Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Semifinals Open Thread

Wed. 6/25 11.45 a.m. PST ESPN

Simply stated, Turkey are up against it. Several key players are injured: Nihat, Emre Belozoglu, Servet Cetin, Emre Gungor, and Tumer Metin. Adding insult to injury is that 4 more players are suspended: first choice goalkeeper Volcan, Tuncay, Arda, and Asik. This is extremely harsh as I detailed in the previous post, and leaves Turkey in all likelihood with only 13 outfield players to choose from. Sucks, because a full strength Turkey against Germany would probably be an awesome spectacle to watch, but as is it doesn't look like a game that will be very competitive unless Germany play as poorly as they did against Croatia earlier in the tournament, which doesn't seem too likely.

Turkey have nothing to lose, they are already the darlings of this competition, having played 390+ minutes of soccer thusfar and only being in the lead for TWO MINUTES, yet here they are in the semifinal. As such, I hope Fatih Terim has them attack and try to win, even if it is a bit of a Braveheart battle charge, but it seems the only chance for success. Sitting back and defending, allowing Germany to come at them for the whole match looks to me like it will result in certain defeat, so why not go forward and try to attack and win valiantly? Even if they fail they will be lauded for trying, and given what they are up against they will still be seen as triumphant heroes if they go out this way.

Germany have a full compliment of players to choose from and truth be told, given the circumstances, it will be an absolute shock if they don't win.

Germany 3-2 Turkey. Final.
One of the best games that you'll ever sort of get to see. Turkey did indeed go Bravehart at the beginning, raising their weapons, screaming "FREEEEDOOOMMMM!!!!" and attacking all out in damn the torpedoes- full speed ahead fashion, and they dominated the first 20 minutes, at one point outshooting Germany 6 to 1 and pretty much pinning them in their own end. Germany were lucky when a Turkish rocket shot blasted off the crossbar after about 10 minutes; then in the 22nd minute a funky spinning lob also hit the crossbar, came back to Boral who hit it in off Mad Jens {formerly} of North London. Kind of a fuckup by Mad Jens, although in his defense that ball was spinning as much as any ball you'll ever see, both when it came back off the post and then was shot at him in mishit fashion; the slow mishit and the spin seemed to throw him off. Either way the Turks were 1-0 up, and deservedly so.

Of course after leading only 2 minutes of the tournament to that point, out of 400+ minutes, they were able to hold onto their lead for all of 4 minutes when Podolski sent in a sweet cross and Sweinsteiger has an even sweeter one touch finish giving Turkish keeper Rustu no chance. Turkey then went back to dominating the latter stages of the first half, and it was 1-1 at half and very much game on.

One note- there was a nasty collision at the end of the half between Germany's Rolfes and Turkey's Akman in which they both went for a header and instead smashed their heads together, Rolfes in his forehead and Akman on the top/back of his head. Both men were bleeding pretty good and started getting attention from the trainers. It wasn't pretty. So at one point the TV camera focuses on the Turkish trainer trying to get a gauze or bandage on Akman's head, but it's tricky since he has a full head of hair and the cut is on the top of his head int he back, and the trainer is having trouble, so he grabs a fucking staple gun, places it on dude's skull, and pulls the trigger. Unreal. Not only did Akman just nut up and take it, he kept playing until he was substituted in the 81st minute of the match. Rolfes was worked on until halftime and then substituted at the beginning of the second half. So Ayhan Akman, you win the Euro2008 Hard Nut Award, hands down. Another in a never ending string of evidence refuting the soccer player are fairy sissy boys argument. 1 in 3 NFL players would have been crying for their mommies...

In the 2nd half Germany started to regain control, and you got the sense that the undermanned Turks were running out of steam just a bit going forward, but still holding out defensively pretty well. The big talking point came when Lahm was fouled on the edge of the box and the referee did not give a penalty or even a foul. Replays clearly showed that it was a foul; whether or not it was inside the edge of the box or just outside was less clear, but Germany should have gotten at least a free kick on the edge of the box, albeit out to the side.

