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Euro 2004: Curtain Raiser

THE GOAL POST EnableAll Edition
12 June 2004

Note: For the uninitiated, ND = Nimish Dubey, and PD = Payal Dhar. Two people who have nothing better to do than argue with each other.

Curtain Raiser: ND and PD take a peek at what's on offer at Euro 2004:

Group A: Portugal, Spain, Greece, Russia
ND: They should call this the off-colour group - none of the teams in it are in any kind of form. Portugal have the personnel but are firing blanks, one never knows which version of Spain will show up, Russia have developed a tradition of choking in big tournaments and as for Greece, well, how can one take a team which has a certain Dabizas in its defence seriously? I would favour Spain and Portugal going through this one, provided their much-hyped personnel deliver!

PD: It looks like one will have to tread the path less travelled, that is, agree with ND on this one! Even though quite a bit of the spotlight is on the hosts Portugal, I'd really like to see what Spain get up to. With Raul having had a rather forgettable season, it is safe to assume that things are set for a turnaround, and on that could well rest Spain's chances. And if nothing works out, at least one can depend on Nikos Dabizas entertaining us with his skills. He calls it defending; we call it many other things, mostly in different combinations of four letters.
Group B: France, Switzerland, England, Croatia
ND: If you read the press, you would think this group is all about England and France. You could not be more wrong! Croatia are dangerous floaters and Switzerland are an immaculately organised side. France are favourites here – their squad has
phenomenal depth and any team with an attack force comprising Henry, Zidane, Trezeguet, Pires and Vieira has got to start favourites. However, I am going to antagonise all our UK subscribers by predicting that Croatia will accompany Les Blues into the quarterfinals. I honestly cannot see England beating France in the opening match of the group. And beating both Switzerland and Croatia might prove to be a bit too much for Erikkson’s men. A word about the Beckham vs Zidane match-up –
the only department in which the much-tattooed English skipper matches Zizou is in the quantity of hair on his head!

PD: This is PD's favourite group – so what if her favourite pair of legs is no longer considered worthy of selection. Defending champions France certainly look the most impressive team on paper - not too difficult if you have a certain Zinedine Zidane in your line-up, but that would be doing many others a grave injustice. Even though England are going for the ... yawn... tried, tested, failed and given-up tactic of unsettling the opposition with taunts, they have only managed to tickle so far. Eriksson has not particularly impressed me and I don't see much hope for England, though I think they will qualify from the group with France.
Group C: Sweden, Denmark, Bulgaria, Italy
ND: Forget all that mumbo-jumbo about Group D being the Group of Death. In my book, this is the toughest group of them all. At any other time, Italy would have been overwhelming favourites to go through but the Azzuri have been beset by coaching eccentricities that make Iraq look well-governed! Far too much hope has been pinned on the triumvirate of Del Piero, Vieri and Totti. Denmark and Sweden look well-balanced, although neither seems likely to go all the way. Bulgaria could put a spanner in the works of the other teams. They work hard and could easily prove to be a pain to the other three teams. My money is on Italy and Denmark making it through.

PD: To be honest, I know absolutely nothing about Bulgaria. So when they win the competition, please forget I said that. Groups C and D certainly look more competitive, but given the loony uncertainties of sport, who knows, they might turn out to be the most one-sided! I will go out on a limb and risk reputation by saying Italy and Denmark will go through. Oops... that is exactly what ND has predicted. Okay, then, Sweden and Bulgaria. Just kidding, folks!
Group D: Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, Netherlands
ND: The media would have us believe that this is the Group of Death. Well, the only death that is likely to occur here is that of Ollie Kahn if he slips into   butterfingers mode! If one has to be dreadfully honest, one cannot see beyond the
Czechs and the Dutch in this group. Czech Republic can call on the likes of Nedved, Poborsky and Kohler while Holland are brimming with talent – van Nistelrooy, Kluivert, Davids, Seedorf...the list goes on. Unfortunately, the Dutch are also
brimming over with disputes and that could land them in hot water. Germany look lackadaisical and will need divine inspiration or some really poor football from the other teams to go through. Latvia? Well, methinks they are still stunned at
having come this far!
PD: Oliver Kahn has perhaps made enough mistakes this season to fulfil his entire career's quota. Which makes Germany a most difficult side to look beyond. Even though ND calls for divine inspiration for them, I am tempted to think otherwise. After all, how much can they sink? As for the Dutch, their abundance of talent makes one blush. These two sides will go through, according to my crystal ball. And I am not putting any money on Latvia pulling off an upset!
Offside: Trivia

The European football championships seem to be the tournament of choice for most teams in search of their first big win. Sounds hard to believe? Well, guess what was the first major tournament won by the (now defunct) USSR? Or by France? Or Denmark? Or Czechoslovakia? Or Spain? Or Yugoslavia? The Euro it was. So, here's a hot tip: when putting your money on a team to cart away the trophy, pick a side that has never won anything major in the past. We guess that makes Greece and Latvia firm favourites (ND and PD faint from shock at their own revelation).
Net Crackers: Best of the Web

David Beckham might detest the sight of the English media but there's no denying that they do an excellent job of covering football tournaments. So if you are looking at some good previews to Euro 2004, here are some places you can head to:
When it comes to doling out information, does anyone do it better than the Beeb? We don’t think so.
The Guardian’s wonderfully comprehensive look at Euro 2004 with features, statistics, and lots of tongue-in-cheek comment
The dirt on all the teams? It has got to be The Sun! For a tabloid take on the tournament, head to,,2004130002,00.html.   Statutory warning: some of the content here could be inappropriate for impressionable minds!
And for those wishing to get the official view, there is always UEFA’s Euro web site at And do let ND know if you manage to confirm your registration for the Fantasy Football section. He has been struggling to do so for nearly a week!

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