Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Euro 2008: Films vs Football

With Italy getting knocked out by Spain on penalties in the Quarter-Finals, my Euro 2008 prediction is gone out the window. I had predicted Italy to beat Germany in the final with Portugal and France also making the semi's. As it stands, only Germany has made the semi's from my predicted four teams, with Germany standing a great chance to make the final.

So now is a good time as any to compare the Euro 2008 Film Festival results with the soccer games.

Films vs Football Comparison:

Only three countries had both their films and soccer teams advance to the quarter finals. Portugal and Spain won their respective groups in both cases with Germany finishing second in both Euro 2008 and the film festival. Interestingly, the winners of Group B, C and D in both cases ended up with a rating of 9 -- 9/10 for the film festival, and 9 points (or 3 straight wins) in the soccer tournament.

Only one quarter final was similar for both the film and soccer tournament with the same outcome, Germany winning on both counts. Spain also triumphed in both film and soccer results.

Soccer Film Festival Final:
Score: Poland 3 (Acting, Story, Cinematography) - 3 Romania (Acting, Story, Direction)

Winner: Romania (12:08 East of Bucharest), on a subjective penalty shoot-out.

Euro 2008: Semi's overlook

I would honestly prefer a Turkey vs Russia soccer final as both teams provided some of the best soccer memories during this tournament. Russia have played the best football of the tournament in their perfect demolition of Holland and Sweden in their last two games. Turkey on the other hand have provided the best drama of any team with three late thrillers. Turkey stunned the hosts Switzerland with a last gasp winner and followed that with 2 goals in the final few minutes to dump Czech Republic out of the tournament. But Turkey saved the biggest drama against Croatia in the Quarters. After Croatia scored what looked like a winning goal in the 118th minute, Turkey shocked everyone by tying the game up with a few seconds left on the clock. Croatia were in such a state of shock that they could not even put away their penalties and were easily brushed aside in the shoot out.

However, Turkey is missing quite a few players via injury and suspensions for their semi-final encounter against Germany. I am not sure where a Turkish goal will come from with the absence of Nihat, Tuncay Şanli and Arda Turan. On top of that Turkey might struggle to fill the bench with enough substitutes so it will be a very tough job for their wafer thin squad. I cannot look at the German team without thinking of their cheating ways. Against Portugal, the third German goal was illegal as Ballack pushed Paulo Ferreira out of the way before heading Germany's third goal. But the officials did not see the offense and the goal was allowed to stand. On top of that, Christoph Metzelder and Ballack faked their dives and injuries against Portugal. Everytime I saw the bearded Metzelder and Ballack, I could not avoid seeing the huge CHEAT sign hanging over their heads. If Germany were that good, then why did some of their players (including their captain) need to cheat? Unfortunately, Germany might still stumble into the final due to the absent Turkish players rather than any brilliance on part of the German players. Nonetheless, it will be an emotional match with plenty of Turkish neighbourhoods across Germany tuned in.

I am looking forward to the Spain - Russia game. I believe the first game between the two (Spain won 4-1 in the Group D game) can easily be ignored as the Russian defense was nervous and the team had no attacking bite. With the return of Arshavin, Russia is a completely different team altogether. Spain showed their shortcomings against Italy when a tactically clueless Italian team were successfully able to neutralize a talented Spanish side. The Italians were awful and one-dimensional; in every attack they only looked for Toni who was ineffective. On top of that, Italian coach Roberto Donadoni was unable to make any relevant changes and deprived the opportunity to inject some pace into a lethargic Italian team by not giving any chances to Quagliarella or Borriello. So the second semi-final will come down to a battle of wits with the two coaches (Guus Hiddink vs Luis Aragonés). If Russia can stop Xavi, Cesc (provided he starts) and Iniesta in the Spanish mid-field, then David Villa and Torres will be unable to inflict any damage. On the other hand, if Spain can somehow control Arshavin, then Russia will be done. For now, I am backing Russia to advance.

What If......

What if Eduardo was not injured for Croatia? Then Croatia would not have needed extra-time to beat Turkey!

What if I had gone with my original Turkish film selection of Climates by Nuri Bilge Ceylan? Well then Turkey would have won the Euro 2008 Film festival!! Even though I gave Climates a rating of 9/10, its beautiful cinematography would have been enough for it to have edged the German, Polish and Romanian films. Unfortunately, Climates was not available back in Feb-March and I could not risk waiting until June to see the last remaining film festival selection.

And finally......

Overall, the soccer at Euro 2008 has been much better than the entire Euro 2004 & 2002 World Cup combined; Russia's 3-1 win over Holland is clearly the best international game I have seen in quite a few years. I enjoyed the 2006 World Cup as there were some lovely moments (Argentina's 24 pass goal against Serbia, Italy fielding 4 strikers against Germany in the semi's and France's neutralization of Brazil to name a few) so I cannot say that Euro 2008 is better than the 2006 World Cup but after a few dull opening days, Euro 2008 certainly kicked into life.

[Update: Wed, June 25, 2008]
As expected Germany reached the final of Euro 2008 with a 3-2 win over Turkey. But going by the 90 minute match, it was indeed a surprizing result as Turkey took the game to Germany. The make shift Turkish team shackled Germany and rendered them ineffective for a majority of the game until a late goal send Germany through. Turkey started the tournament by giving up a late second goal to Portugal but for the next three games, it was Turkey who scored the late goals. On Wed, after Klose had headed Germany into a 2-1 lead, Turkey tied things up with 4 minutes left on the clock. But the fairy tale came to an end as Lahm ended a neat passing move to score the late winner. Overall, Turkey played quite well and deserved to make the final.

Note: The Klose goal was one that the entire world missed as a power outage in Basel took down all the satellite feeds.
[Update: Thu, June 26, 2008]
  • Russia 0 - 3 Spain

  • For now, I am backing Russia to advance.

    Ha Ha. Shows how much I know. But then I also said...

    If Russia can stop Xavi, Cesc (provided he starts) and Iniesta in the Spanish mid-field, then David Villa and Torres will be unable to inflict any damage. On the other hand, if Spain can somehow control Arshavin, then Russia will be done.

    Obviously, Russia could not stop Cesc. Even though Mr. Aragonés, the Spanish coach, really wanted to hold Cesc back and only he knows why. So when Villa got injured, Aragonés brought on Cesc. But what if Villa was not injured? Would Cesc have come on? Sometimes, we never will know.

    So the final is between Germany and Spain, the two teams picked by a majority of journalists & soccer pundits to win the tournament. Germany was an easy pick to reach the final as they had no real competition from their side of the draw. Portugal didn't count because as long as they had Big Phil as their coach, they would never win anything. Yes I know Scolari won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 but that was because none of the other teams gave a damn back in 2002, except Korea. The real tough draw was between Group C and Group D, where the likes of France, Italy, Holland and Spain would have battled it out. France were never a threat because their coach had his girlfriend in mind, Italy were too much in love with Toni to bother passing the ball to anyone else and Holland were in denial that Russia was playing the Dutch way of football to bother trying. So all Spain had to do was survive a clueless Italian team and then let Cesc do what he does best against Russia. Ofcourse, the Spanish plan involved an injury to David Villa and only then could Cesc come on. Simple really.

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