Summer is out for clubs, so stand by for tub-thumping parochialism as the baton is passed to their international brethren. In preparation for the European Championships in June, many nations are taking part in friendlies to fine-tune their squads this weekend, and results will inevitably lead to either inflated expectations or utter despair that it could be all over before it begins.
In this Saturday’s 247/25 accumulator (that’s 10/1 to you and me), we look at several teams looking to build momentum before their trips to Poland and Ukraine. As always, if you use the £25 free bet available to new customers who sign up for a bwin account, you could win yourself £272 if these picks pay off, which would help pad the pocket ready for the tournament itself.
Poland to beat Slovakia @ evens
With the European Championships on home soil, Poland will be under big pressure to make it through Group A at the very least. The easiest way to ease the fears of an early exit is to gain momentum, which could start by beating a side like Slovakia.
Poland go into their Euro 2012 warm-up with plenty of players on form. Robert Lewandowski, Lukasz Piszczek and Jakub Blaszczykowski have all had a season of success with Borussia Dortmund, which can only stand them in good stead for the Euros, even if the commentators struggle to say their names.
Whilst Slovakia could be seen as not posing the greatest threat, they do have a playmaker of real quality in Marek Hamsik, who can always pose problems for any calibre of team. In spite of this, Poland’s form before the tournament is relatively good, beating Argentina last summer and drawing with Germany, so I can see Poland picking up the win here.
Germany to beat Switzerland @ 7/10
Along with the Spanish and the Dutch, Germany are one of the hot favourites to go all the way. After a stellar performance in the World Cup, many are tipping them to win Euro 2012 outright, including me.
All their youth products are coming to the fore at once, while Joachim Löw also has a number of experienced heads at his disposal.
They come up against the Swiss this evening, who have a starlet of their own in Xherdan Shaqiri. But with the prowess of the German squad and the fact they won all their qualifying games, amassing a whopping 34 goals, this one looks to be going to the way of the Euro 2012 hopefuls.
Republic of Ireland and Bosnia to draw @ 11/5
After recovering from the delight of actually qualifying for the tournament, Ireland have to come to the realisation that they have a difficult task ahead of them. With Spain, Italy and Croatia all in their group, even third place could be a great achievement for Giovanni Trapattoni’s men.
They do go into their preparations on a crest of a wave though, having beaten Estonia in the play-off round and exorcised the ghost of Thierry Henry.
They prepare for the big time against a team who just missed out in Bosnia. They drew the short straw at the play-off draw and had to face the powerhouse of Portugal, even though they were only a point behind France during qualifying.
They have a strong side with players who can hurt Ireland, such as Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic. And while Ireland also have talent at their disposal, it will be team spirit and organisation that will take them anywhere in the tournament. Expect them to frustrate a talented Bosnia team in an entertaining draw.
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