Saturday, June 14, 2008

Euro 2008: Rang De Mausambi

Day 7, Friday June 13

  • Holland 4-1 France
  • Italy 1-1 Romania

  • Psst. Have you heard?
    The Dutch are back!
    Yup. They beat Italy 3-0 and dispatched France 4-1. And they are playing like a team again! No more infighting.

    Wait...Hang on a minute. Let us get some things clear first. This Dutch team is not like the old Dutch team of the 70's. This team is a ruthless, colder and more sinister version of the previous Dutch teams who believed in pure football. Yes the Dutch class of 2008 play like a unified group of players, which includes hunting in packs -- counter attacking together and fouling together. But they are not the creative force of the past, who took the game to their opponents as opposed to sitting back and taking their chances.

    Although credit must be given where it is due. Holland were indeed clinical and took their chances well. But just like against Italy, Holland benefitted from a slice of good fortune. Against Italy on Monday, Holland scored a proper first goal but I still believe they got the call due to an initial error but it just so happened on a closer inspection, it was a correct call; that call changed the complexion of the game and Holland went on to pick apart a broken Italian team. Against France, a clear-cut penalty against Holland was denied when Ooijer handled a French shot. And that call did change the game as France pushed forward and Holland took advantage of the gaps available to them.

    The Dutch started the game with a flurry of fouls (De Jong took out Ribery less than a minute into the game) and took an early lead when Kuyt stayed on his feet to smartly head home. But Holland did nothing after that until their second goal. They just sat back, fouled France whenever they got a chance, and used the burning pace of Robben to double their lead. Ooijer, Kuyt and Giovanni van Bronckhorst were quite proficient in fouling their French counter-parts (note: although Makelele was equally sinister in fouling his opponents). But I should not complain too much as this is the way European football is going -- sit back, break up the opponents play and hit them on the break. Talented players like Kuyt are an example of the way European soccer is evolving. Kuyt spends more time off the ball, making runs, fouling his opponents than spending creative time on the ball. No wonder he is such an asset to Liverpool where he fits in perfectly with Rafa's plan to play boring football. And I still cannot forget the foul that Kuyt got away with against Hleb against Arsenal in the champions league. On the other hand, Van Persie has much more talent than Kuyt but because of his injury, he has only gotten a minor role at Euro. Still it was good to see Van Persie take his chance beautifully against France. Van Persie is the player most associated with the good old Dutch attacking football not Kuyt but it is because of players like Ooijer and Kuyt that Holland are getting their results.

    Still despite all my dislike about the Dutch fouling, I sincerely hope they go ahead and win Euro 2008. They have scored the most beautiful goals of any team and are the best of an average bunch of European teams this year.

    When I first saw Group C, I had wondered if Holland and Romania would advance like a scenario from Euro 2000. Back then, Portugal, England, Germany and Romania were drawn in a tough group. Everyone expected England and Germany to advance but based on the technical talent Portugal & Romania had, I had expected Portugal and Romania to upset England and Germany and that is exactly what happened -- Portugal and Romania moved to the Quarters. This time however, I thought France and Italy would advance despite their problems. But as it turns out, both France and Italy are in danger of going out. If Romania beat Holland, then the result between France and Italy will not matter. Romania could have made life easier for themselves had Mutu converted their penalty and knocked Italy out on Friday but Buffon saved Italy and now the World Champions need a huge favour from the Dutch to advance. For France, I really hope this tournament is the end of Raymond Domenech's coaching days as he done nothing to improve the rot that has existed in the French team since Euro 2000.

    Day 6: Lighting strikes again after a gap of 10 years

  • Croatia 2-1 Germany
  • Austria 1-1 Poland

  • 10 years ago Slaven Bilić was a player in the Croatian team that upset Germany at the 1998 World Cup. This time around with Bilić as the coach, Croatia once again screwed up the odds to beat Germany to advance to the Quarter Finals. Germany's numerous problems were exposed and they must now regroup to avoid another embarrassment at the Euros.

    Austria kept their slim hopes alive with a 1-1 tie against Poland. Both teams displayed plenty of poor football but amazingly, both teams still have a shot at the quarters. Although, neither team has an easy job -- Germany will be a handful for Austria and Croatia will atleast want a tie against Poland to avoid Portugal in the next round.

    1 comment:

    Pacze Moj said...

    Croatia have already clinched first spot: 6 points and the head-to-head against Germany.

    They're playing their reserves against the Poles.


    Not that Poland can beat even Croatia's bench players, but, still...