By Patrick Lim
“I don’t really watch the Euros, I need my sleep!” quipped Hariss Harun when asked about his thoughts on the competition taking place in Poland and Ukraine.
Cracking a half-smile, the usually pensive vice-captain continued: “I am still rooting for Spain though. They played well and look back to their best in the win against Ireland. That being said, I have a feeling that this Euro could be Germany’s tournament.”
Spain and Germany look to be the overwhelming favourites to meet in the Euro 2012 finals according to our LionsXII players. While most of them were passionate in their support for La Furia Roja, the players also suggested the likes of Croatia and Russia as those most likely to cause an upset.
“Spain of course! Spain will definitely be in the final!" proclaimed defender Irwan Shah when asked which side he was supporting for this tournament.
"I think it will be a Spain-Germany final!”
“Definitely Spain!” echoed stalwart defender Baihakki Khaizan. “I expect them to go all the way to the final!”
On this Euro’s surprise packages, Baihakki tipped both Croatia and Denmark to have a chance at emulating Greece in 2004.
“Right now, I think Croatia and Denmark have potential," said the towering defender.
"They are the dark horses. They are both playing solid football at the moment. Denmark even managed to beat Netherlands in the opener!”
Forward, Sufian Anuar revealed he has a soft spot for Croatia as well and hopes they will continue their fine run of form.
“I really like Croatia at the moment" said Sufian.
"They are playing attractive football, with a lot of style and flair. The most amazing thing is that they are able to play like this without a big name.”
“To be honest, it should be Spain-Germany final,” he concedes. “But I hope Croatia can get into the semis!”
Fans should be familiar with a couple of Croatians namely, Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric and Everton’s Nikica Jelavic.
They might be forgiven for not knowing much about Mario Mandzukic though; the striker plies his trade in the German Bundesliga with VFL Wolfsburg. However, it has been his goals that have Croatia poised to progress to the next round. He shares top spot in the goal scoring charts with German target-man Mario Gomez.
Russia has also emerged as a team who could create problems for any of the pre-tournament favourites. Lions XII goalkeeper, Hyrulnizam Jumaat is one who will cheering these underdogs.
“Actually I support Russia," proclaimed Hyrulnizam.
"They are a good attacking side. Not just because of Arshavin, but they also have [Konstantin] Zyryanov and [Alan] Dzagoev to support the attack.
“Unfortunately, I think Russia will get knocked out at some point. The likes of Spain and Germany may be too strong for them but I hope they will go far!”
As the group stages draw to a close, we have seen our fair share of upsets. While heavyweights Spain and Germany look to cruise into the quarterfinals, the playing field looks a lot more level among everyone else.
Will we see another Greece of 2004? Our Lions XII players think so, if they can get past Spain that is.