Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Euro2008 First Round Thoughts

First off, the ball. It's a new ball made of the latest synthetics, moon dust, and red clay from Mars. There was talk before the tournament about it doing crazy swerving that would result in bizarre goals, and that goalkeepers would be punching more than catching. What I have noticed after watching 8 matches is that almost every shot from distance has been quite high, and either I'm baked or this ball is sailing more than players are used to, and this ball flies higher than they are intending it to, and higher than other balls. Announcers keep talking about how there has yet to be a goal from a free kick, and I think maybe this has something to do with it: we're seeing field goals, not goals, or even shots on goal. If I am in fact on to something with this idea, then it will be interesting to see if players are able to adjust as the tournament goes on. Something to keep an eye on as you watch going forward.

Now then, the first round started off pretty slow {1st two days} but has been getting better in the last couple of days. And I haven't yet seen anything to dissuade me from my pre-tournament thoughts as of yet, other than swapping my predictions of Italy and Holland {Holland & Romania going through, Italy & France going home}.

Even though Sweden won yesterday, I still think they are an aging paper tiger and still predict that they will not qualify. They had 1 moment of brilliance from Zlatan for their first goal, which looks like their only offensive threat. The second goal was Keystone Cops and very unlucky for Greece, and overall they were not impressive. I think Spain will beat them handily and then Russia will beat them as well. Speaking of which, don't write Russia off because they lost 1-4 to Spain. Russia were actually good yesterday, Spain were just great, but Russia played well, created several good chances, and hit the post. They were also without their best player in Arshavin, who is suspended for the first two matches. I feel very confident that with him back for the final group game, that Russia will beat Sweden, so for Russia going through it will come down to their match against Greece against Friday. A draw there and a win against Sweden could very well put them through.

Spain did nothing to change my thinking that they will win the whole tournament, but then again they are Spain, so we'll have to wait and see what happens. At this point is sure looks like they will go through as group winners, so keep an eye on the runner up spot from Group Of Death C, as that is who a group winning Spain would face in the quarterfinal.

Speaking of group C, I still feel confident in my thoughts on France not going through and Romania shocking the world and going through, but perhaps as runners up to The Netherlands rather than Italy? They looked like they really missed Cannavaro, and Toni was off, but write them off at your own risk. Romanina look like they might be similar to Greece2004, so don't be surprised either if they are able to scrape out a draw against Italy on Friday.

Also, No. 8 for the Netherlands is the shit. At first sight I thought "who is that? wow". He is a huge presence in central midfield, Vieira-esque in stature, is very good on the ball, with great vision and had some quality long passes. I had never seen him before but he really impressed me. His name is Orlando Engelaar, and I learned that last year he played for smallish Dutch club Twente, who famously have qualified for the Champions League next year. He was the captain of Twente so I can only assume that he played big part in their big achievement. Since it was only like his 7th appearance for Holland I assumed he was a young kid, but was surprised to learn that he is actually 28 years old. Apparently he was used as a striker earlier in his career and now is a late bloomer having found his niche & strength as a holding central midfielder. After the match I thought "if he keeps playing like this he will most definitely get snapped up by a really big club before the new season". A little research and I found that Schalke of the German Bundesliga have already signed him- their fans must be pretty excited. Anyhow, he is definitely one to watch for from here on out.

I am amused and bewildered by so many people missing the obvious on Ruud's opening goal for Holland against Italy, saying he was a mile offside. Well if you watch the replay you can clearly see that right before that a Dutch player and Italian player ran past the endline out of play, collided, the Dutch payer got back up and onto the field while the Italian player rolled around and stayed on the ground{no comment}, thus playing anyone and everyone onsides, including goalscorer RVN. Hell yes he was still active- rolling around on the ground hoping to get a call to go your way instead of getting up and getting on with it is being "active" in the play in this idiot's opinion. It was irritating to me that so many expert analysts on television missed that completely. And yes, that has to be the rule logically, or a defender near the touch line could simply run off the field past the end line, fall over feigning injury, and make an otherwise onsides player be offsides. Reminded me of the wrong call in the Arsenal-Liverpool match on Cesc's would be goal that was cleared off the line by Bendtner- similar situation.

Austria were impressive and surprised everyone, myself included. They were unfortunate to lose to Croatia on a 4th minute penalty, but from there on out they basically outplayed Croatia, especially in the second half- it was one way traffic- and based on how the teams played a draw would have been a fair result for Austria.

Germany coach Joachim Löw looks just like American documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

I think Turkey can still go through as well even though they lost to Portugal. Switzerland lost leading scorer {and some would say only scoring threat} Frei to injury for the rest of the tournament, reducing them to a team whose main threats on goal will come from corner kicks and set pieces. If Turkey can play the kind of soccer they are most capable of, they should be able to beat the Swiss {mmmmm... Turkey & Swiss- sorry, couldn't resist} and set up a potential elimination match with the Czechs in the third match.

That's all for now that I can think of. I'll try to do a better job of updating daily and/or throwing up an open thread for your commentary/thoughts.

On to round two...


Anonymous said...

The fastest non-Kanu turnaround I saw on that goal from van Nistelrooy was on the Guardian's minute-by-minute report; one of the readers worked it out.

My brother and I had a long discussion about the Dutch team (too long to repeat) but our considered conclusion is that van Basten is doing good things by picking players from Eredivisie - they are young and skilled, so you might as well get them in the game now as hope that Seedorf 1) stays healthy, and 2) doesn't flounce off in a snit.

beast in 'bama said...

Romania's coach = Gabriel Byrne from The Usual Suspects...I can't feel my legs...Keyser.

Also playing really well for the Dutch was Von Brockhorst (sp?), the little winger. They were blowing by all those old Italians.