Netherlands – Denmark
It’s difficult to see where Denmark will get points from in Group B, labelled by many as the ‘Group of Death’. Outclassed in nearly every area of the pitch, there isn’t a player who would get into the Dutch starting lineup and the game will probably be a case of sitting deep a hoping to get a goal on the counter, using the pace of Dennis Rommedahl and Michael Krohn-Dehli to break.
Denmark’s best player is undoubtably Christian Eriksen. The young playmaker has had been a starter at Ajax for the last few seasons and his talent has received plaudits from all around Europe. Whether or not he can perform against the rugged defensive midfield combination of Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel remains another question. If he does manage to get goal side of them, the prospects look a lot better. Joris Mathijsen has had an questionable season with Malaga while Gregory van der Wiel is poor defensively. Jetro Willems only has 2 caps, neither in competitive games, and while he looked impressive against Northern Ireland last week, the standard of quality at the Euro’s will be significantly higher.
The Netherlands have a team bursting with attacking talent and with midfielders like Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben & Ibrahim Affelay, Denmark will be in for a long afternoon. The dilemma Bert van Marwijk has is who to start up front. The Dutch public favour Klass-Jan Huntelaar while Robin van Persie is probably the better option if only for his superior build up play. Both have been in great form this season scoring 38 and 39 goals respectively so scoring should be no problem for either.
Prediction: Netherlands 4 – 1 Denmark
Germany – Portugal
One of the bigger games of the first matchday, the winner would increase their chances of getting out of the group significantly. Germany probably have the better team but after a disappointing end to the season it will be interesting to see how the Bayern players, who dominate the starting XI, react. Portugal only qualified through the playoffs and in their pre-tournament friendlies looked awful. After a dull 0-0 against Macedonia they were embarrassed 1-3 by Turkey, with Ronaldo missing a penalty and Pepe scoring a own goal. Both games were at held in Portugal and with the purpose in inspiring some confidence in the squad but looks to have done the exact opposite.
Portugal have been impressive under Paulo Bento and one of his greatest achievements so far has been getting Cristiano Ronaldo firing at international level and, after scoring 9 goals in his last 14 games, Ronaldo will be the man they turn to for goals. This will be important as neither Hugo Almeida nor Helder Postiga are proficient in front of goal and would be better off holding it up for more talented players like Ronaldo and Nani. Since Bento took over have been trying to play more positive football but whether or not they can afford to carry on playing so attacking in games against Germany and Netherlands is another debate. As seen in the Champions Leauge, Phillip Lahm has proved that he can do a job on Ronaldo, and if he doesn’t get involved the Portuguese could look toothless.
Prediction: Germany 2 – 0 Portugal