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Euro 2008: A Brief Review So Far

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Alrighty, we’ve gone a full turn at Euro 2008. After one game for each side in the books, what have we learned?

Nothing. It’s only one game. It’s difficult to judge teams based on a single game. But that won’t stop us from at least discussing what's happened so far.

Here are some rambling thoughts:

Group A:

Portugal 2  Turkey 0

Surprise level: 0 Make that -1.

Portugal could have played this game each with each player holding a glass of porto in their hands. Of course, that would be against the rules and we know how stuffy refs can be, but they did what they had to do against Turkey. The positive here is that players are stepping up to support Ronaldo. Pepe was outstanding as was Carvalho. Heck, the whole team played well.

Turkey played to their strengths: Physical and bruising. They neutralized Ronaldo well. If they weren’t taking the fouls they were triple teaming him. The issue with Turkey is that they have an identity problem and striker Tuncay was lost (that kick and miss was one for the ages) as is usually the case when the mids don’t support the forwards.

Czech Republic 1  Switzerland 0

Surprise Level: 5

It’s hard to extract too much from this game. Switzerland deserved a better fate but the ultimate goal is to score and they didn’t. It will only get harder without Alexander Frei who went down to an injury. Barnetta really needs to step up now. The Czechs should be able to give more.

Group B

Germany 2  Poland 0

Surprise level: I arbitrarily pick -2.45

Nothing to see here. Move along.

The only story here is that Polish-born German striker Lukas Podolksi didn’t cheer after his two-goal performance out of respect to his native land. I’m sure Poland cares.

Poland couldn’t find the inspiration against their, um, rivals and lost the services of captain and best striker Maciej Zurawski in the process. It’s never easy to replace a captain. Ask Italy.

Do I really have to talk about Germany? They simply methodically dissected Poland like – okay,I won’t go there. World War II is done and over with. Ballack was satisfactory. But in a game like this one, who cares? The Germans will cruise.

Croatia 1  Austria 0

Surprise level: 0

Some observers have been critical of Croatia’s unconvincing opening game victory. But who do they have to convince exactly? They bagged the three points and that’s what matters. That being said, they will have to be better against Germany if they dream of more.

It was mission accomplished for Austria. They competed and actually created more chances. The truth is that it’s rare to blow out teams in soccer (ahem, Italy). Teams have pride and Austria had enough to put up a fight. Whether by design or not, Croatia is coming out slow to gather strength as the tournament progresses.

Group C


"Oh hello, welcome to hell. I’m your host, the devil."

Ever notice how the word “hello” is one letter away from hell? It’s my favourite word.

France 0  Romania 0

Surprise level: 6

That was tough on the eyes. Romania did their homework and neutralized Franck Ribery. Ribery is a creative, fast, energetic player but not a scoring threat. The Romanians were disinterested in pushing the play, aiming for a tie.

France’s defense is rock solid and plays with a ruthless edge. How many of Makalele’s spikes were found in the shins of the Romanian players after the game, I wonder? On the other hand, its offense, well, it looked dysfunctional.

The absence of Trezeguet should question Domenech’s sanity. Things aren’t so bad, he always has a future in astrology if France crashes out.

There are two ways to look at Italy/Netherlands. One is the excellent quality of play by the Dutch and the other is to examine Dubious Donadoni’s utterly naive and useless lineup. Materazzi as a central defender? Surely you jest.

It’s rare to watch Italy look rudderless at the back so it was fascinating to watch. Losing Cannavaro is much bigger than people think.

Holland had nothing to lose ( there’s always an added incentive to beat the world champs) and played loose and as a unit. They weaved around in typical Dutch fashion and never looked back. The defense stood tall and keeper Van der Saar was outstanding as usual.

It’s not all that bad for Italy. Its offense was actually more functional than France.

Group D

Spain 4  Russia 1

Surprise factor: 0

The Spanish looked smooth as ever and Torres showed a mythical footballing sense that was engaging. Funny I would single him out after Villa’s brilliant hat trick but it’s just something I noticed. Spain comes out of the block firing on all cylinders (like usual). Can they keep this up? Spain’s troubles are rarely in group play; it’s in the critical stages of the knockout rounds. The defense looks shaky but the midfield and attack are pure brilliance.

Russia wasn’t that bad but Hiddink wasn’t realistic either. He didn’t put Russia in the best position to try and prudently earn a point. He wanted to play “attractive” soccer and lost. It baffles considering that the Russians could have saved this style for Sweden and Greece. Russia did stretch the Spanish back line with nifty passing plays but they were dreaming if they were going to play run and gun with Spain. And they paid dearly for it.

Sweden 2  Greece 0

Surprise factor: 5

No one should be surprised by this result. Sweden is an organized, talented side. And if Ibrahimovich builds on his play in the first game, Sweden could move into a dark horse position. He can be that dominant.

Welcome to my nightmare, Greece. It seems like they were trying to replicate the model from 2004 but they stuck to it a little too much. Sweden cracked through and Greece could never answer back.

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About Alessandro Nicolo