Saturday, June 14, 2008

Euro2008 Day 8 Open Thread

9 a.m. PST ESPN2

I don't have much to say here that I haven't said already in my tournament preview and first round thoughts. Namely, that in my opinion Sweden is a past it paper tiger, and that their first match win was a bit flattering in that they had 1 moment of magic from Zlatan and that was it, and that I think Spain are far superior and that Russia will beat them in the last match as well. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike Sweden, I've always kind of dug them and I like that they like to go forward and attack, but I just don't see it happening; they are the oldest team in the tournament with an average age of 31, and I think they are simply past it. If Spain play 70% as well as they played against Russia they should win comfortably; they were outstanding in their first match; scary good, just like Netherlands.

Sweden 1-2 Spain
. Final.
Spain played well early and took the lead in the 15th minute when Torres scored on a great sliding volley from a low cross. Spain were cruising but after the goal seemed to let off a bit, content to have possession and pass it around but lacking a driving finish- they were comfortable but not creating a lot of chances. Then in 35 minutes Sweden equalized when their only seeming threat, Ibrahimovic, turned and slotted a nice goal with an assist from Spanish defender Sergio Ramos, who made a mess of it. 1-1 and game on. The rest of the half was lively, and just before halftime Spain got jobbed when David Silva was absolutely barreled over in the box by a Swedish defender- a clearer penalty you will never see, but somehow it wasn't called.

Ibrahimovic had to come off at halftime {knee I think}, which didn't bode well for Sweden in the 2nd half, as moments of magic by him appear to be the only way Sweden are likely to score. Spain had a great opportunity to grab the game by the neck and kill it off. They dominated possession- I would guess they had 70% possession in the 2nd half- but although they passed it around for long stretches they largely failed to create good chances in the box. It seemed that their achilles heel, the lack of a wide winger with pace, hurt them, but credit to Sweden defensively, who held their shape and were extremely difficult to break down. On the other end Sweden offered nearly nothing without Zlatan The Great- other than 1 near miss from a set piece, I don't think they had a shot or a shot on goal in the entire second half. But it looked like they were going to hang on for a draw until the last minute: the key to the whole play was a collision in the Spanish end near their box- Swedish dude went down, and Spanish defender immediately screamed at him that he was diving and to get up. The referee did not give a foul, and the ball fell to a Spanish defender who booted it 70 yards upfield, it bounced, and striker David Villa ran onto it, split two Swedish defenders with a crafty first touch, and then opened his body and slotted it past the keeper to shock Sweden and get a Spanish win right at the death. Ironic that after an entire 2nd half of beautiful passing with little end product, Spain score a Route 1 goal off a thumped longball that a striker latches onto and finishes clinically.

Back to the key of that final goal- was it a foul at the beginning or did the Swedish striker dive? Replays are inconclusive, and none of the ESPN crew has talked about it or shown a close up camera angle of it. Surely Sweden will feel that it was a foul and that the goal was not legit, that they should have had a dangerous free kick themselves. I'd really like to see a closeup of the heretofore not talked about incident- we'll see if we get one. If Sweden's coach/players bitch about it in their post match pressers then hopefully some media will show a close up angle of the incident.

So surely Sweden feel hard done by, but Spain can argue, rightfully so, that they were jobbed from a drop dead obvious penalty in the first half, and they might add that Sweden did have a handball in the box in the second half, even if it was unintentional. Either way what's done is done, so it's time to move on.

So Spain are through to the second round, and if Greece fail to win the late match then they will also be group winners with a match to spare. I assume that Sweden will hope for a Greece-Russia draw; if that is they case then Sweden will only need a draw in their final match with Russia to go through.

One more thought- David Villa is set to leave Valencia this summer, and Valencia put a 40 million Euro price tag on him before the tournament started {which sadly is why you won't see him at Arsenal next year}. With 4 goals in 2 matches, I'm not sure if 40 million Euros will even get you a returned phone call from Valencia at this point.

11.45 a.m. PST ESPN2
Greece will be Greece; they will play cautious defensive minded soccer, and if they can nick a goal they will shut up shop, play for the 1-0 win, and maybe try to sneak another on the counter attack. Russia are more offensive minded, but are even more up against it than they were in the first match. Their best player Arshavin is still suspended, but now they are without not 1 but two strikers who are both injured- one might play but it looks doubtful. Even so, look for them to go forward and have a go at it, and if they can win or even grab a draw then in my opinion I think they are in a really good spot in the final match.

Then again, I may very well turn out to be completely wrong about things here- I often am. But those are my thoughts, so there they are.

Halftime: Greece 0-1 Russia
Greece have been a little less inept offensively than they were against Sweden. And Christenidas should definitely have scored on his free header from 6 yards out that he completely wiffed on. Russia were pretty good going forward, and they got their goal when the Greek keeper had a true moment of madness, came way out of his goal unnecessarily- there was a defender there marking the dude, and a clever ball by the Russian back over his head gave his teammate a tap in to an open goal.

Russia will be best served to try to go ahead and get a second goal, as Greece are supremely dangerous from set pieces and corners.

Greece 0-1 Russia. Final.

Russia had chance after chance after chance to put Greece to the sword, but they squandered great opportunity after great opportunity. Then with about 10 minutes left Greece got a goal but had a dude wrongfully ruled offside, so they got kind of jobbed. They were outplayed on the one hand, but they should have scraped a draw on the other but got a tough call against them. Two of the three goals they conceded were terrible defensive meltdowns/brainfarts- true keystone cops stuff, which is ironic for a team built on such a rock solid defense. So they are out, and Spain are group winners, and the second qualifying spot comes down to the Sweden-Russia match on Wednesday. Russia must win outright to go through; Sweden only need a draw because although the two teams are level on points Sweden have a better goal difference.


Signal to Noise said...

The question really is how much Chel$ki will cough up to Villareal for Villa's services.

I'm betting 55 million Euros.

Kanu said...

Sure, but I'd say that Barcelona {if they move Eto'o and/or Henry}, Real Madrid, AC Milan, and Inter could also sign him. Maybe even ManUtd- could he play with Rooneh up front with CR7 on the wing? I don't think ManUtd would do that, but you never know.

Anyone outside those 6 sign him and I'll be really surprised.

Signal to Noise said...

Milan and Inter sound like good shots to me. Man U. has way too much of a stockpile; Sir Alex likes to get the best talent, but it's not at a place he needs it.

Real Madrid wants to pry CR7 first, it looks like (not that Ferguson will allow it to happen.) Villa at Barcelona -- I'd actually like to see that. Deco would still be there to feed him, right?

Kanu said...

I could see him going to Barca, we'll have to see what other changes they make. I don't see him going to ManUtd, whatever happens with CR, but one of those other 5 most likely.

Deco may go as well, we'll see. I think he butted heads with Rijkaard last year, so with a new coach it's hard to say at this point if he'll stay or go. Sometimes he gets div-itis {WC06 was pretty acute}, but even with all the hype CR7 gets Deco aka Dean Cain is the straw that stirs Portugal's drink, just as in Barca's golden years 2-3 years ago all the attn went to Ronaldinho, Eto'o & Messi but it was Deco who pulled the strings.

But with Xavi and Iniesta playing so well for Barca, and Deco struggling last year, maybe they'll cut him loose. Who knows- Barca is wuite the soap opera these days.