01 July 2012

The Final

Well, that was unexpected.
Although Spain are my team, my father's people, the Italian national team was my first football love so this final brought out mixed emotions. I both cheered and groaned with every goal; I was happy at the final whistle but felt so bad for the Italian players. It was a tragic way to lose it, on that bit of bad luck. Playing against Spain 11 v 11 is already hard enough but 11 v 10 is a near impossible task.
But let's face it, Spain were already 2-0 up by halftime when it was still an even contest. What was interesting is how Italy surged back after each of those first two goals; how they looked more likely to score after conceding which is something I haven't seen from them before. It was heartening but they just couldn't break through that Spanish defense (even missing a Puyol!) and then you really could see them deflate after going down a man.
But Spain, well, they were just beautiful. After days and days of reading bitter English press about how "boring" Spain was, it was so great to see them rub that boring tag in their detractors' noses. This win felt really good unlike the surprise & joy of the 2008 or 2010; this one felt needed as vindication. This team will go down in history as one of the greats and players like Xavi & Iniesta are already well on their way to being legends.
A worthy winner in every respect.

30 June 2012

Semi Finals Thoughts

The quarter finals were exciting and with that fourth one ending in stressful penalties I really was glad for the two day break from footy.
And then the semi finals came and I was a basket case. I made the mistake of going to the pub for both of these games and I should really know better by now. It's not that I drink too much (not anymore); it's just all the energy from everyone else in the pub adds to my nerves and by the end of the game I feel broken and battered. And I was quite literally bleeding too after the Spain v Portugal match (a whole table of beer bottles and pint glasses upturned right next to me).
I was glad to see Portugal actually give it a go at Spain after so many teams retreating into their shells against the World & European champions. Both teams had chances and close calls but it went to extra time and penalties and Spain's luck continued and poor Ronaldo went home empty handed.
And then Mario happened. By now, everyone has had their say on his breakout performance so all I have to add is this: when we showed a friend the now infamous photo from his celebration of the second goal, said friend exclaimed: "He looks like an action figure!" I think that would delight Il Postino/Super Mario to no end. So Germany suddenly run out of steam and Italy, once again when no one expects it, shoot ahead and head into the final.
And you can bet I am watching the final from the safety of my own home.

24 June 2012

Quarter-Final: England v Italy

And so, color me not surprised to see our first 0-0 with this last quarter-final. Jenny called it before the game: 0-0, extra-time, penalties. Of course she was right.
What was surprising was that it wasn't a more evenly matched game; sure, the 0-0 scoreline might make it seem that way but let's be honest: Italy pretty much dominated this game. They just lacked finishing; they lacked a true goal poacher, another Pippo Inzaghi. Mario Balotelli, on the other hand, is more the battering ram style of striker - more Bobo than Pippo - and while the big striker had plenty of chances, he didn't manage to score.
England had a few chances as well but kept losing possession. They looked tired and out of ideas by the second half but were fairly valiant in defending. And by extra time, neither team looked like they'd give Germany any trouble in the semifinal. Pirlo is a great football but I doubt he alone can defeat a talented team like the Germans.

23 June 2012

Quarter-final: Spain v France

Well, that turned out to not even be a contest now did it?
What the hell happened to France? What was their tactic, their game plan? Why even bother to show up if that was how they were going to play??
It was way too easy for Spain; even they looked bored by their dominance.
And so it was a 2-0 win for the Spanish (both goals from Xabi Alonso which was a bit of a shocker) and Portugal is up next for them. At least Ronaldo will give them more of a game than the French did.

22 June 2012

Quarter-Final: Germany v Greece

Six goals, a penalty, counter attacks, smashing volleys.... this game was another great one. This tournament seriously rocks.
Germany looked awesome and quite frighteningly deadly in both attack and defense and you could just tell this was theirs for the taking. It was wave of attack after attack from the Germans and it's hard not to see this team in the final come July 1st.
Greece gave it a game by tying it up 1-1 just after the second half began but Germany were just too much for Greece and it became a game of how many can they get? In the end, it was 4-2, with Greece getting only the second penalty of the tournament as the match was coming to a close.
So Germany move on to the semis to meet either England or Italy and Greece go home without another upset like their 2004 triumph.

21 June 2012

Quarter-Final: Czech Republic v Portugal

A tense game. And unexpectedly defensive from the Czechs; they had some moments of attack but overall, it was amazing to see how many of their players (and how quickly) would surround any Portuguese player with the ball. Ronaldo, once again, had multiple chances & his facial expressions every time he missed were excellent.
Then in the second half, when we were still 0-0, Jenny was sure it was heading to penalties but I could feel a goal coming. And, of course, it was from Cristiano. A ridiculously nice diving header and that was all that they needed to move on to the semifinals next week. Portuguese footballing legends Figo & Eusebio look like they enjoyed it.
Next up for Portugal? The winner of the Spain v France quarter final.

