July 6, 2006
The ‘Just So I Can Be First’ Euro 2008 Qualification Preview: Group A
While the battle for the ultimate trophy continues in Germany, 48 (or possibly 49) nations are now focused on qualifying for the 2008 European Championships in Austria and Switzerland. The purveyors of wisdom in UEFA have decided that not enough big countries made it to Portugal last time and that teams like Latvia and even worse, Greece, should have a tougher time qualifying. Therefore, qualifying was broken into six groups of seven and one group of eight nations with the top two in each group advancing automatically. No playoffs, less drama, the suits at UEFA are looking pretty content at the moment.
The Fodder: Realistically Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have no shot at qualifying from this group. Their FAs will be happy to collect the giant paychecks they get from hosting matches against the big countries while their almost exclusively semi-pro players hope to keep the score below 4-0.
Will Walk From The Group: Portugal were World Cup semifinalists and their place at Euro 2008 is all but secure due to UEFA’s seeding system and the 18 points they will collect against the minnows.
The Battle For Second: Serbia qualified for the World Cup but walked away with the wooden spoon as their defense abandoned them. The next two years may be filled with turmoil for this nation.
Poland also qualified for the World Cup and fortunately for them they had Costa Rica in their group for three easy points with nothing on the line. Poland never seem to be getting any better, but yet they always managed to qualify for these things.
Belgium were disappointing in World Cup qualifying, but a new generation of young stars may be prepared to carry them through. Players like Daniel Van Buyten, Thomas Vermaelen and Anthony Vanden Borre look like future stars.
Finland can pose some problems for the top teams in the group to the point where they may actually threaten to qualify, but they really do not belong here and they will get plenty of points off the minnows.