Final Eight Euro Power Rankings
by Trevor Whenham - 06/18/2008
Half of the teams that made the European Soccer Championships, known as Euro 2008, have been sent packing. We're now down to the elimination rounds, and this is where things get interesting. Here's a look at the eight remaining teams ranked in order of their play so far:
1. Netherlands - The Dutch weren't the favorites going into this tournament, and some people even had them ranked as just the third best team in their Group of Death. So far, though, no team has been better. In fact, these guys have played about as well as a team can play so far. The best part about the team is that it hasn't been one player, or even a couple, that have made it work. The entire team has been playing as one, and they have been performing at a very high level. Incredibly impressive.
2. Spain - The Spanish haven't been playing a lot of defense so far, but then why should they when they can score as well as they have so far? Spain has been a scoring machine throughout the tournament, and David Villa has been the engine that has driven it so far. He has been magical - by far the best player in the tournament up to this point. It will be interesting to see how they do going forward as the competition gets tougher, but so far they have been more than solid.
3. Portugal - The Portuguese have done exactly what I expected them to do in this tournament - they have played solid, balanced, soccer that has been more than enough to win. Unlike most teams they have really only played two games because their match against Switzerland was completely meaningless so the team they put on the field didn't even remotely resemble the one that won the first two games, or the one that will face Germany. To do well in a tournament like this your best players have to be your best players, and Ronaldo has stepped up and done just that.
4. Croatia - Perhaps the most impressive unexpected win so far this tournament was the Croatian win over Germany. It was no fluke. They dominated the Germans, the tournament favorites, defensively. The midfield play has been stunningly good - the best in the tournament. They were rewarded for their play by getting a winnable game against Turkey in the first round of the elimination portion.
5. Germany - The Germans may not even belong this high because of their loss, but I'll put them here for one big reason - their ability to rebound. They could have panicked against Austria after the loss to Croatia, but instead they controlled the game and scored a convincing if not entertaining win. The biggest concern has been the poor play of Michael Ballack. He's their best player, but you would never guess it by watching the first two games.
6. Turkey - Every tournament needs a Cinderella, and Turkey is unquestionably the one wearing the glass slipper this time. Not only did they score an impressive and unexpected win against the Czech Republic, but they mounted an impressive comeback to do so. They have struggled with discipline, and they will be going into the second round without a couple of players lost to suspensions, but they deserve all sorts of credit for getting this far. They will be the underdogs against Croatia, but if we have learned anything so far it's not to overlook this team.
7. Italy - The Italians deserve a bit of credit. They played perhaps the worst game of the entire tournament when the Dutch blew them out in their first contest. Throughout that game they whined and looked disengaged, and they have injury problems, so they could easily have quit. It wouldn't have been the first time. Instead, they played a solid game against Romania, and bounced back with a solid win against the French to make it to the next round. They still need to play much better, and they need to quit complaining about non-existent referee conspiracies, but at least they made it this far.
8. Russia - The Russians are in the second round for the first time since the Soviet Union broke up. They have a very young team, but the famous Guus Hiddink has them believing in themselves. They were absolutely crushed by Spain to open their tournament, but they rebounded nicely with two wins against pesky teams in must-win games. Their run is probably about to come to an end, but the tournament certainly can't be viewed as a disappointment.