Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Euro2008 Day 11 Open Thread

This should be the most intriguing and exciting matchday thusfar as three teams battle for 1 spot and any single kick in either game could change the entire qualifying scenarios at any moment- no matter the level of quality of the soccer it will be riveting stuff.

France-Italy

11.45 am PST ESPN

Scenarios: France qualify with a win as long as Romania fail to beat Holland. Italy qualify with a win as long as Romania fail to beat Holland. Italy also qualify with a scoring draw and a Romania loss to Holland on tiebreaker C- goals scored between the three teams in the tiebreaker.

Both teams have been underwhelming, so it's hard to analyze what will happen here. These two were in the same qualifying group- France beat Italy 3-1 in Paris in September 2006, just two months after the World Cup final between these two and the heated atmosphere in the wake of the Materrazzi-Zidane incident. The teams then drew 0-0 in Milan in September 2007 in a bore draw. Recent history here is thick, with France snatching the Euro2000 final from Italy with a last minute equalizer and then a golden goal winner, and Italy beating France on penalties after the teams were tied 1-1 after 120 minutes of the epic 2006 World Cup final. Add to that the whole Zidane-Materrazi thing, and there's a serious rivalry there.

I'm not the best person to analyze this match objectively, because I have always disliked Italy and always dug France, so obviously I would prefer France to win. What's so interesting to me is that this is the 1 match that the whole world has looked forward to since the fixtures were announced months ago, with everyone thinking it would be the be-all end all, and now here we are with the possibility that the "match of the tournament" will be moot if Romania beat Holland.

Italy 2-0 France
. Final.
France lost their best player, Tom Greene lookalike Franck Ribery, in the 10th minute when he was injured and stretchered off. Italy controlled it from the start, and then Abidal brought down Luca Toni in the box with a clumsy challenge from behind: penalty for Italy, Abidal sent off, France reduced to 10 men, penalty converted by Pirlo, Nasri- who came on for injured Ribery in the 10th minute- sacrificed for a defender, and it was all uphill from there. 65 minutes of playing a man down and a goal down against Italy, without your best player and with 2 of your 3 alloted subs already burned up it a tunnel with a very small light at the end.

Predictably Italy bossed it from there on out. France did well to basically hold them, but hold them was not what was needed- what they needed was 2 goals and that always seemed like a bridge too far. Grosso had a great free kick that French keeper Coupet palmed onto the post, and France hung around but didn't look especially threatening with Henry & Benzema isolated alone up front mostly without Ribery making threatening runs from wide spaces and linking up with them. Without Vieira, himself aging, and Ribery, the creative force, France's midfield just lack players that can turn a match.

Italy put the match out of reach midway through the 2nd half with a De Rossi free kick from outside the box that took a deflection off Henry's foot and completely wrongfooted the keeper, who had dived to his right to save the shot only to watch the ball deflect in behind him into the other side of the goal. Unfortunate, but every goal looks the same on the scoreboard, and at 2-0 up and 11v10, this match was well and truly over.

So thanks to Holland Italy are through, and France are out. France's play in this tournament was pretty much what I expected and predicted. They need to fire crazy & clueless Domenech, hire a new manager, and start retiring the aging stars to pasture and rebuild around the young but inexperienced talent.

Full credit to Italy, they played great and controlled the match from the get go. Yes, the match developed in such a way that was advantageous to them as well, but they still played good stuff, created lots of chances, and did what they needed to do- full marks to them.

So Italy play Spain in the last quarterfinal on Sunday- that should be one tasty soccer match.

Netherlands-Romania
11.45 am PST ESPN Classic

Scenarios: Netherlands are through as group winners. Romania qualify as group runners up with a win. Romania can also qualify as group runners up with a draw if France & Italy also draw. Finally, Romania can qualify as group runners up with a loss if France & Italy play to a scoreless draw, then Romania would go through on tiebreaker D- goal difference in all group matches, unless Romania lose to Holland by 4 or more goals.

Romania have everything to play for and Holland nothing, so Romania could win against a less than first team Dutch side. Even so, Romania are defensive minded opportunists, a la Greece 2004, while even Holland's B team will play the free flowing attacking stuff. Part of me wants to see Romania do it because they are underdogs and everyone wrote them off and I predicted before the tournament that they would go through, but another part of me doesn't want to see their defensive 1-0 grind it out style succeed at the expense of more offensive minded teams- just on general principle. On a third hand, I am no fan of Italy and would prefer the cinderella Romanians going trough rather than them.

It will be fascinating to see what happens if it's tied and Romania draw a penalty- will Mutu take it or refuse and make someone else take it. Will Holland try? Dunno, but can't wait to find out.

It should be really compelling viewing of both matches as the scenarios described above change over the course of 90 minutes with both matches being concurrent. Hopefully it will be exciting- with all the scenarios it will be riveting even if the soccer isn't as enticing as everyone is expecting.

