1. Russia showed they are a soccer power… in the making. That is, they play well but make stupid tactical and psychological mistakes the more experienced soccer powers don’t (I’ll get to the Dutch problem later). They went into the game against the Greeks with the wrong mentality and got punished by the Spartan fighting spirit. Greece isn’t (and I think will never be) a soccer power but they always fight to the death, and all it takes is a few moments of hesitation or weakness from the major powers and we get 2004 all over again. 2. The Czechs bounced back very nicely, and I totally disagree with everyone who says they are lucky to get through to the quarters. They’ve been playing very well, and even without Rosicky they’ve managed to put together some quite high-quality play. I fear that they’ll have quite the task to challenge Portugal, especially with Ronaldo full of confidence and the one weak point of the Czech team being their defensive organization at times, but it will definitely be a high-quality match, deserving of a Euro quarter-final. 3. Ah, the Dutch. The long-awaited victims of the Group of Death. Their problem is not the same as the Russians, though. It wasn’t a mentality thing or a tactical thing. It was a team thing. Or rather a lack of it. The problem with this Dutch team is that it’s not a team, and it never has been. Yes, the World Cup run in 2010 was a fluke, I’m not afraid to say it. Their core of outstanding individuals - Sneijder, Robben, van Persie - had functioned just enough with the backing of van Bommel (The Butcher) and de Jong (The Assassin) to scrape through to the final. This time, we saw the team for what it was: Sneijder, Robben, van Persie, Huntelaar, et. al., minus any semblance of chemistry, and the strangest coaching I’ve seen since Domenech led France to ruin. No wonder it failed against real teams, which we knew Denmark would have to be to even reach the Euro, which we knew Germany is (and we all know that Spain-Germany semi should’ve been the final of the World Cup), and which, amazingly, Portugal managed to become. This Dutch team needed a lot more coaching than just putting names on paper in a certain formation and hoping for the best, and I guess it just didn’t get it. Too bad, goodbye. 4. Germany is still a beast and will munch Greece for dinner on Friday.
1. The first half showed us that Italy is still a powerhouse and can still compete despite lowered expectations. The second half showed us that they’re not the side they used to be, which brings into question their chances of even getting out of the group stage. 2. Pirlo is not Zidane, and even if he’s a Juve legend, I’m not sure he’s magical enough at 33 to carry the team as well and as far as Zidane did for France in 2006. He’s a great midfielder and controls Italy’s plays very well but he’s just not on the same level, no matter what the Italians would like to think. His free kick was beautiful, though. 3. Croatia plays with their heart and desire. They don’t have all that much pure skill - even Modric isn’t all that impressive I have to say. But they keep at it and score scrappy goals which wins them some (against Ireland) and keeps them in others (this case). They might be able to scrap their way out of the group stage but I can’t see them making it all that far. 4. It seems Italy will always have a disappointing striker and this time it was Cassano, and it’s him Di Natale should’ve replaced (although Prandelli did eventually replace Cassano with Giovinco). Balotelli was actually having a surprisingly good game.
1. Portugal showed they can rally and are always dangerous. Furthermore they proved that they do not have a Ronaldo dependence, as they managed a good result with a poor game from the man in question. 2. Denmark have potential but can’t seem to uphold the high quality of play that led to both their goals for any extended periods of time. They get these random nice plays that sometimes lead to goals. Happened twice tonight, but it won’t be enough to go very far in the tournament. 3. Leave Ronaldo alone. I’m far from being his biggest fan (I’m the one who was yelling at Mourinho to sub him off during last season’s first Clasico), but the guy has one or two bad games and you’re all at his throat - it’s hardly fair, and reminds me of how everyone was at Messi’s throat during his goal drought earlier this year. It’s stupid, lame, and ironic considering these guys are infinitely better than any of us will ever be.
1. The Czechs really controlled this game. The two early goals were the results of some very nice play, which we had seen hints of against Russia. I had said at the time that the Czechs could beat the other teams in the group and here we are! However the substitution at half-time of Rosicky and subsequent lack of any offensive drive shows a bit of a Rosicky-dependence. Still, these guys have quality. 2. The Greeks are too angry and get too frustrated, as symbolized by their coach’s body (and I presume verbal as well) language. Plus they don’t have enough quality to really contest, no matter what their defensive record through qualifications was like. They’ll get destroyed by Russia and pack their bags angrily. 3. The Greek goal was not Cech’s fault but rather the idiot defender who came across right as he was trying to deal with the ball. Cech didn’t really have much chance to do anything clean and the Greek striker had a little van Nistelrooy moment and popped an opportunistic ball into the empty net.
