We here at the GRBG are not shy about sharing our prognostications regarding sporting events both major and minor. That said, fairness dictates that we at least occasionally check back on our calls to see just how badly we missed in our picks.
Late last year, we took a stab at predicting the group stages of the Euro '08 tournament. Today the group stage concluded, giving us a valuable opportunity for self-reflection. Our picks for advancement to the quarterfinals are analyzed by group below, with a brief rundown on what went right, what went wrong, and what will happen next.
GRBG picked: Czech Republic, Turkey
Actual results: Portugal, Turkey
Might as well get our major blunder out of the way. In the time since our Euro preview, Cristiano Ronaldo has cranked his game up to the level where he is a legitimate threat to nearly single-handedly win any game in which he participates, and that is something we just did not see coming. His brilliance has opened space for and deflected unwanted attention away from Portugal's talented but flaky supporting cast. Portugal are one of the three teams that have emerged from the group stages as co-teams to beat, and their QF match against Germany has a chance to be the match of the tournament.
Through 2 2/3 of their 3 group games, our projected Group A winner (and tournament runner-up) the Czech Republic was cruising towards a QF berth. Then they somehow managed to concede 3 goals to Turkey in a span of 20 minutes, prompting El Angelo to ask me whether the Czechs had pulled the goalie (note--this is not a positive question to have to ask of a soccer team). Given the mediocre opposition, it was an all-time gag job. The only consolation is that nobody, but NOBODY, could have seen it coming.
Portugal come up just short against a more physical Germany squad; Turkey can't replicate its great escape and bow to Croatia.
GRBG picked: Germany, Croatia
Actual results: Croatia, Germany
We got 'em right.
You'd have to have been an idiot not to get 'em right, even if the top teams in the group were a little wobbly. Germany made its progress significantly more interesting than you might have thought, putting up a surprising loss and underwhelming win in its last two matches. And although Croatia played well, they lost two starters to knee injuries. But fundamentally, the other two teams in the group (Poland and Austria) had no answers for the big two.
See above; a positive draw for the Croats and a good matchup for the Germans ensure that both Group B teams advance to the semis despite their issues.
GRBG picked: Italy, Holland
Actual results: Holland, Italy
Again, we got 'em right at the end of the day.
We in no way saw the specific games unfolding as they did. Holland scored nine goals through six different players score in the group stages, which is insane--by way of comparison, the four teams in Group B scored 10 goals combined during the group stage. They've looked the best team by a shockingly wide margin, and stood very much in opposition to our group pick, Italy. The Azzuri needed considerable help to slip through to the QF, where they will now face another quick, offensive-minded team in Spain.
Holland keep right on rolling over Gus Hiddink and Russia, both of whom traditionally run out of gas at this stage of tournaments; Italy can't score enough to stay with Spain.
GRBG picked: Spain, Greece
Actual results: Spain, Russia
Our faith in Spain has been amply rewarded to date, as the Spanish join the Portuguese and Dutch as the classes of the group round.
Defending champion Greece's strategy of doing just enough to win tipped over into an apparent decision to do more than enough to lose. We also underestimated Gus Hiddink, who has a borderline-Milutinovician knack for guiding his teams through group stages. Regardless, it looks as though whoever came out of this group in second would have been destined to end up as grist for the Dutch mill.
Spain keep on chugging towards the championship we predicted for them; Russia lose but go home feeling good about themselves.