With only one set of first-round matches left, Euro 2012 is shaping up as a very exciting tournament. Only two teams, Ireland (who I picked to get to the second round, oops!) and Sweden, have been eliminated, and no team has guaranteed a berth in the quarterfinals, which means that all eight final group games are significant. Since the final two matches in each group are played simultaneously to help avoid result-fixing, it means that there will be lots of channel-flipping to keep track of the action. Here’s a group-by-group breakdown of how things look:
This has been a tight group, with all teams having at least one point. All of them need a result to assure passage to the next round. Russia will probably win the group since they play the last-place Greeks, who looked terrible in their last game against the Czechs, though if Greece wins they will move on. Co-host Poland must beat the Czechs to advance.
The “Group of Death,” where no one is safe or dead even though Germany have six points and Holland have zero. The Holland-Portugal match is the most intriguing, but if Denmark are able to upset Germany there could be a three-way tie at the top of the group. If Germany and Holland win there will be a three-way tie for second place.
Spain and Croatia each have four points, and will both go through unless Italy beats Ireland (a likelihood), in which case the Italians and the winner of Spain-Croatia will go through. If there is a draw in that match and the Italians win, there will be a three-way tie for the two qualification spots.
France currently leads England on goal difference for first place. Either team goes through if they get at least a draw, and both go through if England beats Ukraine no matter what France does. If Ukraine beats England, Ukraine and France go through unless France loses by multiple goals to Sweden.
The final set of group games is always fun because there is the constant updating of the “If Results Hold” table on television, and circumstances can change in an instant. In this case, it will be especially exciting because so many teams are still in contention. Fun times!