Saturday, 16 June 2012

Euro 2012 roundtable #10 The Imminent Goalless Draw

So, only a few days behind schedule - blame relatives dying, computers nomming peoples work and one of our lot getting married and expecting a child within the next fortnight. That'll be Gav, incidentally. Just the marriage and child bit mind you.

Today we have the fight back that nearly was, the Germans acting like the Dutch, a slight massacre, an appearance from a long forgotten God, and wonderful predictions mixed in with great moments of hat eating. 

Plus, the return of our Polish and Danish correspondents, and the man never afraid to call a spade a shovel, Joao Diogo Reis. 

It's a bit long, this one, so the intro ends here. To the action!






Denmark v Portugal





"We deserved the victory, but we suffered too much, considering what we did [in the first half].”
Bento





“The only thing we were thinking about was the victory and we had to fight for it until the last minute. That is what I tried to transmit to my team-mates and then everyone showed a good reaction. Fortunately, we were able to score.
Nani







Michael: A sting in the tale often depends on your definition. A hard working Denmark were undone by two clinical goals early on by the Portuguese, only to fight right back in the tie, seeing Ronaldo miss a sitter, before Varela produced the heart breaker. The Portuguese squad have rallied around Ronaldo, yet even I could have scored from his great chance.






Daniel Agger made some foolish errors in his play, which was saddening after his brilliant performance against Holland. His fellow in defence, Poulsen (Simon), was unable to deal with Portugal bombing forward. Lars Jacobsen, who did well against the Dutch, produced another fine individual performance as he shackled all attacks in his area. I don’t remember him playing for West Ham or Blackburn, but his performances at these Euros have been fine for a defender in his thirties. Kvist continued to impress in the centre of the pitch, and tracking back, and but for a better slice of luck could have scored. Nicolas Bendtner managed to score two goals, neither impressive but he did well to finish off his team mates work, and he scored two more goals than a certain Cristiano did. And finally Krohn Delhi, who scored the winner against the Dutch, managed to impress with his ability to create chances for his team mates.




Ronaldo on the other hand was really dreadful. One of his worst performances in years, both in missing passes and chances that lesser talents would have put away with ease. Pepe continues to be the most annoying man in football. Nani produced an improved performance after his Round one flop, with some nice crosses. And the much maligned during his England stay, Postiga, scored again. Portugal looked far more attack minded than they had against Germany, and it proved to be the making of them.





Danish fans managed to rile Ronaldo chanting MEssi at him.



"You know where he was at this time [last year]? Do you know? He was being eliminated in the Copa America, in his own country.I think that's worse, no?" Ronaldo, with a classy response to those chants.







Jon:

I don’t tend to bear too many grudges against international teams – I’ve forgiven Scotland for Joe Jordan’s handball in 1977, Romania for breaking my heart in 1994 and even Russia for cruelly toying with us during the Euro 2004 playoffs. Instead I’ll be utterly inconsistent and dislike teams based on their current modus operandi or personnel – I’m still not overly forgiving of the Greeks for denying the Czechs in the 2004 Euros for instance, and their methods haven’t changed that much. My current pantomime villains fail on both their modus operandi in major competitions (defence, defence and more defence unless they can bully the opposition) and personnel (I maintain that a dislike of Ronaldo’s preening and Pepe’s gamesmanship is not only the right but the duty of all sentient human beings).




Portugal came in to the game knowing that a defeat would leave their qualifying hopes almost non-existent. They’ve the proud record of never failing to get out of the group stages when qualifying for a major tournament to maintain and whilst losing to one of the best teams in the tournament was a setback, it’s far from an insurmountable one. The Danes finished ahead of them in qualifying, though they split the games so this promised to be an intriguing contest between two evenly matched teams.




Portugal’s positive approach was pleasantly surprising, the possibility of elimination bringing a positive intent though the first twenty minutes saw t hem restricted to long shots including Ronaldo’s usual attempts from ludicrous situations where might have been better served by passing. They were rewarded when Pepe met a corner with a clever run to the near post. Given his header which hit the bar against Germany he’s been an impressive threat in the opposition penalty area in a tournament where set piece delivery has generally been poor. I’ll try not to dole out any more praise given I said good things about him in the first game too.



Raul Meireles proceeded to break up a promising Danish attack with his hand –t could’ve been a red card given it almost certainly prevented a goalscoring opportunity. But still we’d seen little of Denmark in attack, and for those of us who love a bit of schadenfreude there was further disappointment when the rarely better than adequate at this level Postiga lost Kjaer to head in at the near post. The questions were now all for the Danes – did they have the resilience?



