Saturday, June 21, 2008

Final Round of Group Games

Group A

Germany 1-0 Austria

Very much a David versus Goliath clash, I was desperately hoping for a David victory even though I was convinced this would never happen. The Austrians have performed much better at this tournament than anyone expected and can be proud to have a draw and two one goal losses to their name even if they couldn't repeat the miracle of Cordoba in this crucial fixture. Austria have been an inventive side lacking in scoring ability but players like Korkmaz and Ivanschitz caught the eye. This game was notable for the spat between both managers Low and Hickersberger in which they were both sent to the stands. Michael Ballack had the winning of the game with an absolute thunderbolt of a long range free kick with the Germans proving more intent on defending than attacking.

Croatia 1-0 Poland

Croatia had already just about guaranteed themselves top spot and cemented this with a comfortable victory over the disappointing Poles. After topping their qualifying group one might have expected a little better from them this tournament. Their only goal was against Austria and even this could be disputed for offside. This game had a nice story in that the winning goalscorer Klasnic had undergone a kidney transplant last year. Poland had needed to win by 2+ goals and Austria to lose to Germany in order to progress, this combination of events never going to happen.

Group B

Turkey 3-2 Czech Republic

Going into the match with exactly the same points and goals scored and goals against this was a straight out fight for second spot in the group and a place in the quarter-finals. For the first time ever there was a potential for a group match to end in a penalty shoot-out where this match to finish a draw, thanks to the intricacies of FIFA laws for the tournament. The Czechs would have seemed to be out of reach after a Koller header and a Plasil shot both found the back of the net for a 2-0 lead. However in the 75th minute a nice finish from Turan gave them hope. In the 87th minute Cech, one of the world's best keepers, contrived to drop the ball in a catastrophic moment that allowed Nihat to provide the equaliser. Moments later he stunned everyone with a driving shot from outside the box rattling off the crossbar and into the goal. Turkey had looked willing to attack in this game and played some nice football, however it was harsh on the Czechs who overall would have deserved a victory had they won. It was quite a remarkable comeback - Turkey have now managed two last minute victories in a row and found a quarter-final date with Croatia.

Switzerland 2-0 Portugal.

Portugal rested most of their team having already guaranteed themselves top spot, and Switzerland were able to end their participation in Euro 2008 on a high. Star player Hakin Yakin scored both goals but Switzerland will still be disappointed overall as they deserved at least a point in both of their first 2 games but ended up with nothing. Kuhn departs the National side much revered and loved by his players, and fair enough, I love you too Kobi!!!

Group C

Netherlands 2-0 Romania

Going into this match Romania knew a victory would guarantee them progression into the final eight. However they rarely threatened in what was quite frankly a dreadful performance. The players literally froze when they needed to stand up and be counted. Having finished top of their qualifying group ahead of the Dutch and having recorded victories over them, it wasn't as if they should have been scared. The Dutch may have been on fire in their opening fixtures but they were guaranteed top spot and were resting a few of their players. Passes consistently went astray and they hardly created any shooting opportunities apart from the odd half chance falling to Mutu and Codrea. Even as it became clear that they needed victory with Italy leading in the other game they were still far too cautious in the second half, ultimately paying the price as Huntelaar slipped in a goal and Van Persie smashed in from close range. Even losing 2-0 they could still have gone through if the Italy France game was a draw however with the Italians also two up this wasn't going to happen, and the Romanians seemed content to let the match drift to its conclusion. Romania will rue Mutu's penalty miss against Italy, however overall I was highly disappointed that a team who could offer so much offered so little in at least 2 of their 3 group games.

Italy 2-0 France

Group C appeared to be heading to a mouth watering finish however the 2 final group games played simultaneously did not live up to expectation and with about 20 minutes remaining both games seemed to be heading to their inevitable conclusions of Italy snatching second place. This game was not helped as Ribery was stretchered off in the early stages and Abidal brought down Luca Toni in the box on 25 minutes conceding a penalty and receiving a red card for his troubles. From this point on Italy were rampant and Toni wasteful with chance after chance. Henry had one good chance as he ended up pulling his trademark short across goal and just outside the post. The second goal when it did come was fortuitous as Henry deflected in De Rossi's free kick with his boot. Coupet made a great save from a Grosso free kick and Buffon made a great save from Benzema's curling effort. With Romania's loss to the Netherland's Italy had booked themselves a quarter-final date with Spain. However with the fantastic midfield pair of Pirlo and Zambrotta both suspended they will definitely have their work cut out!

Group D

Russia 2-0 Sweden.

With Sweden requiring only a draw from this fixture to progress it was inexplicable how poorly they played as Russia dominated the game, finally showing what a good team they are. It was no coincidence that this coincided with the return from suspension of their star player Arshavin who had a fantastic game in midfield spraying passes around. He and Pavlyuchenko were the goal scorers, both finishing off wonderful sweeping moves as the Russians moved the ball around with flair, speed and accuracy in what was a delight to behold. Sweden barely threatened until the last quarter when, realising their tournament was in danger of being over, tried to lay siege to the Russian goal. This however merely opened up more counter attacking opportunities for the Russians who could have quite easily added another 2 or 3 goals to their tally.

Spain 2-1 Greece

With the Spanish guaranteed top spot this was the Spanish second string, many of the players eager to impress and fight themselves into the first team for their quarter-final clash with Italy. Many, apart from perhaps Fabregas and Alonso did not take this opportunity. Greece in fact took the lead as the only team from Euro 2008 who had yet failed to score got themselves on the scoresheet with Charisteas heading home from Karagounis' free kick. Nikopolidis in the Greek goal, playing his last international was almost embarassed as Alonso attempted to score from inside his area as he has previously managed to do, however this floated just wide. De la Red and Guiza scored the goals which allowed Spain to claim a come from behind victory and keep up their 100% record thus far in the tournament.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Where's the knockout part of the tournament analysis!?!?!?