Good morning. It's crunch time in the 'Group of Death', and joining us to discuss Denmark v Portugal, Holland v Germany and the tournament as a whole is our football writer Stuart James. He'll be online from 11am BST - so please leave any questions you may have for him in the comments section below.
Stuart James has arrived in the comments section. Right on time. He writes:
Morning all. Or afternoon, as the case is here.
Will type as quick as possible and get through as many question as I can, but I'm no Dom Fifield on the keyboard.
That was a polite request for patience...
84fifty kicks things off with this question: "I notice that Portugal have only scored 1 in their last 4,and they looked mediocre against Germany. Would you agree that there's a good chance Denmark will get a win and all but see themselves through the group tonight?" Stuart replies:
Yes, I think there is a good chance that will happen. Although Portugal finished strongly on Saturday, I was disappointed with them, in particular Ronaldo. He spent too much time sulking and seems to struggle with the fact that the Portugal players aren't as good as those he plays alongside at Real Madrid. Time for Ronaldo to deliver for Portugal. He's scored only five goals in 20 appearances at major championships, which just isn't good enough.
footbal98854687 asks: "Do you support the increase to 24 teams in 4 years time, which is presumably in part to avoid [a situation where we have a Group of Death]? I expect it will turn the group stage into a meaningless procession."A commenter by the name of
I definitely [don't] support the increase. This is just about money. Again. The standard of the games has been very high so far, which is in part down to the fact that we have only 16 teams. By increasing the numbers, it will turn the group stage into what we have with the Champions League, where we can pretty much pick the two teams that will through as seen as we see the groups.
RoRo90: "Is the pitch big enough for both Ronaldo's and Bendtner's heads?" Stuart:A serious question from
Haha! Bendtner was put up before the media yesterday and let's just say he was in one of his slightly awkward moods. As for Ronaldo, Portugal need to see the player that turns out for Real Madrid. Although in fairness to him, it would also be nice to see Bento set his team up to play with a bit more ambition from the start.
Minimus asks: "Is Eriksen worth picking for my fantasy football team this week? He didn't do much last week. I suspect against lesser opposition he might thrive but against the Netherlands he didn't do much." Stuart replies:
There has been a lot said and written about Eriksen before the tournament and big things are clearly expected from him. Olsen, the coach, has been careful not to put too much pressure on him, though, and has made sure he doesn't feel that weight of expectation on his shoulders, which is perhaps very different to the Portugal situation with Ronaldo. I think the Dane's are a more united team. Not sure that answers your question over whether to pick him but I'm expecting a decent performance from him tonight.
lennyandcarl: "Will Denmark play a similar game against Portugal as they did against Holland? Soaking up the pressure for the first 15-30 mins, before moving into a more expansive style and going for it a bit more?An appropriately twin-pronged question from
"And also, is the broken shower still the worst thing about Ukraine or has there been more disappointments?"
I think Denmark will be a little more adventurous, although I'm not expecting them to open up. The onus is more on Portugal to attack for obvious reasons, which may play into Denmark's hands.
In answer to your second question, yes, the broken shower is still the biggest disappointment, which says quite a lot really, doesn't it?! I've actually enjoyed it in Ukraine, the people have been friendly and seeing Shevchenko score twice in Kiev on Monday night was fantastic.
"So the Dutch really need to win tonight, ergo they will have to go all out on attack. With this in mind, who are the likely candidates to be dropped to the bench?
"De Jong & Van Bommel wont be starting alongside each other, undoubtedly De Jong will be dropped for Van der Vaart? But who else will be left out of the team to accommodate Huntelaar?
"And with these positional changes, how will that effect Sneijder, the one player who really stood out for the Dutch in their opener against Denmark?"
I imagine De Jong will be sacrificed and I think that would be the right decision. As for Huntelaar, I'm not so sure. I know he had a great season and has a superb record for Holland but I think there's a danger when the first game is lost that people think wholesale changes always have to be made. People panic. Of course, Saturday was a bad result against Denmark but beating Germany is not impossible. The Germans were running out of ideas against Portugal on Saturday when Gomez scored and played at a very slow pace. I don't think Holland will lose tonight.
