The world's second biggest soccer tournament is upon us! With two short years until the mayhem and majesty of Brazil 2014, the Euro Cup is the closest soccer enthusiasts will get to the mercurial beast that is international soccer.
Already well into the first round of the group stage, the tourney has supplied no shortage of drama; with upsets, controversy, and the continued absence of Cristiano Ronaldo's international form all culminating in a competition both enigmatic and ultimately satisfying. Thus far we've seen a plethora of marquee matchups end in draws (Spain vs Italy, England vs France, Greece vs Poland), yet we've also experienced the tectonic usurping of the 2010 World Cup Runner Up's: The Netherlands. Their fall to the likes of Denmark (1-0) firmly established the fickleness of tournament soccer--where anything is truly possible. The hazards of the Euro's brief, intensive format have revealed how favoritism is moot and momentum is king; and with only two more rounds left within the group stage, the stakes have never been higher for those teams struggling with form.
As this tournament follows almost directly after a rigorous season of European club soccer, fitness has become a paramount concern moving forward. With each passing game, the taxing mental and physical strains continue to wear away upon players already depleted from the grueling paces of their domestic leagues. For coaches, the concern continues to be finding the balance between a winning formula and player management--a perilous choice between securing victory and courting disaster. As teams like England can already attest: the dynamics of tournament play rely upon luck, adaptability, and resiliency.
With the first round coming to a close, one begins to wonder what future rounds will reveal: Will the likes of Germany continue to dominate the "Group of Death" and reaffirm their title hopes? Will the Netherlands rebound from their demoralizing loss to the Danes and qualify for the next round? And lastly, have the Spaniards cast further doubt upon their title defense with an unconvincing draw against the Italians? Only time shall tell, and with plenty of soccer left to play, the most exciting matches have yet to come!
2012 Euro Cup Champion Prediction: