise package Armenia and Slovakia all on 7 points. It seems that no one wants to win the group, or perhaps that should be that no one is good enough to win the group and this means that this group will go down to the wire. Irish coach Trapattonni continues with his rather conservative approach to the game and this may cost the Irish a place in the finals though they should be good enough to come second behind an inconsistent Russia side.
Groups C and D
Italy comfortably lead group C with 10 points from 4 games and the Azzurri are three points clear of second place Slovenia who they face this weekend. Surprisingly Serbia have performed poorly in the group and they may have difficulty in qualifying after the bad behaviour of their fans in Milan saw the Italians being awarded the points and a shock home defeat against Estonia has seen them drop to fifth place in the group. Italy will definitely make it through while a surprise package such as Estonia or Northern Ireland could grab second spot.
Group D is another ‘strange’ group and though the French side are top of the group with ten points they have already suffered a shock defeat at home to Belarus. Romania’s poor form has seen them gain only two points and has allowed both Belarus and Bosnia to dream of qualifying, though I still expect them to come back into some kind of form and finish second behind the French.
Groups E and F
Beaten World Cup finalists Holland lead the way in group E with maximum points from their four games and they lead Hungary by three points. The Hungarians have only tasted defeat once but that was against Sweden who will be their greatest threat to second place. Group F is regarded as the weakest of all the groups and currently Croatia top the table with ten points from 4. They are followed by former winners Greece and Georgia, with Israel already appearing out of contention. Croatia first and Greece second.
Groups G, H and I
England appear to be favourites to qualify from group G though they currently sit in second place after their home scoreless draw with leaders Montenegro. It seems like a straight battle between these two as the remaining teams (Bulgaria, Switzerland and Wales) are already so far behind. Group H is much trickier to predict with three teams fighting it out for the two top places. Currently Norway are top with three wins from their three games though a resurgent Portugal are breathing down their necks in second place, while Denmark are in third three points behind the leaders. The current European and World champions Spain lead group I with three wins out of three and are odds-on to qualify directly. The battle for second place is between Scotland, Lithuania and the slight favourites the Czech Republic.
So, after this week’s matches the tables will become a little clearer but I am still going to hazard a guess at the nine group winners: Germany, Russia, Spain, Italy, England, France, Croatia and Portugal should all make it through directly as group winners.
clear-cut: To be obvious, very clear
slumped to two recent defeats: Slumped suggests that they fell badly; to lose badly or unexpectedly
the fancied Germans: Germany was expected to win
minnows: A small team not expected to do well
surprise package: A team that no one really expects to do well
go down to the wire: Very tight and close so that nothing will be decided until the last games
awarded the points: Italy were given a 3-0 victory after Serbian fans caused trouble at the game in Italy; To be given the points
grab: Take – but the sense here is that it will be a surprise
tasted defeat: Been beaten
is regarded as: Is viewed or seen as
out of contention: To not really have a chance
trickier: A little more difficult
a resurgent: To have come back stronger; Portugal started badly but now are playing well again
are breathing down their necks: They are right behind them, are chasing them
are odds-on to: To be clear favourites; will almost definitely