Netherlands 2-0 Romania
. Final.
Romania today reminded me of Rocco Mediate in the US Open. They had their chances, didn't seize them, and it came back to bite them in the ass. {Rocco, for all his great play, had the ball in the fairway from 100 yards out on 18- the easiest hole on the golf course- both Sunday and Monday, and both times he made par, when a birdie in either situation would have knocked Tiger out and made him US Open champion}. Similarly, today Romania had three great chances that I saw to go 1-0 up and seize the match by the scruff of the neck; they missed all three, and then in the 2nd half Holland did what Holland does and scored 2 great goals to win the match, first with Huntelaar and then with Van Persie, and that was that.

If Mutu felt bad about his penalty miss to beat Italy at the end of their match last week, I wonder how badly he feels now. That penalty miss will probably haunt him for a long, long time.

Netherlands have scored 9 goals in their 3 matches, which is impressive. What's even more impressive is that those 9 goals have come from SEVEN different goalscorers- Van Persie{2}, Sneijder{2}, Van Nistelrooy{1}, Kuyt{1} , Robben{1}, Van Bronkhorst{1}, Huntelaar{1}. That's pretty scary stuff. This isn't a team that someone is putting on their back and carrying through with an amazing tournament- the goals are coming from all over. Holland play their quarterfinal on Saturday against the winner of tomorrow's elimination match between Sweden and Russia.

7 comments:

beast in 'bama said...

During their first game, Donadoni looked like he was waiting for his last meal...and a call from the governor. Up 2-0 and with the Dutch leading Romania, now he looks like the guv's call got through.

Word Verification: smigl - not gollum, smigl.

Killing My Liver said...

MEATSA-BALLSA !!

One for the motherland.

Kanu said...

Donadoni's out unless they win it or at least make the final, right? Or- to continue your metaphor- will a semifinal spot grant him a stay of execution?

oc phil said...

I was so rooting for Romania in this game, just because I wanted to see Italy gone. But based on the form they've shown so far and the yellow card suspensions I can't see Italy getting by Spain this time. I hope.

I'll be a happy camper with a Netherlands-Spain semifinal.

beast in 'bama said...

He's still on death row...This particular reprieve is only temporary unless they make the semis - maybe. And at that point, why would he even want the thankless job?

Did you notice Toni doing everything a big, target striker should do - except score? I loved it when Andy Gray referred to him as "allegedly" one of the best strikers in Europe. They're missing Totti, and it might cost them in the next round.

Oh, and good luck to the Dawgs in the CWS. Rice ralphed up a late 5-0 lead to the jack-leg cajuns and are now eliminated. So much for a three-peat of 3rd place finishes in the CWS for the Owls.

Kanu said...

OCP-

Italy is the beast, and in my view it's never wise to assume the death of the beast until you see it slayed and lying lifeless on the ground taking its last breath. In other words, don't at all be surprised if the go all the way to the final.

BIB-

Toni missed some chances today, but he scored a perfectly legal goal in the last match that was wrongly disallowed, and he has been lively and done alot. He is creating chances, not just missing sitters and generally being total shite {see: Mario Gomez, Germany}. And he was leading scorer in Bundesliga last season. I don't have a problem with Toni, other than his stupid-ass and nonsensical goal celebration where he does some crazy jar shaking motion with his hand next to his ear. Stupider even than Totti's thumb suck- but to be sure not as stupid as Robbie Keane's "Rolling Thunder", which I long ago renamed the "Rolling Wanker".

Thanks too on the Dawgs. It was fun to see the cinderella job against Miami, and now they are sitting in the catbird seat. I typically don't follow them at baseball much until the playoffs, it has been a fun ride thusfar. I think this is Perno's 3rd CWS in 7 years as coach, which is damn impressive at a good but not great baseball school like UGA.

3rd place or not, going to the CWS three years in a row is a damn fine accomplishment.

moin said...

Toni has done the job that's asked of him as a lone striker. Excellent linking up play and great at getting to the long ball, laying it off for on-rushing mids or taking it himself. It's only a matter of time before pays off for Italy. And that's the scary thing against Spain as Spain doesn't have tall or physical defenders up the middle to deal with the likes of Toni. Maybe have Senna track back even more? This becomes even more crucial as the creative impetus behind Italy, Pirlo, will be out for the match. You just know Italy will go route-1 or cross from the sides.

As for France, in my opinion, your recommendations should have been carried out during the last WC. Ribery was to be the start of the bleeding of new talent into the squad. But a very unexpected run to the finals covered up alot of problems with that squad and the French rebuilding process has been delayed a full 2 years. Domenench's problem was and always will be that he is far too conservative. He was too conservative in the WC final against Italy when he clearly had Italy on the ropes but declined to put on attackers to go for the kill. And needless to say, he was still way too conservative this time by insisting on keeping a back-6 even when the French were chasing the match. The man is just not flexible in his thinking.