20 June 2012

Commerical Break

A day of no football is a sad day indeed after the excitement we've had from the past twelve days.
So, instead of games, I've been entertaining myself with one of the best by-products of an international tournament: the adverts staring famous players.
In years past this has yielded great spots such as Maldini & co fighting demons, "the cage" tournament, and the Brazilian team dribbling through the airport just to name a few classics.
This year we've already seen Mario trying out different hairstyles and now I've seen this ridiculous (in a good way) Pepsi advert featuring Torres, Drogba, Lamps, Messi & more on the telly a few times and it makes me laugh every. single. time.
Jenny's reaction (via gchat) once she saw it:
 Jenny: lol
  i was like
  "who's that dork"
  it was lamps

19 June 2012

Group stage closing thoughts

After twelve straight days of football, seeing 24 matches with 60 goals and not one 0-0 draw, it's been one hell of a tournament already. And now we come to the knockout stages where one little mistake could send your team out; I really hope that doesn't mean we'll suddenly see more cautious play but I fear it could. I have a feeling at least one of these quarter final games will go to penalties & we all know how crushing that can be (I still have the heartache for the Italians in Euro 2000).
My highlights? Ridiculously good goals from Balotelli against Ireland, Ibrahimovic against France and Welbeck against Sweden just to name my top three so far. New revelations like Russia's Dzagoev making a name for themselves up against superstars like Christiano Ronaldo and icons like Sheva. And then there were the Irish fans. Some other team should draft them in for the quarters so we don't lose them quite yet.
It's been brilliant & I eagerly await the quarter finals.
Predictions? Portugal v Germany and Spain v Italy in the semis, Germany v Spain in the final, Germany winning (even though my heart wants that Spanish win).
And what the hell will I do with myself tomorrow without a game to follow???

Time for Tech

Another international tournament, another dodgy goal line call. Maybe it really is time to allow technology into the modern game.
Now, I'm usually a purist. The last thing I want to see are instant replays on the sideline like American football. I think that would be a mistake.
But a little chip inside the ball and/or in the post to signal when a ball cross the line? Not intrusive, no stoppages, pretty simple.

Matches 23 & 24

Well well well. Interesting games, not the best of the last round but still some moments of excitement for sure.
First of all, there was Sweden v France which gave us a shockingly bad French team and a ridiculously amazing goal from Ibra. Once Sweden went ahead 1-0 and they knew England had taken the lead in their game, the French still couldn't get it in gear & do anything. And then their defense fell apart again in injury time and let in another goal and Sweden exit the tournament with a 2-0 win. It was quite incredible and if France are this woeful against Spain in the quarters they will be slaughtered.
Then there was the England v Ukraine game. England were dreadful in the first half & Ukraine should have scored. Rooney was a non-entity in that half but I guess that's not surprising as it was his first outing in this tournament. And he definitely improved, along with the rest of the team, in the second half as seen by his goal. There should have been another goal in this game as Ukraine scored but the ref, the linesman and the goal line assistant all failed to miss the ball going over the line before JT hooked it away; let the debates begin on letting technology enter the modern game. Anyway, England held on to the 1-0 win and the co-host were out.
The quarter final match ups of England v Italy and Spain v France look quite tasty but today's two teams will need improvement to make it to the semis.

18 June 2012

Matches 21 & 22

Nervy nervy games today. I was afraid we were heading to the first 0-0 of the tournament but luckily Spain dug deep and found a goal through substitute Jesus Navas. With that goal and win, they top the group but are not looking like the champions that they are. Unsettling to say the least.
Italy had one eye on that game and one on their own; Ireland had chances and gave the Italians plenty of worries contrary to the 2-0 scoreline. And while Balotelli's goal was excellent, I wonder what his teammate stopped him from saying?


Absolutely ridiculous.
How committed to stamping out racism is Uefa? Okay, they fined the Croatian FA 10,000 euros for the racist chants & banners against Italy. That's a small step but hey, at least they acted! And fairly quickly.
And then they announce a 100,000 euro fine (yup, you read that correctly) for Nicklas Bendtner's act of showing his underwear which promoted a company that was not a "official sponsor" of the tournament.
Let's look at that again: a 10,000 euro fine for racism but a 100,000 euro fine for something that affects their pocketbook.