If there was a vote for best player in the world Niklas Bendtner would receive precisely one vote – his own. Even if he was banned for voting for himself he’d still put his own name forward. He wasn’t left with much to do after a beautifully unselfish header from Krohn Delli but it’s never unpleasant to see this Portugal side concede.




The first twenty minutes of the second half was a story of Portugese dominance, those of us who enjoy the ego of pampered posturers being pricked having much to enjoy when Ronaldo made a mess of a one on one early in the half and another when he dragged a shot wide with twelve minutes left that would surely have settled the match in Portugal’s favour. I’m still of the opinion that Ronaldo’s game lacks the subtlety and intelligence of Messi’s ahead of power – he doesn’t seem to have the ability to outthink an opponent when he can’t simply overwhelm them with his pace and power. Ronaldo protested after the game, in the face of Danish chants of ‘Messi!’ that comparisons with the Argentinian don’t bother him, that’s the sound of someone who protesteth too much though. 



Serendipity was favouring Denmark though. Dennis Rommendahl’s international career (well over 100 caps for a pacy winger is probably some sort of record), his replacement Mikkelsen had brought a threat to the Danish attacks that hadn’t been there before. And the lovers of schadenfreude had their hopes raised when the World’s Greatest Player In His Own Head lost Pepe far too easily to nod an equaliser in. Not only were Portugal sinking, we’d get to see Ronaldo trying to excuse how he missed those relatively simple opportunities to put the game away. 



Messi




Unfortunately sometimes luck favours the utter bastards. Varela, brought on mere seconds earlier, made a complete hash of a shot, Poulsen, in direct contradiction of the laws of defending made himself as small a target as possible when the ball fell fortunately straight back to Varela, and the ball was lasered past Andersen into the corner. The joy of the Polish goal last night? This was the exact opposite. 




Messi! 



Portugal then perhaps not quite all out defensive bandits but questions remain over their approach to playing teams they perceive as equals or betters. The Danes? Well that prediction of their going through looks far less secure now, they face a formidable task to get a result against a good German side.


 

Messi! 




And which eejits were speculating the night before on this being a fine candidate for the first 0-0 of the tournament? I’m saying nothing, but those same eejits say England-Sweden’s nailed on to be goalless .




Oh, and that Ronaldo? Not a patch on that Messi…






After we went behind 2-0, we started playing really well and we found spaces really well, especially behind Ronaldo. He's better going towards the goal than going backwards.” Krohn-Dehli, damning with faint praise and pointing out flaws in the Real Madrid mans game.





"It was a heroic performance. We showed a fantastic attitude in the second half. We must try to recover as fast as possible and then we must go for at least one point on Sunday. Perhaps we were lucky against Netherlands, but today we were unlucky not to get at least a point. But that’s football for you." Morten Olsen






Keld: I saw the game outside at a giant screen, and the atmosphere was amazing in the second half as people could sense that we were beginning to push back Portugal. The whole thing of course culminated with Bendtner's second goal, and there were Roman candles and beers all over the place. Unfortunately things died down quite dramatically shortly after. 




It was a great comeback, and yet another fine performance from the Danish team, although we yet again had to rely on a superstar firing nothing but blanks. Varela's decisive goal must have been quite a relief for Ronaldo, who would have faced quite a grilling in the media if those two terrible finished had cost Portugal two points.



Our defensive play was generally not much worse than in the game against Holland, but this time our opponents took advantage of the chances. Agger and Kjær both missed a crucial marking at respectively the first and the second goal, while Simon Poulsen's passive attitude at the second and third goal should be criticized as well.



Zimling's injury unfortunately re-occurred early in the match, and he was replaced by Jakob Poulsen, who is a less reliable passer but makes great forward runs. Combined with the fact that Christian Eriksen had another poor game, which is understandable as he was man marked again, it meant that we barely created anything through the middle. Thankfully, the flanks were quite open as Ronaldo did not bother defending, which really does not make his performance look better. Jacobsen took advantage of this at the second goal when he had all the time in the world to hit a fine cross for Bendtner. Hitting crosses while the ball is moving has, painfully obvious to FC København fans, never been Jacobsen's finest quality, but this time he even had enough time to stop the ball completely.


A fantastic performance by Big Ben up front that might have raised the amount that Arsenal can make from his departure. Krohn-Dehli didn't have much of an impact, but the header at the first goal was clever. Dennis Rommedahl might have played his last game for Denmark; the 34-year old winger had to withdraw from his 118th cap with an injury, and has already been ruled out for the Germany game. If he retires after this tournament, then it has unfortunately not been a pretty ending to a fine career on the national team. He has neither created any dangerous situations nor been tracking back to shelter the fullback.




