The first round of Euro 2012 matches is in the books and it was surprising, to say the least. The two tournament favorites were unimpressive, Italy looked unaffected by the match fixing scandal, Andriy Shevchenko is still alive, impossibly excited Ukrainian children are adorable and countries that have had problems with racism in the past still have problems with racism. Scratch the last two, those we knew.
Now that we have seen each team once, it is time to reevaluate the 16 teams in the competition. Toss out the groups because that is no fun, here come the 16 teams in Euro 2012, ranked from top to bottom after the tournament's first eight matches.
1. Germany- As much fun as it may be to overreact to the one match each team has played in this tournament, this requires some sort of acknowledgement of the obvious -- it is only one match. Germany was not very good in their match, struggling to deal with Portugal and barely winning despite Cristiano Ronaldo being a complete non-factor. Also, Jogi's hair has taken a turn for the worst. Wig shops won't even take it anymore.
If Germany want to keep their dreams of winning Euro alive then they will need to get a better performance from Bastian Schweinsteiger and make a decision on Lukas Podolski. He was downright dreadful and with Andres Schurrle waiting in the wings it is tough to keep Podolski in the team. Still, Germany played poorly and beat a solid Portugal team. They remain the team to beat.
2. Spain- For reasons unknown to pretty much everyone, Vicente Del Bosque thought that Italy would play most of the team deep in their own end trying to defend. That may be the Italy of old, but not the Italy of Cesare Prandelli and Del Bosque's decision to play without a striker failed because of it.
Despite Del Bosque's tactical error, Spain got a point against a good Italy team so all is not bad. They lost their first match of the 2010 World Cup and did just fine so the opening match isn't too much of a worry. What is a worry is the continued poor play of Fernando Torres. But Del Bosque is too good of a manager to get things so tactically wrong again and he will turn to Fernando Llorente sooner or later. Also, they still have Xavie Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and the rest of that fabulous Spanish team.
3. Russia- Apparently the Euros are the end all, be all for the Russians, who seem to only play their best when the continental championship is at stake. They were nothing short of brilliant against the Czech Republic, breaking with pace, showing creativity and playing exactly like the Russian team that thrilled us four years ago, only better.
Enthusiasm does have to be tempered a bit because the Czechs are awful and there are still concerns about the Russian defense, but this is still a team that is looking very good. There isn't a team in the world that wants to se Andrei Arshavin, Alan Dzagoev and Aleksandr Kerzhakov running at them. Bandwagon up, everyone.
4. Italy- Match fixing what? Italy didn't just draw Spain, they played them even. It was very much a deserving draw and in no way a lucky result. At least on one day, Italy was the equal to Spain, which says a lot and bodes well for their future in their tournament.
Andrea Pirlo may be 33 years old, but his passing is still magical and Prandelli has done a marvelous job. If Mario Balotelli wasn't incredibly wasteful, Italy would have won, but the Italians have Saturday's goalscorer Antonio di Natale to replace him and should be just fine. Italy look nothing like the team in crisis that everyone expected. They look like one that can compete for the title, which is as expected from the Azzurri as scandal and players that make straight men question their sexuality.
5. Denmark- Undoubtedly the biggest shock of the opening round of matches came from the Danes, who beat the supposed third-best team in the tournament, the Netherlands. They didn't do it with complete luck either, getting outstanding performances from their midfield and the best match that Simon Kjaer has played in more than a year.
Denmark did give away several chances and only poor Netherlands finishing allowed them to take the win so it wasn't a perfect performance by any means. They did just three points, though, and they did it despite Christian Eriksen playing far from his best. If he plays well, look out.
6. Croatia- Playing Ireland will make anyone look good so there is only so much that can be taken from the Croats' 3-1 win over the Irish. It was as attacking a team as the Croats have, with Srna back in defense and all 11 players looking to create, but that won't be the case going forward. They will be stauncher in defense against more potent teams and look to counterattack, but as long as they have Luka Modric to spark the attack and remain lethal on set pieces, they are a threat.
7. Netherlands- On the plus side, the Netherlands dominated Denmark for 30 minutes and had their share of chances. On the negative side, everything else. Age may be catching up with the Dutch and the double pivot of Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong leaves them a bit predictable, as Denmark showed. They are still talented, but they have something to prove now.
8. Portugal- There are two ways to look at Portugal's loss to Germany. The glass half-full approach is that Ronaldo was MIA all match and never saw the ball, yet they were still pretty even with the Germans. They had their chances, they defended well and they made things difficult. If they can get Ronaldo involved then they can do something.
The glass half-empty approach is that they got good performances from their back line and in other places where there were questions and they still lost. Those players won't play as well as they did against Germany again and everyone not named Ronaldo won't have 14 models to console them.
9. France- On the flanks, France were great. Samir Nasri, Mathieu Debuchy and Franck Ribery were all good, giving the French a clear edge out wide. The problem is that they let England boss the game in the center and Karim Benzema was ineffective. If they don't get better play from their central midfield then it won't matter how good they are out wide.
10. Ukraine- Shevchenko is going to have the country named after him. Ukraine's win over Sweden on Monday was that great and is undoubtedly the highlight of the tournament thus far. But to ask the 35-year-old Shevchenko to find his magic on short rest is asking a lot and the defense wasn't exactly sturdy. A pep talk from a certain someone could strengthen that defense, though.
11. Poland- The Poles are going to regret not going more than one goal up in the first half when they were miles better than Greece, especially considering the way they played in the second half. If Poland play like they did in the second 45 minutes again, they won't see the knockout stages, but Robert Lewandowski is still brilliant and they still have a major home-field advantage.
12. Sweden- Zlatan Ibrahimovic needs help. He doesn't need a lot of help, but he needs some help. He didn't get enough of it against Ukraine, who twice beat the Swedes in the air despite Sweden having the tallest team in the tournament. He may be Zlatan, but you are Sweden and Zlatan only accounts for 73.7% of that. Find that other 26.3%.
13. England- Full credit goes to the Three Lions for drawing France, which may not have been pretty, but it was very much deserved. They frustrated the French and were superior in the center of the pitch. The problem is that they were very dependent on Scott Parker, who entered the tournament with an injury, hobbled around at certain points of the match and will now be asked to come back on short rest. Also, Stewart Downing.
14. Greece- Luckily for the Greeks, they play the Czech Republic next. Unluckily for the Greeks, they are not good.
15. Ireland- It was great to see the Irish fans excited to be back in Euros for the first time in 24 years, but then their team showed why it has been so long -- they aren't particularly good. Ireland conceded three goals to Croatia, which had to drive Giovanni Trapattoni crazy considering defending was the team's lone strength. Oh, and next up is Spain.
16. Czech Republic- There isn't anything good to say about the Czechs. They were awful and it wasn't unexpected. Maybe if their fans drink enough before the match they won't remember their team actually "playing".