Croatia and Tottenham’s Luca Modric
Today is my preview of Group B in the upcoming Euro 2008 tournament. My Group A preview can be found here. Group B
Austria, Croatia, Germany, Poland
Best Player: Tie between Luka Modrić and Miroslav Klose. Modrić has the potential to be biggest breakout star of the tournament if he leads Croatia deep into the knockout phase. The recent Tottenham signee has already lit up England, serving as coach Slaven Bilić’s masterful #10 as the Croats prevented the Golden Sort-of-tin-like Generation from advancing to Austria/Switzerland. He is the single player I am most interested in seeing at Euro 2008 (only because I’ve seen so much of the other stars like Ribery, Toni, Ronaldo, et al) We’ve all heard of Klose, of course. 74 caps and 38 goals will do that. He’s still one of the most dangerous pure finishers in the world and an aerial threat with that is probably better in that area than even Toni and Adebayor.
Biggest Question: Who will coach Joachim Löw tab to partner Klose up top for the Germans? Will it be Lucas Podolski, who followed up his breakout 2006 World Cup performance with only nine goals in 46 appearances for Bayern? Or will it be Marco Gomez, who was the Germany’s second highest scorer last season (behind only Toni) and will likely be highly motivated to show the gaggle of clubs looking to sign him from Stuttgart that he’s worth the money? Could Germany do what they all too typically do and go back to the old hands like Kevin Kurányi or even Oliver Neuville? I hope, for their sake, it’s Klose and Gomez (who has a Spanish father and German mother, btw).
Best Match: Easy, Germany-Croatia on June 12 in Klagenfurt. With it only being the second game in the group for both clubs, they’ll both have plenty to play for and with what could be a very hostile and partisan crowd descending upon the fairly small Austrian city, the atmosphere could be really ugly. Depending on results, Poland-Croatia could be a dramatic, if likely stultifying, decider of the second qualifier from the group.
Any Other Business: Just how bad will the Austrians be? The Austrian public is expecting disaster and really, you can see where they’re all coming from. We’ve all seen hosts make unexpected runs in tournaments, but this team is worse than either Japan or South Korea were in 2002 and really, compares more to the USA in 1994. If Austria were to somehow advance out of this group (and remember, they can’t finish 3rd and advance like the USA did in ’94) it would probably surpass even that in terms of surprise. Odds are, they will go winless and stand a better chance than most WC or EC finals qualifiers of going goalless.
Prediction: Germany and Croatia advance, Germany easily but Croatia has to fight for a result against the Poles to get through. Austria goes winless but gets a goal or two.