GROUP A - Switzerland, Czech Republic, Portugal, Turkey
An interesting set of matches. Portugal and the Czechs have to be group favorites, but the Swiss are an increasingly potent force and will be on home soil, and the Turks are no slouches either. Fullback's Almighty Prognostication Engine says . . . a tight group, but Portugal's talent carries them through as group winners, while the Czechs stumble and allow the organized Swiss to replicate their World Cup heroics and advance to the knockout stages as group runners-up.
GROUP B - Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland
The border wars abound, with Croatia and Germany the favorites to advance. Austria will have the home crowds, but they'll be severely overmatched. The Poles have the potential to surprise, but can they pull off enough surprises to advance? Fullback's Almighty Prognostication Engine says . . . an emphatic "nope"! Germany and Croatia advance easily.
GROUP C - Holland, Italy, Romania, France
Ouch! Here's you cliched "Group of Death" if I ever saw one. I think it's really going to depend on who comes out hot and who is carrying key injuries, as any of these teams have the potential to advance. Romania may not carry the cachet of the other three sides, but they did finish ahead of the Dutch in their qualifying group. Despite the near-impossibility of calling the group at this stage, Fullback's Almighty Prognostication Engine is undeterred and predicts . . . Romania struggles manfully, but can't narrow the talent gap and positive-thinking wins out as the Oranje and Les Bleus answer the call and the Azzurri finally reap the rewards of their woeful karma balance as the futbol gods stomp out the creeping tide of negativity.
GROUP D - Greece, Sweden, Spain, Russia
Can the Greeks pull another surprise? Can the Swedes ride Big Ibra to glory? Will all that Spanish promise finally be fulfilled? Will Hiddink's reputation continue to expand? Lots of questions in Group D, though Spain should be favorites and I doubt the Greeks can replicate the magic of their last Euro adventure. Going to the well one final time, Fullback's Almighty Prognostication Engine calls for a chance of . . . goals, goals, GOALS! Time for some real "matador football" as the Spanish take charge and run out group winners. Ibrahimovic is left frustrated by a solid, but unspectacular supporting cast, and the Russians squeak in ahead of them as Group D runners-up.
As we get closer to the summer, the Prognostication Engine will be set to work cranking out my favorites to win it all and the potential dark horse (plenty of candidates) that will look to replicate the Greek heroics of 2004. Stay tuned . . .
And just because I can't leave well enough alone and because it's somewhat Euro-related, I've been speculating about who will take over the reins at Red Bull, and an unlikely name kept getting stuck in my head. Let's establish some ground rules for the selection first.
- Name recognition--the more Euro, the better. Distinguished playing career is always a plus.
- Big Personality and no stranger to controversy.
- Familiarity with MLS--preferably with playing and/or coaching experience in the league.