The hopes diminished somewhat with the Portugal defeat, but we are still fairly confident. A draw against Germany, and a Dutch win is probably the most realistic scenario we can hope for. However, there have been talks of a repeat of the 2-2 game against Sweden eight years ago. A 3-2 win for Denmark would put both teams through, and yet again result in exit for a team from Southern Europe. It does not look as "likely" as it did eight years ago, and will probably at least require that Russia finishes second in their group so 2nd place in the group would be acceptable to the Germans






"I do not think that Portugal are one of the top two or three teams in the competition. But these are small tournaments and we will soon enter the knockout stages. In 90 minutes - sometimes there is extra time or penalty shootout - everything is settled. As such, if Portugal reach the quarter-finals, anything can happen." Jose Mourinho






Germany v Holland





Jon:

Last weekend in Group B... the Dutch forget to put the ball in the net, the Danes remember how to, the Portugese forget to attack until they’re behind and the Germans remember their lost knack of overcoming obdurate resistance. And those of us who tipped Germany and Denmark to go through show a glimmer of smugness.




There’s little in football more fragile than Kieron Dyer, but one of those things is the harmony of a Dutch squad. And under the pressure of an opening day defeat to a side they were supposed to beat the harmony cracked with van der Vaart moaning about sitting on the bench and Sneijder denouncing ‘pathetic egos’. The two complaints may not entirely be unrelated.




Once again the Dutch started well, once again van Persie missed chances, once again they were punished. We were treated to the rare phenomenon of the Germans allowing the opposition more possession but aside from the opening flurry and a late van Persie goal they did very little threatening with it. In a short tournament you’re always liable to be punished for passing up your opportunities, particularly when your opponents are famed for their knack of taking their opportunities. The latest in the line of German goalscorers who relentlessly punish the opposition, from Muller through Rumenigge to Voller and Ballack is Mario Gomez and twice he demonstrated to the wasteful Van Persie how to seize the day. Firstly he pirouetted onto a Schweinsteiger through ball before beating Steklenberg, then, after the Germans had continued their torment of the young left back Jetro Willems, raced on to another well weighted Schweinsteiger pass to lash a shot across the keeper and effectively settle the game. Willems is the youngest player ever to play at a European Championship, and his inexperience was repeatedly exposed by Muller, Schweinsteiger and Gomez. It was a practical demonstration of why most managers prefer older heads in defence.




You can always tell if a manager’s desperate by his substitutions and a double substitution at halftime is a pretty good indicator that Van Marwijk was a desperate man indeed. Chasing the game meant Van Bommel would have been a redundant presence and Afellay had been rendered ineffective rather than energised by his enforced injury lay off. Adding Van der Vaart and Huntelaar merely allowed the Germans to hog the ball, Muller, Ozil and Schweinsteiger controlling the game comfortably. The Germans were closer to 3-0 than the Dutch were to getting back into the game, Hummels allowed to wander forward to the edge of the Dutch box unchallenged before drawing a fine double save. For those of us brought up on the legends of total football it was a wonderful thing to see, even if it was executed against the originators of the concept.




The Dutch did pull one back with some beautifully intricate passing releasing Van Persie to cut in from the left and power a shot past Neuer. The German response to that? Spoil the Dutch party, keep the ball and watch their opponents become frustrated – Robben’s reaction to being substituted showed how the Germans had once again got inside the Dutch heads and left them looking the bunch of gifted individuals they are in the face of the master exponents of team play. The Dutch were flattered by a single goal defeat, in much the same way Mike Tyson was flattered by lasting eight rounds when on the receiving end of a masterclass from Lennox Lewis.




And yet, despite the disunity the Dutch still have a chance of qualification. James Lawton of the Independent described their chance as a mathematical improbabibity, but the prospect of a German victory over the Danes combined with a two goal Dutch win is hardly unthinkable. It’s far more unlikely that the Germans would go out by losing to the Danes and Portugal winning, but again that’s possible. Germany and Portugal look the favourites to progress, maintaining the Portugese record of always qualifying from the group stage when at a tournament finals. With the Dutch in a fractured, frustrated mood the real question from the last group games is how many cards will be issued in that game. The Germans? Quietly in gear and the question is who can stop them aside from Spain.






Michael: It’s never been a 0-0 between these two sides, and it wasn’t going to be once Mario Gomez had his say. Gomez made many of his critics look foolish, scoring his second and third goals of the tournament so far. A late Van Persie goal was too little too late, and at times during the second it was one way traffic towards the Dutch goal. Late on, Klose even had a chance for 3-1 but the keeper held firm despite an earlier error in the same move.




