A look at the chances of the nations taking part in the exciting elimination tourney that is Europe in 2012.
FIFA ranking: 65
S&P credit rating: A– (Stable)
With the euro-crisis deepening, a mini investment boom about to tail off and household savings rates near record lows, Poland can expect a dip in growth compared to previous years but has above average chances of surviving until the next stage.
FIFA ranking: 26
Consecutive quarters of negative growth: 3
With an export-driven economy stagnating due to the weakness of its trading partners and a terrific under-21 team not quite ready to take the field, the Czech Republic will likely rely on its veterans to compete in the tournament but will struggle to progress.
FIFA ranking: 11
Acronym used to make sweeping generalisations about the nation’s economy: BRIC
Still, at least it’s not as offensive as: PIGS
This solid yet creative team will seek to profit from the talents of the likes of Arshavin, Kerzhakov and Pavlyuchenko, but declining exports have been a concern. A sharp fall in the ruble over the last month likely won’t be enough to dent Russia’s chances of avoiding elimination in the short term.
FIFA ranking: 14
Projected debt to GDP ratio: 14
Its participation in the tournament put in question by repeated failures to form a midfield, Greece is the nation deemed most at risk of an early exit. According to some commentators, its best chances rest on the high number of tough, experienced strikers and a contingent of left-wing forwards plotting to change the way the game is played.
FIFA ranking: 4
Housing sector: slumping
Once admired for its dazzling approach to the game, the Netherlands have lately adopted a dreary style that is overly reliant on a group of extreme right-wingers and the boyish good looks of Robin van Persie. With sluggish wage growth hindering its capacity to reduce household debt, earlier this year the Netherlands surprised analysts and fans alike by being the first central economy to slide into recession.
FIFA ranking: 9
Housing sector: see Netherlands
The Danes are a well-organised team preaching a defence-first approach that is traditionally skilled in dealing with the high ball and foreign immigration. However, historically high levels of unemployment and a struggling export sector continue to impair the team’s capacity to go forward.
FIFA ranking: 2
Approaching international economic dynamics from a position of moral: superiority
Routinely accused of wanting to control the rules of the tournament and be allowed to adjudicate on all off-sides, the Germans are nonetheless favoured to be the last nation to be eliminated. Strong on attack, supremely well-organised on defence, the team’s only apparent weaknesses are the high level of exposure of its banks and the dependence of the export sector on demand from within the eurozone. Expect Germany to go the distance – or two years, whichever comes first.
FIFA ranking: 5
Unemployment rate: 15.2% (as of March 2012, seasonally adjusted)
The country named most often in sentences containing the phrase ‘moral hazard’. To say that its main export is Cristiano Ronaldo is probably not even a joke.
FIFA ranking: 1
Foremost intellectual: Xavi
It turns out that the defending champions of the eurozone were sitting on a giant bubble. Solid at the back, with flare to burn in midfield and a speedy attack poised for a run on the banks, Spain could crash early and take a bunch of other nations with them.
FIFA ranking: 12
Ratio of crying labour ministers to sinking cruise-ships: 1
As any expert will tell you, you should never underestimate Italy until such time as it becomes obvious that you should have underestimated Italy all along. Every day a new natural or man-made disaster. Every day a new factory closure. The prospect of playing De Rossi at the back. This could be a very short tournament for Italy.
FIFA ranking: 8
Outlook according to Moody’s: negative
Struggling to emerge from recession, Croatia is being urged to trim its public sector so that it won’t have to join the EU – as it is scheduled to do in July of next year – in a position of weakness. Because the EU is so very strong, you see?
FIFA ranking: 18
Number of national socio-economic statistics that could make you weep: 18
The country just voted in a referendum to approve the EU’s financial compact, which will force it to continue restructuring its economy and start every game down two goals to nil. Most commentators foresee a brave exit, whatever that means.
Overall prediction for Group C: none of the teams will make it to the next stage.
FIFA ranking: 17
Outlook according to IMF: vulnerable, but not in an alluring kind of way
Sweden has a robust export-led economy. But with two-thirds of these exports to other European countries, the nation might just have signed up for the wrong tournament.
FIFA ranking: 49
Is Andriy Shevchenko so old that he could be Prime Minister: yes
Famously named by Paul Krugman back in 2008 as the first country to enter the New Great Depression, and with an estimated risk of default second only to Greece, the Ukraine – whose principal exports are ferrous metals and quarrelling with Russia over the price of gas – can rightly celebrate that it’s fielding a team at all.
FIFA ranking: 16
GDP growth in first quarter of 2012: picture Marcel Marceau struggling to walk against a strong wind
A last minute change of coach means that France will no longer be playing the tournament in German shirts. The team is also expected to adopt a more expansive style of play suiting its young players and brash, optimistic spirit. Whether this will be enough to see off a swift and dramatic contraction in industry orders, coupled with the ongoing significant weakness of the banking sector, remains to be seen.
FIFA ranking: 7
Money spent bailing out the banking sector: at peak, 1.2 trillion pounds
Sometimes credited with inventing the game, England hasn’t won a major capitalism trophy in decades. The tactic of allowing its stars to attend lavish parties in the dressing room while the rest of the team toils on the field – known as ‘austerity’ – seems unlikely to lead to a different result this time.