Midway through the second half things got shitty, as the world television feed went out due to a lightning strike near the stadium. Being that the ESPN commentators were in a studio in Bristol and not at the match, they couldn't even provide play by play. After several minutes they got the feed back, but then it went out again, in about the 72nd minute. Then we find out that GErmany scored in the 79th minute from a Klose header, but still no pictures. Then right as the picture is being restored in the 86th minute, we see the Turkish bench erupting in joyous celebration and learn that amazingly Turkey has made it 2-2 with only 4 minutes left. Replays showed that Sobri totally used Lahm on the wing and then crossed low and hard which was poked in at the near post- a great goal. Replays showed Klose's goal which was a good header, although Turkish goalkeeper Rustu certainly helped by coming way off his line to get the ball but never making it, leaving himself in no man's land and the goal open for Klose. So 2-2 and it looked like extra time until Philip Lahm, his jockstrap still laying back at the other end of the field, played a great give and go and smashed home a game winning goal in the 89th minute. Turkey's heroic late goal wasn't late enough, and unlike their other victims Germany had a few minutes to respond. Then the feed went out again so we missed extra time only to learn that they match was ended {of course the feed came right back on after the match had ended and worked for the entire post match segment}.

So a damn exciting thriller that ended Germany 3-2 Turkey and Mother Nature 3-0 Switzerland Power Supply. Very frustrating to watch for me as a neutral- I can only imagine how maddening it must have been for those watching in Germany and Turkey. Of course, legendary DC Trojan had the quote of the day on the frustrating power outage for the world TV audience situation when he said: "You'd think the Swiss would have used all that nazi gold on a more robust electrical grid..." Epic.

The other frustrating thing about ESPN's coverage during the power outages was this- they kept showing fans in Basel or Vienna or wherever in fan zones watching on a giant screen in some square, and it seemed pretty obvious that they were somehow getting a different feed than the world TV audience, i.e. they could actually see what was going on. But ESPN just kept the camera on the fans as the talking heads talked- why didn't they just turn their camera around and point it at the giant public viewing screen? Duh.

Turkey were the romantic heroes of this tournament with their never ending run of late theatrics, and even in defeat today they battled against the odds, and came back at the end again, albeit 4 minutes too soon. Even in losing they are the darlings of Euro2008 and will be one of the first things remembered about this tournament years from now. They can be proud of their performance and will always think of what might have been if they had anything near a full strength squad available today.

Germany are through to the final and will play tomorrow's Russia/Spain winner on Sunday at 11.45 a.m. PST on ABC. Here's hoping the TV feeds are intact then as well as tomorrow.

Thu. 6/26 11.45 a.m. PST ESPN2

Spain beat Russia 4-1 in the first group match, but I watched that match and noted then that Russia actually played very well, it was just that Spain played unbelievably great, maybe the best performance by a team of any of the matches in the tournament. After seeing that first match it was obvious that despite the loss Russia were very talented and that they would be extremely dangerous when they got Arshavin back. Down 0-1 Russia hit the post which may have changed the complexion of the match considerably, and they created alot of chances that they squandered. So don't look at that scoreline and assume that Spain will win. Russia are obviously much better with Arshavin and after dominating the best team in the tournament in the group stage they will be full of confidence. Also, like all Guus Hiddink teams, they are supremely fit, which at this stage in a tournament is very significant, and they also have the youngest legs of any team in the tournament, so it was no surprise that they looked so strong against Holland in extra time.

Spain should also be much better against Russia than they were against Italy. Italy defended with 10 men, and clogged up the passing lanes, especially in the middle of defense; but Spain lack width, they don't have true wingers, so instead of getting wide and trying to spread out Italy's packed in defense, they repeatedly tried to go right up the middle to no avail. Russia will give Spain more room to operate, but they also might spend so much time pinning back Spain that, like Holland, they never get into an offensive rhythm themselves.

