Wednesday 22 November 2017

There'll be no need to bail out of these Euros

In the land of the football punter, information is king. With that meaningless motto in mind, RPSPORT is pleased to bring you priceless morsels from each of the 16 nations competing at the European Championship

GROUP A Czech Republic

The Euro 96 finalists are unlikely to be a popular outright bet this time around but don't rule them out completely.

If Tomas Rosicky's form continues to improve at the same rate that it has for Arsenal recently then by the time the final is played he'll be capable of scoring a quadruple hattrick. Of back-heeled volleys. While lying on a beach in Mauritius.

The man nicknamed Little Mozart has been more like Little Jedward for most of his Arsenal career but he looks ready to inspire his Czech mates once again.


The news has been dominated by just one question recently: will Greece exit the Euros? Politicians, economists and journalists are all getting themselves worked up over the consequences of the Greeks leaving – or, worse still, staying in – the Euros.

It's understandable – their victory in 2004 was probably the most depressing underdog success in sporting history – although the Germans shouldn't be taking the moral high ground. After all, Otto Rehhagel, who hails from the North Rhine-Westphalia region, is largely responsible for Greece's joyless style of football.


The co-hosts should enjoy plenty of fervent home support but they're unlikely to be popular with the Panini sticker-collecting community.

"OK, what will you swap me for a Grzegorz Wojtkowiak, a Jakub Blaszczykowski and an Adam Matuszczyk?"

"Um, some much-needed vowels?"


Dick Advocaat has a selection headache after a completely spontaneous popular uprising in Russia demanded that Vladimir Putin play up front – and bare-chested – for the national team at Euro 2012.

"First Jermain Defoe and now this," seethed perennial substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Defender Roman Shishkin has been ruled out with a stomach complaint, which is sad news for ITV's new commentary team of Sean Connery and Richie Benaud.

GROUP B Denmark

Bookmakers expect Denmark's schedule to go something like this: lose to Holland, lose to Portugal, get battered by Germany, sod off home.

But the Danes know that fairytales do happen – they won Euro 92, a tournament they hadn't even qualified for – and, according to the tabloids, striker Nicklas Bendtner used to go out with a sort of princess.

Denmark, managed by veteran Morten Olsen, also boast the best nickname in the finals – Olsen's Eleven. It's funny 'cause it's true!


The Germans arrive at the finals with a formidable young squad and they are clearly keen to dispel the myth about their national humour deficiency. Coach Joachim Low delighted puerile English-speakers by selecting the Bender twins – Lars and Sven – in his provisional squad while Germany's team of tournament officials includes assistant referee Mike Pickel.

Apparently Pickel's post-tournament plan is to open a delicatessen with Bristol City goalkeeper Dean Gerken.


The Dutch used to entertain spectators with their Total Football – nowadays they're more likely to cause total carnage.

Even Howard Webb's "I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed" look couldn't keep them under control in the 2010 World Cup final while four years earlier their match against Portugal produced 12 yellow cards and four sendings-off.

It's hard to know what's the more frightening prospect: selling bookings when the Dutch face Portugal in Group B or looking directly at Dirk Kuyt's face.


Portugal's famous golden generation, featuring Luis Figo and Rui Costa, failed to land a major trophy so now it's up to the player who almost certainly regards himself as a oneman golden generation: Cristiano Ronaldo.

If the Real Madrid star does lead his country to victory it would put his great rival Lionel Messi in the shade. Messi always seems to go missing at the European Championship – further evidence to support the argument that he's just a poor man's James Milner.

GROUP C Croatia

Coach Slaven Bilic refuses to be downhearted about Croatia's tough draw. Bilic has said that opponents Spain "are a great team, great champions and worthy favourites but they are not going to walk through the championship with a cigar."

It would be cool if they did, though. Wouldn't it? Yeah, that would be so neat.


The unveiling of the Italian squad took plenty of observers by surprise.

There's no place for promising youngsters such as Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Del Piero and Pippo Inzaghi while the likes of Franco Baresi and Roberto Baggio, who should be reaching the peak of their careers, have also been snubbed.

Still, as the Italians always say: win, lose or draw, we'll have a bloody good bunga bunga party.


Thierry Henry's handball cruelly denied Ireland a place at the 2010 World Cup and although the Irish have safely reached the Euros this year they must remain on their guard.

Their nemesis Henry is sure to have some Wacky Races-style tricks up his sleeve. Perhaps the fiendish Frenchman will disguise himself as an elderly Polish peasant woman and give Ireland's bus driver deliberately vague directions to the Municipal Stadium in Poznan.

Or maybe he'll sprinkle a trail of cookies to lure Richard Dunne out of position when he's supposed to be defending a corner. Be careful, Thierry is as wily as a fox!


The tiki-taka boys are the reigning world, European and "not letting anybody else have the ball" champions but the absence through injury of centre-back Carles Puyol is a major blow.

Given Puyol's lofty reputation and Worzel Gummidge-style hair, the Spanish FA should probably have kept his injury a secret, simply replacing him with a life-size scarecrow.

This tactic wouldn't be entirely unprecedented – Per Mertesacker has won more than 80 caps for Germany.



Of course, if we lived in the magical land of happy endings and lollipops growing in flowerbeds, Roy Hodgson would see out his four-year contract as England manager.

Back in the real world, though, you can already bet on Hodgson's successor and also the method of his downfall: it's 8-11 that he's let down by his players, 6-4 that he's stabbed in the back by the FA and 11-4 that he's fatally undermined by the tabloids. We're right behind you, Roy!


The cracks in the French camp appeared early this year as Patrice Evra announced that he was going on strike in protest at Patrice Evra's inclusion in the squad.

"Have we learned nothing from the World Cup fiasco?" the Manchester United defender raged. "Evra is a proven trouble-maker who should have been cast into the international wilderness for good.

"To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I do not wish to join any squad that would have me as a member."


Trend-spotters will have been nodding sagely as the Swedes popped up in the same group as England.

English football fans learn at their mother's knee that they always draw Sweden in major tournaments and that, having drawn Sweden, they always draw with Sweden.

Now, as Jennifer Aniston would say, for the science bit: more than 96 per cent of England-Sweden matches have finished 1-1, excluding the ones that didn't finish 1-1.


Never mind 4-2-3-1, catenaccio or zonal marking – Ukraine's tactical masterstroke involves getting the Klitschko brothers to stand behind the goal and stare menacingly at their opponents' keeper, occasionally muttering: "You want a one-way ticket to the knockout stages, punk?"

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