1. Nothing to be ashamed of for both sides. Other heavyweights have started the tournament equally (Spain, Italy) or worse (Netherlands, Portugal) so it’s not like a draw is anything to complain about. 2. That being said, if any side could’ve walked away with the three points it would’ve been the French. A thorough domination not just in possession but it the way they used the possession made for an interesting encounter as waves of blue attacks crashed against the English fortress. A snipe from Nasri made it through, but without the intervention of Gerrard’s back, Benzema could’ve found Hart’s top corner. England were most dangerous on the few set pieces they had, such as their goal - a beautiful delivery from Gerrard is all that’s needed, and it’s what they got. 3. In summary: England can do well if their fortress stays as intact as it (mostly) did against France. France can do much better if they shake off the defensive weaknesses that still creep in at the start of games and if they are a touch more efficient with their domination. I’m expecting both to make it through the group stages now though.
At Half Time: 1. All Russia. Nice goals although the first one would’ve been nicer if the original header had gone in. 2. The Czechs would be much more dangerous if their back line was a lot more solid. Weak back line means a less solid foundation to build from which means the talented front line of Rosicky, Plasil, Baros, and Jiracek don’t get a chance to shine. 3. Arshavin plays better for country than for club, it is now a fact. He’s an opposite Ronaldo (albeit on a lesser level).
At Full Time: 1. All Russia. Dzagoev is a beast and one to keep an eye on. The other striker whose name escapes me but was eventually replaced by Pavlyuchenko should let the latter take his place in the starting line-up because Pavlyuchenko’s goal as a substitute was a beauty and the aforementioned striker’s performance was less than desirable (besides putting that header off the post to “assist” Dzagoev for the first goal). 2. The Czechs are a good team and I’m gonna bill them to finish second in this group, even though they’re behind on points at the moment. Just look at their goal, beautifully set up by Plasil, and the way they could move the ball around at times. Seeing them against Poland will be a great game. 3. If this opening day is any indication for the rest of the tournament, we’re in for a treat!
It started as a halftime status update and now I’ve decided to make it a thing I do for every game I watch in full. Starting with this one, the opening game of Euro 2012.
At Halftime: 1. Very nice goal by Lewandowski. Great cross, clinical header, no chance for the goalie. 2. Sending-off was harsh; not because of the second yellow, but because the first one was never a yellow. However the second foul definitely was; even if the player had already slipped, the defender stepped into him and blocked his path - clear obstruction. On top of that he was the last man back, so you could almost give a direct red for that (although it would’ve been ridiculously harsh to do so). 3. No penalty. I mean let’s be serious, we’ve seen two or three players slip on the surface already, so we’re not gonna go give a penalty because a defender intercepting a cross slipped and fell on the ball. There was no intention of breaking the rules and had he not slipped he would’ve intercepted the cross anyways, so it’s not like it stopped a goal scoring opportunity in and of itself.
At Full Time: 1. Poland can become a very good team but are still new to the international scene and we can see how they sort of let the game slip away from them whilst undoubtedly being the better team. 2. The Greeks come up with their usual fighting spirit and it earns them a point through a scrappy/lucky goal that shows Poland how international football can kill you if you screw up evenonce. 3. The Penalty/Szczesny’s red card/Salpingidis’ idiocy/Szczesny’s sacrifice. Long ball over the top, Salpingidis’ run fools the Polish defence, Szczesny comes out to meet him, Salpingidis goes down, penalty, red card. Alright, fair enough. But the description that immediately follows is that Salpingidis “won” the penalty, Szczesny “gave it away” and “got punished”. May I propose an alternative: Salpingidis is an idiot for having given away the penalty, and Szczesny is a great goalie by having won it. It might be counter-intuitive, but let me explain: I’ve played as a striker many times and I’ve been in the position Salpingidis was in. He’s a decent striker, he managed to pop the ball around Szczesny in a way that he would be able to get back on the end of it and pass it into an empty net. Instead, he sees Szczesny has come out to challenge him and he leaves his leg trailing to create the “unavoidable foul” as I call them and draw the penalty. What a stupid thing to do. When you see a goalie come out to challenge, it’s not that hard to skip over or around their challenge - look at Torres hopping over Valdes in the Champion’s League semi-final. Do that and you have a goal. Instead, Salpingidis goes down and “wins” a penalty that his captain then misses/the backup goalie saves. From Szczesny’s point of view, everything went the best it could have gone. His defence leaves him exposed, so instead of letting Salpingidis get a goal, he takes him down, sacrifices himself for his team and country, and instills the chance of a miss inherent in a penalty. And what do you know - it pays off. I could go on a full other rant about the “unavoidable foul” as the new form of diving but I’ll stop here for now. I might have a chance to do it in the analysis of another game!