Monday, June 23, 2008

European Championship 2008....The Antipasti Followed By The Anti-Football

The curse of Spanish football has finally been overcome. No longer does a quarter final draw against a fellow Latin country inevitably mean the end of Spanish hopes for advancing in an international tournament. That last night’s game against Italy should be decided by penalties was hardly a surprise after a match where the goalkeepers on both sides were the least active participants. In extra time the Italians were playing for penalties, with ten minutes still to go they were already putting their foot on the ball and slowing things down as much as possible. I hate penalties as a means of deciding these games, I’ve seen too many boring, defensive teams take advantage of them to progress.

So now the Spanish get to meet Russia again in the semi finals, as a result of the bizarre tournament organisation that permits teams who already played each other to meet again before the final. It won’t be the same Russia though, at least it shouldn’t be. When the Russians scored their third goal against Holland the other night I had to wonder what substance had been put in their pre-match samovar. They bore no resemblance to the outfit so easily swept aside by the Spanish in the qualifying round, and if they are capable of reproducing the same form again on Thursday then the game looks very promising. Holland were my favourites for the tournament, and their elimination was a bit hard to take, although you have to admit the Russians deserved their victory.

My other favourites for a semi final place, Portugal and Croatia, both went out. The Portuguese demonstrated a chronic inability to defend crosses or free kicks, the Germans had warned they would test them on this and so it turned out. Meanwhile Croatia fell victim to a Turkish team that seems to be the only one capable of scoring last minute goals as a result of collective willpower. All they have to do is kick the ball in the general direction of the goal and concentrate very hard to make it go in. Motivation is not their problem, their style of play is just a bit too Italian for my taste. Probably the only team in the semi finals that might have been expected to get this far is the Germans, so we are guaranteed a final with at least one team that is not among the usual suspects.


Tom said...

Isn't it partly because Andrei Arshavin couldn't play for the first two games? I wouldn't bet on either side in the next Spain-Russia... anything could happen.

Graeme said...

That seems to be the common explanation, and he is a good player - but the rest of the team looked very different too.

Nick said...

Yes well done Spain. It was amazing how quiet the bars were around my neighbourhood in Barcelona though - still no one really cares how Spain do here it seems.

I'm going for a Spain v Germany final eith Spain emerging victorious. That's about my 15th prediction this tournament so you can guarantee it won't happen by the way.

Graeme said...

It seems that 16 million people watched the penalties, but by region the lowest figures were in the Basque Country and Cataluña. I'm not making any more predictions, I don't want the curse of South of Watford to affect anyone else. Two days already without a game, my whole routine has been shattered.