Germany opens Euro 2008 play against rivals Poland Sunday and after last week’s Crew game at Home Depot Center I asked German native Sigi Schmid about the competition in general and Germany’s chances specifically.
Long time South Bay resident Schmid, a former coach with UCLA and the Galaxy and a scholar of the game, had this to say:
Q: Who’s your pick to win Euro 2008?
A: When you look at Greece having won it last time I think there’s a number of teams that can step up and win it.
For some dumb reason I think the Russians could be a surprise team just because of the fact (UEFA Cup Winner) Zenit (Saint Petersburg) had a good season.
They’ve got four, five players from that team that play a prominent role in their national team. The old thing of bloc building from a club into a national team? There’s a certain benefit in that. It seems like things go in cycles, so when a club team does well (and) you look back at past championships a lot of times when a Champions League winner, a UEFA Cup winner came from certain country, all of a sudden that country also won an international country competition. I’m not sure Russia is going to win it, but I think Russia is going to make a little more noise than they have the past few tournaments.
Italy always gets stronger as a tournament goes on and the same goes with Germany.
Portugal has perhaps the most dominant player in the world right now in in (Christiano) Ronaldo so maybe they can climb on his back and he can take them forward from there.
France has all kinds of options, maybe too many options and that could hurt them a little bit.
It should be exciting and there should be some good soccer.
Q:What about Germany?
A: They’re are a solid team and they’re good and they have a lot of different weapons, but I don’t think they were real stellar in their last two tune-up matches. They’re struggling at right back a little right now. (Bayern Munich’s Philip) Lahm hasn’t been convincing completely. They will go as far as their defense will allow them to go.
Q: How will (captain Michael) Ballack react after Chelsea’s disappointing end to the season?
A: Ballack can put Chelsea’s season behind him, I don’t think that’s a problem for him and offensively I think the Germans are going to be OK. … The question is can they keep people off the board in the back? Because I think that’s where the question marks are – (goalkeeper Jens) Lehmann, (Real Madrid’s Christophe) Metzfelder.
On long-shot co-hosts Austria: As (former Galaxy playmaker and now Austria’s Assistant Coach) Andy (Herzog) said, “We’re going to beat them all.” It’s an opportunity for them to shine even though they haven’t had the best run up to (the tournament).