Monday, June 23, 2008

Euro 2008 Reaches it’s Final Four

Many of the usual suspects will be absent from this year’s Euro 2008 final most of the pre-tournament favorites are home for the summer, including the side that looked the best in the group stage, Holland, winning all three matches and having the best goal differential of any team in the tournament. Ironically NONE of the sides that were group winners are left standing. The Dutch played their worst game of the four when it mattered most as Russia game out more aggressive and had them on their heels early, only a late goal from “Van the Man” extended the match to extra time where they once again could not keep the Russians out of their net. Also not present are the defending world champions Italy, who quite frankly, never looked like a team that would get out of the group stage and didn’t find their rhythm at all during the tournament. Another pre-tournament fav not present will be the French, as Henry is beginning to show his age Benzema has not lived up to the hype. The team with the most fire power up front and the consensus pick was Portugal, similar to 04’, but couldn’t manage to get Golden Boot winner Ronaldo enough space to score when it counted. With the dust settled and we look at who is left, under the radar Germany has slipped again. They find themselves with a semi-final match that is MORE than winnable, going up against a depleted Turkish side that will be missing a total of NINE normal starters due to injury or yellow card restrictions. The last big name left in the dance, they have found away to survive and advance and are in position to take down their fourth title. On the other side pits Russia and Spain, who seem to be finally living up to their potential. For many years the Spanish have fielded potentially the best squad but have not been able to put it all together and now they find themselves in a position that they have not seen since 1984. Their opponent is a quality Russian side that disposed of the top side in the tourney thus far, the Dutch. Perhaps they are just plain good, as they survived a group stage that easily could have been considered the ‘group of death’ with Sweden, Spain, and defending champions Greece. Last but not least we have not even brought up the sleeper of this years’ tournament, the Turks, who have defied all odds and found themselves short handed, injured, and facing an old nemesis, Deutschland. It they could pull off the monumental upset, and that is not hyperbole, it would truly go down in the archives as the biggest ever. However after the Greek run in 2004 I think the universe has already overdrawn their karma account. Either way there will be at least one unfamiliar face in the finals next week and probably the sentimental favorite.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Germany stuns Portugal to cliam first spot in semi-finals

Germany got out to a quick 1-0 lead and when Portugal tried to press it was 2-0 before the match was a half-hour old. Portugal gave themselves hope four minutes before the break through Nuno Gomes, who became just the third man behind Jurgen Klinsmann and Vladimir Smicer to score in three European Championships. But Michael Ballack restored Germany's two-goal lead in the 61st minute from another Schweinsteiger free-kick, and although substitute Helder Postiga pulled another one back for Portugal with three minutes left, Germany held on. In the end the German air superiority proved to be the difference as despite trying to prevent them from getting frivolous corners and set piece opportunities, two of the goals came from the air, one in particular where there was so much clearance that Klose could use his shoulder rather than his kopf. So let the controversy begin on Ballack’s header, how is the call not made? Yes, it was a slight push but he only need a sight advantage to get enough space for a clear shot, and that proved to be the difference. A similar play was call in favor of the host Austria giving them a penalty kick in extra time to earn a draw. If a foul on Ballack was called it would not have changed the flow like the result of the non-call, which gave the Germans an insurmountable lead. Needless to say Portugal’s score with less than 5 minutes to play would have taken on entirely new significance. Once again the lack of consistency of the refs takes center stage.

Italy suffers worst lost in history of Euro but can still advnce

Italy, the defending world champions, suffered their worst lost in European Cup history with a 3-0 loss to Holland. Although they are the reigning World Cup champions the Italians haven’t won the Euro Cup in 40 years and now their task just got dramatically more difficult as a 3 goal loss in the “group of death” will be tough to overcome. They must now win their remaining two games in the qualifying round. The controversial call was pivotal despite the final score as an Italian player lay on the ground, out of bounds, but was ruled to still be a participant, meaning no off sides could be called and Van Nesteroy was there in his normal ‘goal poaching’ style to knock it in. Only one goal, but one that set the tone for the landslide. The Italians now must come up with victories against Romania and France or they will be home before their postcards.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Ronaldo, Portugal look stron in first game of Euro 2008

In the second match in group A Portugal opened their Euro 2008 account with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Turkey in Geneva. Cristiano Ronaldo, who hit the post with a sensational free-kick early on inspired his side to victory as they scored two second half goals to kill of a Turkish threat which never materialized. After having a first-half effort disallowed, Pepe made no mistake on the hour as he gave Portugal the lead with a stunning individual effort. Nuno Gomes hit post and crossbar before the second goal arrived in stoppage time when substitute Raul Meireles finished off a fine counter-attack. Portugal now sit on top of Group A after Czech Republic's 1-0 win over Switzerland earlier on Saturday. With Deco, Ronaldo, and all of that speed in front, can Portugal hoist the cup for the second time in the last three tries?

In an amazing all English final Man U held of Chelsea to win the Champions League Final 1-1(6-5pk), as Captain John Terry and Nicolas Annelka were denied on consecutive shots to seal the victory. It was the 4th time in eight years that the finals have gone to PK’s. Had it not been for such an amazing performance from Pete Cech the Blues would not have even made it that far. On two separate occasions in the second half Cech made saves on shots that mere mortals find in the back of the ol’ onion bag. What can’t be forgotten when everyone speaks of the drama of the extra period and PK’s, is that Man U really outplayed Chelsea for most of the match, from possession pct. to real opportunities. Even with that effort, Cech was asked to more during the shootout and he answered the call, stopping Golden Boot winner Ronaldo on the third shot in Pk’s and that SHOULD have been enough. I understand the pitch was wet but everyone shot on the same one and you gotta knock those down during crunch time. Moreover, you have got to keep your composure when the world is watching and how the best striker on the club can tossed in a game like this is beyond recourse. Drogba’s little flick to chin was surely felt when you need your five best to stand on the line and make one for all the marbles. The Blues didn’t and Man U gets the double.