Monday, June 16, 2008

Euro 2008: Signs of life & some shock therapy

I have learned a lot of things via soccer but on Sunday, I learned something new entirely. Turkey's stunning 3-2 comeback win against the Czech Republic was just a phenomenal result but the manner of their late winner can be attributed to a footballing example of "shock therapy". Naomi Klein's excellent book The Shock Doctrine talks about how various individuals and corporations use(d) time of emergencies to sweep wide changes to take advantage of innocent citizens. The rationale behind this is(was) that when people are in an emotionally vulnerable mental state, then anything goes. Turkey were trailing 2-1 with less than 5 minutes to go when a fumble by Petr Čech allowed Turkish captain Nihat to level the game up. The Czechs were in a state of shock so much so that less than a minute later, another Turkish attack allowed Nihat to break free and curl a beautiful shot to lead Turkey into the Quarter finals.

Petr Čech is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, if not the best. This was just a rare mistake by him. Last year, he fumbled a corner against Arsenal which allowed William Gallas to head Arsenal to a 1-0 win over Chelsea. On Sunday, he stumbled yet another cross but before that, he and the entire Czech defense were busy trying to withstand wave after wave of Turkish attacks. But his mistake sent the entire Czech team into a state of disbelief. And it was then that they were most vulnerable and Turkey were full worth for their remarkable win. Another example of this "shock therapy" took place in the 1999 European Cup Final between Bayern Munich and Manchester United. Back then, Munich took an early lead and dominated United but they were unable to score a crucial second goal. With time running out, Man Utd tied the game up. Bayern were in such a state of shock that less than a minute later, they let Man Utd get another goal to win 2-1 -- two goals in 2 minutes gave Man Utd the European Cup. In the 2005 European Cup final, Milan raced to a 3-0 half-time lead against Liverpool. Milan dominated the game except for 6 second half minutes when Liverpool scored three goals to tie things up. In those 6 minutes, Milan looked completely disorganized and disoriented.

It was good to see Turkey come away with a win. Yah for attacking football! And the tournament is finally showing some signs of life. In fact, one had to wait until the 4th day for two teams to score goals in a single game. When Spain beat Russia 4-1, the lone Russian goal was the first time at this year's tournament an opponent managed to find the target. The 8 previous games had ended 1-0, 2-0, 1-0, 2-0, 0-0 & 3-0. A majority of the football has been cautious and dull but there have been some rare delightful moments. And Turkey's magical final 15 minutes stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Also, the game showed that sometimes the margin between defeat and victory is separated by a tiny fraction. Czech Republic could have made it 3-0 and finished the game off but their shot hit the post. On the other hand, Arda Turan's 75th minute goal hit the inside of the post and went in to make it 2-1. When Nihat curled his stunning shot, the ball appeared to be curving above the goal until it hit the underside of the crossbar and settled in gracefully into the net.

After Round 2, only two out of 16 were eliminated
It was good to see that after all the teams had played their first two games, only two teams were officially eliminated (Switzerland and Greece). All four groups had been won with a further 10 teams in contention for that crucial second place.

After Sunday (June 15) & Monday's (June 16) games, both Groups A & B are now decided.
Group A: Portugal and Turkey advance
  • Switzerland 2-0 Portugal
  • Turkey 3-2 Czech Republic

  • Group B: Croatia and Germany advance
  • Austria 0-1 Germany
  • Croatia 1-0 Poland

  • Day 8 -- Sat, June 14:

    Group D: Spain wins group
  • Spain 2-1 Sweden
  • Greece 0-1 Russia

  • David Villa just keeps increasing his asking price. Villa scored a delightful last minute goal to lead Spain to a worthy 2-1 win over Sweden. Even though there were some nasty fouls in the game, both teams played a technically delightful game to watch. The first half was a real joy to observe in terms of the effort from both Spain and Sweden. However, in the second half Sweden sat back allowing Spain to play some clever balls and display some tricks. Still Sweden looked dangerous on the counter-attack and both teams tried to get a winner until the final minutes, even though both attempted to push for a winning goal within the confines of their cautious framework.

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