Saturday, 21 June 2008

Euro 2008 Review: Just five games left

And elsewhere, the Euro 2008 blog gets as random and as haphazard as I expected it would, but all in all the football has been superb. Turkey reached the semi-final last night having led their games for a total of two minutes, but it's better to lead for just the last two minutes that just the first 88. And they'll face Germany in the semi final, with their embarrassment of riches up front, and their, well, guaranteed at least one embarrassment a game at the back. Turkey look to be aiming for the Greece approach, but aren't as organised at the back, and look to score through Ardan or Nihat's creativity, rather than through set pieces. I told you to look out for that pair. Okay, Nihat's a given and should be well known from when Bayer Leverkusen played Manchester United in the Champions League, but Ardan was an unknown quantity in these shores. Just forget everything else I said about Turkey. Especially the bit about them finishing bottom of Group A. Mertesacker and Metzelder are good for at least a mistake each per game, and Joachim Löw's use of Marcell Jansen as a late sub against Portugal, despite his performance against Croatia suggests he has a chance of playing. His performance was blamed on a shoulder injury.

In the meantime, we've got two more quarter-finals, and Italy eliminated France to strike fear into the hearts of Spain. Raymond Domenech's horoscope suggested that the end of their tournament would be the best time to propose to his girlfriend on live TV. The French Russell Grant clearly doubles up as the French Jeremy Beadle. The only people unhappier than the French, were the Spanish, as their record against the Italians is poor, and appears to have reached the point of being a psychological barrier, rather than a sporting one. The Spanish view of Italian football is one of anti-football rife with cheating, fouling and play-acting, something which has mainly been absent this tournament. No goals, penalties, important free kicks or sendings off have been caused by play-acting - although Jan Koller's face-holding antics after Volkan Demirel pushed him in the chest may have helped increase the ban to two games, especially considering Bastian Schweinsteiger was only banned for one game for a similar push to the chest.

The other quarter final sees the Netherlands face Russia. Russia seemed like a team reborn after Andre Arshavin was available for the Swedish game. Inspiration as well as being at the heart of the two best team goals in the tournamen revitalised Guus Hiddink's men, after the misfortune of the Spain match, and the misfiring against the Greeks. The Dutch on the other hand look excellent going forward and frail at the back. Just like Germany. In some respects a Dutch-German final would be a fantastic spectacle and one likely to feature a lot of goals, but I would be suprised if both made it. After fancying a Croatia-Portugal final in the top half (I know I didn't say it on here, but I'm hardly going to pretend I got it wrong just for the sake of it, am I?), I'll give the kiss of death to the Italians and the Russians. The latter after penalties. And as Tom Dunmore of Pitch Invasion points out, any Total Football we see tonight, is more likely to come from the Russians.

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