The only suspension of note is Russian centreback Kolodin, who had a nightmare in the 1-4 loss to Spain in the first match but had been outstanding since {and has been one of the very few players in this tournament to be able to shoot this new ball from distance and not have it sky way above the crossbar}.

Either way this match should be outstanding as both teams will go for it, which should lead to a very exciting match with tons of chances.

Given the unfortunate circumstances for Turkey, today is like an appetizer preceding a grand feast tomorrow.

Although I picked Spain to win it all {over Germany no less} before the tournament, and would be happy to see that final, if I was a betting man right now I think I might just take Russia to win the whole thing. How can you not after learning that they've been offered TWO WOMEN for every goal they score {hat tip to commenter Killing My Liver}?

Enjoy the matches.

Russia 0-3 Spain. Final.


Killing My Liver said...

Once again, my infinite football knowledge rears it's head. Looks like Turkey is "having a go".
Good on them. I'm glad I was wrong. Still plenty of football left, though.

beast in 'bama said...

"Given the unfortunate circumstances for Turkey, today is like an appetizer preceding a grand feast tomorrow."

If that was the appetizer, then I'm gonna need some kinda gastric bypass to get ready for tomorrow.

Just imagine if Turkey just had the services of Tuncay (or any one suspended player) today?

Kanu said...

Yes that was much better then I expected, and most others presumably as well.

Yup- total case of what might have been for Turkey. Already said it, but I thought 3 of the 4 suspensions were very harsh. Oh well, that's the way the gyro crumbles I suppose.

Now all of a sudden the main event has something to live up to lest they be upstaged by the opening act.

Let's just hope the damn television feed stays up tomorrow...

Killing My Liver said...

It was pretty funny yesterday watching/reading the gamecast on ESPN. The guy said he was reporting on a radio broadcast and basically said he had no idea what was going on or the time. Great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Apparently I did the Swiss an injustice - the global broadcast center is in Vienna, and that's where it all went pear shaped.

Since it's not like me to let a good WWII crack go by, perhaps they'll blame the Germans for forcing their complicity.

Kanu said...


"Since it's not like me to let a good WWII crack go by"...

...then I can only assume that you are hoping and praying for a Germany-Russia final.

Killing My Liver said...

So, after reading this, I'm calling Russia by 5 goals:

moin said...

Damn good incentive.

Anonymous said...

Kanu - a Germany - Russia final? [closes eyes and wishes] Yes please!

As for incentives, the mind boggles. What about if they lose - do they get locked up in a room with Ludmilla the former tank mechanic?

Kanu said...

Thanks KML- that's pretty epic. It's like they saw Austria's free beer for life offer, and they RAISED.

Euro 2008- it's Bribe-tastic!!!

Killing My Liver said...

In soviet Russia, whores score on you.

Killing My Liver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Killing My Liver said...

Well, so far there are tens of Russian whores unclaimed.

Kanu said...

What I learned today:

The Russian players are already up to their eyeballs in hot pieces of ass, don't really need any more.

Dude should have gone with the free beer for life routine. Or vodka. Or cars that run. Or Levis!

moin said...

Now that David Villa has been ruled out of the Final, the debate can end. Xavi-Iniesta-Cesc will all start.

It's gonna be an interesting final, to say the least. There might not be any WW2 joke to be made, but surely we can settle for the Spanish Civil War? Or maybe one of the Wars of Austrian/Spanish Succession?

And this game is Exhibit A why people should stop wanking over a player for one game. :)

Killing My Liver said...

Well, Moin, point taken on Guiza. I didn't actually see the game, but the gamecast was saying Torred didn't play too well. I prostrate myself at your feet for disembowlment.

moin said...

I thought Torres played much better this match actually. Things really opened up for him and Guiza after Xavi's first goal. I just think Torres suits the English style alot more than the Spanish style.

Unrelated note, before this tournament, Spain has NEVER won a match in the Euros by more than one goal. That is mind boggling. Even now, Spain has only beaten Russia by more than one goal. If not for Hiddink, the streak would still be alive.