Euro 2012: Friedrich says Netherlands are big favorites

Arne Friedrich, Euro 2012

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Instead of trying to shut down Cristiano Ronaldo on Saturday when Germany take on Portugal in their Euro 2012 opener – like he did in the quarterfinal of Euro 2008 – Arne Friedrich will sit and watch from his home in Chicago.

Friedrich took part in the last four major tournaments for Germany, the country where he plied his trade before joining the Fire early this season. 

“When I made my decision [to come to Chicago], it was clear that I wasn’t going to play for the national team anymore because it’s hard in America,” Friedrich said. “I feel fantastic here. I wish the best for my country, and I’m still German.”

Friedrich has high hopes for the German team, who are in Group B with fellow world powers the Netherlands and Portugal, although he didn’t pick the Germans as the favorite.

“Holland, to me, is the best team in the group, one of the big favorites in my eyes for the European Championship,” Friedrich said. “But I guess Germany will go through to the semifinal [at least].”

Germany allowed five goals in the knockout stages of Euro 2008, when they made a run to the final. Friedrich knows the Germans will have to clean up their defensive efforts to best their runners-up finish in 2008.

“For me, the key is not an individual player,” added Friedrich. “[Germany have] to defend as a team.”