Monday, June 16, 2008

Second Round of Group Games

Group A

Portugal 3-1 Czech Republic

Portugal were red hot, showing why they have been afforded the favourites tag by a number of critics. However they had to be on form to beat a Czech side who improved massively from their dour showing in the first game. It was an entertaining match and Portugal deserved their victory. Scolari was named as Chelsea manager after the match and will no doubt herald in yet another Chelsea revolution in a situation which has almost become farcical.

Turkey 2-1 Switzerland

Very hard luck on the Swiss. Switzerland were in my opinion the better of the two sides and were worth their 1-0 half-time lead with the awesome Yakin finishing off a nice move. Senturk's equaliser was a classic header but Turkey should already have been 2-0 down as Yakin missed a glorious chance from a similar spot to where he scored. Turan broke Swiss hearts with a lucky deflected goal. The Swiss had finished two games with 0 points to show, and yet having deserved far more in both games. I was quite bitter about this! And why does Kuhn never give Yakin a full ninety minutes? That annoys me too. Turkey will go head to head with the Czechs to claim second spot, a draw would yield penalties.

Group B

Croatia 2-1 Germany

In stark contrast to both team's opening games Croatia were excellent, creative and highly dangerous whilst Germany were a shadow of themselves. Germany still created a number of chances but they were wasteful, did not appear composed in defence, and generally did not impress. Srna was composed to open the scoring and their second was a little fortuitous but they were worth their win. Podolski's consolation goal proved yet again his brilliant finishing but frustration was evident as Schweinsteiger was sent off for a push in the latter stages. I'm not sure why Schweinsteiger is not a starter, especially after remembering his brilliant displays in WC06. David Odonkor was brought on as a sub for his pace but ended up doing more than his fair share of defending. My only criticism of Croatia is their inclination to sit back on a lead rather than really stamp their foot down.

Poland 1-1 Austria.

Austria started the game in bulldozing fashion creating chance after chance in a display of fast, skilful and penetrative football. All that was lacking was a finish as chance after chance went begging. Harnik missed great chances as the likes of him and Korkmaz blew the Polish defending apart. But it's in the final shot that they're lacking most and hence what should have been at least a 3-o lead remained goal-less. After such profligacy it was inevitable that the opening goal would be for the Poles, albeit one that perhaps should have been disallowed. It did after all appear offside. After the goal the Austrians never again found such rhythm. However in the final minute they were awarded a penalty causing the Polish PM to admit that he "wanted to kill". Vastic put it away becoming the oldest player to score in the Euros (38) and gave the Austrians a much deserved point. The Austrians are the team who have most touched my heart this comp. They will be looking to claim their most important win over the Germans to potentially reach the knock-out stage ahead of one of the favourites. It will be David against Goliath, come on David!!

Group C

Italy 1-1 Romania

Whilst I criticised Romania in their first game for lacking invention and appearing happy for a draw the same criticism could not be levelled at them this time. They played a really good game as did Italy, in what was a great game. 1-1 was a fair result. Both teams had chances in an entertaining game. Toni had a goal wrongly ruled for offside, and Buffon saved from a Mutu penalty, leaving Mutu absolutely distraught. Lobont pulled off a couple of fantastic saves in the Romanian goal. It must also be noted that Zambrotta was squarely at fault for the Romanian goal.

Holland 4-1 France

The Dutch have now put both World Cup finalists to the sword in consecutive games. Another fantastic display including a remarkable finish from Robben, smashing it in from an acute angle, and a great long-range effort from Sneijder. Henry uncharacteristically missed the perfect opportunity for a lob sending it over the bar. Great counter-attacking from the Dutch, hopefully they haven't peaked too early. A repeat of the World Cup Final in the last round of games will see elimination for at least one of Italy or France, few would have expected that prior to the tournament starting. Romania are the only one of the three to have it in their own hands - a win would take them through.

Group D

Spain 2-1 Sweden

A closely fought game with Villa's clinical winner proving the difference between the sides. Ibrahimovic scored another nice goal but was withdrawn at half-time as a precaution and the Swedish tendency to sit back in the second period proved frustrating for the Spanish. Wilhelmsson suffered an injury that will force him out of the Euro's which is a big blow as he provides telling crosses. The Spanish were not as devastating in this game but still did enough, and this was perhaps indicative of playing a workmanlike and effective side in the Swedes.

Russia 1-0 Greece

Goalkeeper Nikopolidis made the inexplicable decision to come sprinting off his line at the most inappropriate time handing Russia an easy opportunity to take the lead. Russia were clearly the better team and Greece were unable to repeat their European heroics of 2004 as they joined Switzerland as the only teams after the second round of group stage matches to be eliminated. Russia set up a showdown with Sweden in which a draw or win will hand Sweden runner-up spot behind Spain, a Russian win would allow them to advance.

A lot of permutations are possible in the last round of group matches. It's all very exciting. The largest set of permutations, perhaps not surprisingly, appear in group C.

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