"How are you enjoying the city Stuart? I think it's one of the most enchanting places I've ever been to and that was without the football. I imagine the Polish fans have taken over large sections of it."
Lviv is a beautiful city, I only wish that I could have had more time to look around (hoping you're reading that Mike Adamson, football editor). But the downtown area is very picturesque, the food is excellent and there's been a very good atmosphere. Lots of friendly banter between the Danes and Portuguese at breakfast this morning.
I'd consider coming back to Lviv were it not for the fact that it takes three flights for me to get here from Bristol!
BluMoon: "I'm going to transfer one of Mario Gomez, Mesut Ozil, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie into my fantasy football team before the game tonight. Which do you think would be the best choice?"Another fantasy football related question, this time from
Mesut Ozil. He could end up being one of the stars of this tournament. He's really developed at Madrid, which Low spoke about before the Portugal game, and the way Germany play, where he has a floating role in behind Gomez, with Muller and Podolski either side of him, is perfect to get the best out of him.
MikulinINSalford, who asks: "Do you expect Portugal to open up. I know that the pressure is on them to score but do they have a plan B other than counter-attacking?"Another question from
I think Portugal have to play with more attacking intent. Bento is under pressure and he looked a little rattled at the press conference yesterday, raising his voice when he started getting quizzed on their tactics. One of the problems he has is that Portugal don't have a natural playmaker, like a Deco or Rui Costa, so there is only so much he can do. Another problem is they don't have top-class No9. But I still think they need to play with more freedom. After all, they've got to get a win tonight. I wouldn't fancy them to beat Holland in the last game.
cavalier5, who asks: "I've heard Ronaldo flatout refuses to play up front for Portugal despite the fact they don't (and never have) had any decent strikers of note. Any idea if this is true?"A question from
Ronaldo was certainly unhappy with playing through the middle under Carlos Queiroz. Bento has deployed him on the left, although he plays very narrow and has a lot of freedom. I don't think there's much point playing him through the middle as a lone striker as he wouldn't get the service, there's an argument that he can go looking for the ball more in his current position, as it's not as though he's got his heels on the touchline. Be interesting to see how long he stays on the pitch at the end of the whistle tonight if Portugal don't win.
Admir wonders who is to escape the 'Group of Death': "Stuart, can Holland advance from this group? Their team show some resemblance to that French team of Raymond Domenech.
"What do you think about possibility of entering in final round with all four teams having three points? If Holland beat Germany and Portugal beat Denmark (both with one-goal-margin), we could have situation similar to that one in 1994 WC with Mexico, Italy, Ireland and Norway all ending with 4 points and goal-difference 0."
You've just given my a headache with that last point!
We (four English journalists with limited maths skills) were trying to work out all the permutations last night. We decided it was easiest to work on the basis that Germany and Denmark will both win and everything is cut and dried!
Of course, we don't want that to happen because it's great if the groups go down to the last games (which I think can often be more exciting than some of the quarter-finals).
But, yes, the Dutch can still go through. We were talking about them being one of the favourites before and I don't see why everything should go out of the window on the back of one game. It was not as if they didn't have chances against Denmark.
Responding to Stuart's point that Portugal "don't have top-class No9", MikulinINSalford responds: "I don't think they've ever had a really world-class number 9 though have they? Pauletta was about as good as they've produced in my living memory and certainly I never rated Nuno Gomes at this level. It's true they don't don't have a Deco or Rui Costa anymore. Do you envisage Joao Moutinho being pushed into that role then for tonight's game?"
Yes, Pauletta had a really decent goalscoring ratio, which is often overlooked (albeit not by you) but I don't think that many people would regard him as truly world-class. Postiga toiled a bit on Saturday, although in fairness to him he didn't get great service. I think he may just play Moutinho and Meireles a bit higher, with Veloso still holding obviously. The thing is, Portugal should naturally have more possession against Denmark than they did against Germany, so Bento is unlikely to feel a need to tear up his tactics and start all over again. But they need to be generally more positive and, as I keep saying, Ronaldo has to deliver a big performance.
Isaac, who asked "who's the favorites [to win]":Stuart's prediction for tonight's Denmark v Portugal game, in response to
I'm going for a draw, Isaac, which almost certainly won't be enough for Portugal.
Sorry, realised that didn't answer your question - I think it's tough to call but I'd probably say Denmark. They finished above Portugal in qualifying, have won three of their last five games against them and are full of confidence after Saturday's result... But I still think it will be a draw!
llamalpaca asks: "You spend a lot of time at the team press conferences - could you shed some light on the stupidest question posed and the stupidest answer given to same?"
That is a great question! Honestly, I can't begin to tell you how farcical some of these press conferences turn out to be. It is impossible to get a theme going because there are so many different agendas. Some of the journalists seem to be obsessed with asking managers what they will dream about. And the other day someone said to Thomas Muller that Mario Gomez has said he fidgets a lot in bed. 'Do you fidget in bed, Thomas?'
I think you get the picture.
lennyandcarl asks (ask?): "Who do you think will be the most likely player to come out of nowhere (relatively speaking), have a great tournament and get picked up by one of the Premier League teams? Perhaps Krohn-Delhi?"
Interesting point. Olsen was saying that it's impossible for players to come out of nowhere in these tournaments these days because of the way the game has changed, ie global television coverage. But I still think there's scope to be one or two surprises. Probably early days to say Krohn-Delhi will be one of them (I hear the Brondby fans have an interesting song about him, by the way). One of the interesting things for me is not so much which players will surprise us because we haven't heard of them before but, moreover, which players look much better in an international shirt than they do at club level. I thought Voronin played very well for Ukraine the other night in a much deeper position. He was certainly unrecognisable from his time at Liverpool.
MikulinINSalford asks: "Can you see the Dutch opening up the German defence in the same way [that they managed when playing Denmark]? I was disappointed not to see Holger Badstuber get tested particularly by Portugal. They even allowed a nervous Hummels to come into the game and grow in stature. Do you think v. Persie, Robben et al will unnerve them more tonight?"
Re your last point, yes, I definitely think they'll make life much more difficult for them. Hummels played well on Saturday and looked particularly comfortable with the ball at his feet, as did Badstuber in fairness, but Portugal stood off them and seemed to content to sit deep and get people behind the ball which didn't make for a compelling spectacle when Germany were content to keep possession for long periods, often without penetrating.
ZvonimirBoban has this: "Just a thought, but do superstars destroy international teams? Ibrahimovic looked like Madonna (replace with any famous pop star) surrounded by ten nervous groupies on Monday night. It almost feels weird Seb Larsson knowing Zlatan, let alone playing with him. Same can be said for Portugal with Ronaldo, albeit on a less dramatic scale, because they have the likes of Pepe, Nani, et al. Argentina suffered with a give-the-ball-to-Messi problem in South Africa and Brazil the same with Ronaldinho at World Cup 2006. Will teams like Sweden and Portugal struggle until the intimidating superstars fade away? Bless old Helder Postiga. He would score at least five goals against Denmark if he wasn't so nervous about Ronaldo shouting at him."
It's interesting what you've raised there, Zvonimir. On a slightly different level to Ibrahimovich (although the player I'm going to mention would probably argue otherwise), I often wonder when covering Wales how the other players feel when playing with Craig Bellamy. In the past a lot of them were from lower leagues and even non-league on occasion.
I actually thought Ibrahimovich was decent against Ukraine. OK, one shot went out for a throw-in but he hit the post, scored and created a great chance for Elmander at the end. I don't think Larsson would feel fazed about playing with him. Speaking to Elm after the game, I think they've got loads of respect for him and are just gla d that they have a world-class player in their squad.
As for Ronaldo, I couldn't agree more with what you said about Postiga. There was an incident on Saturday when Ronaldo played a ball infield to Postiga, thinking Postiga had held his run but instead he kept running. Ronaldo stopped in his tracks, threw his hands up in the air and shook his head. I thought it was disgusting, the sort of thing you'd see the kid who thinks he's the best player in the primary school team do.
llamalpaca asks: "Stuart, will Joachim Loew's position be secure if Germany don't get to the final this time - he has a fine squad of player at his disposal."
I think it would be. He's been building a better and better Germany team over time. You're right that he has a fine squad at his disposal and most of the really talented youngsters are on the bench. It's incredible to think what they might become in a few years time. What England would do for that depth in their squad.