This game is usually people’s second favourite team against their least favourite side in Britain, and I am no exception. Only, I like the Germans. At the last World Cup, this German side looked like an exciting prospect for the future, but when their backs were up against the wall, they suffered, as shown in games against Serbia and fatally Spain. Here, they have had two tougher games in the Spain ilk, and come away with two vital wins in a group that doesn’t allow any hiccups. It speaks of a growing maturity within this group of players, which bodes well for the future, and talks ominously for their opponents. They might not win Euro 2012, but it will take a strong performance to see them out.




For Holland, poor Jetro Willems seemed like he was being sent to the wolves out there. Especially in the second half, when shamefully his team mates send to just leave him and dry to deal with several attackers. That he managed to keep calm most of the time was of great credit to the teenager. This did not seem a Dutch side that was playing for the team, more a collection of sulking individuals. The Germans played as a team, Kloses cheering of Gomez being a stand out moment on the first match day, and their key top class players like Schweinsteiger, Ozil and Muller produced brilliant but selfless performances. That was the difference between the two sides. Muller had shown signs of petulance in the first game, but they were gone here, as he worked effortlessly to create chances for his team mates. Ozil did everything but score, and it is wonderful to see, when the German chancellor bemoans multiculturalism in the recent past, that millions of young Germans are idolising a practicing Muslim of Turkish decent, who prays before every match. A side of young talents from all backgrounds, fighting for each other, and thrilling in the process: as much as Spain are, Germany are also the blueprint for the future of the European game. And it’s a very exciting future.





As for Holland, they look to be heading home in disgrace very soon, be it in the group stage or an early knock out round. They only have themselves to blame.






"We simply defended very poorly. And the cooperation between the defence and the two holding midfielders was disappointing.We put in a good performance in the opening 20 minutes and got some decent chances. But you have to be at your very best if you want to beat Germany. Some of the players are struggling with their form.” Bert van Marwijk




Van Marwijk’s position is to be “reviewed” once the tournament is over. You may begin playing the Jaws theme, or Dvorak, same thing, in your head. 




"We have still a chance when we win 2-0 and Germany helps us. We simply have to believe in our chance." Van der Vaart 




"I do apologise to everyone for everything.This is very hard. We didn't see this coming. There is a real sense that we let the Germans win." Sneijder




"They achieved something at the 2010 World cup, and then started to believe that they're a great team. However, even though we still have a lot of the same players, things have changed since. Everybody is thinking about their own interest rather than about the team. They are really going to regret that they threw away the chance at European glory later on. If only the team were as united as the players claim they are." Willem van Hanegem 




"Mario was always a fighter. He laid on the ground so often & now he's stood up again. He has good confidence after this great season he had"
Joachim Low 




“We seem to have seen the demise of Dutch football, beaten in both their opening games, with even – or especially – Robin Van Persie firing blanks, until he scored that spectacular late but futile goal against Germany, with his right rather than his favoured left foot. The Dutch attack, despite all the good busy work of Inter’s Wesley Sneijder, and the presence of Arjen Robben and his deadly left foot, has lost so much of its menace, while the defence has been liable to costly mistakes.” Brian Glanville 




Glanville gets the final word here as, quite simply, he is the finest living British sports writer. Even in his 81st year, and with sixty years of writing about the game in all forms, few have his insight. Or his tangents, humour and uncompromising tendency to speak out. You can read his weekly columns on the World Soccer website.





Italy v Croatia





"Prandelli has completely changed Italy, they score more goals now and are no longer considered defensive.Regardless of the likes of Balotelli, Cassano and Di Natale in attack, the key to Italy's game is in their midfield. Marchisio is doing a phenomenal job and even more attention needs to be paid to Pirlo. We must not allow him too much time on the ball.”
Robert Jarni






Michael: Italy had never beaten Croatia, bar one moment during the Second World War. So the pressure was on for Prandellis men after their morale boosting draw with the World Champions. It was all Italy from the kick off, with continued pressing, and they could have taken the lead early on, but for some wayward shooting from Balotelli. In game one he didn’t shot, in game two he overshot, law of averages say he’ll get it just right against the Irish. Just as the pundits were saying “How can Italy score?” Pirlo scored with a belter of a direct free kick, which had me jumping out of my seat. 1-0 Italy at the break, but with Croatia you always sense 1-0 is never enough, and so it was to be proved. A rare lapse from Buffon allowed Mandukic to slide it in from close range. After that, both sides had great chances to take the lead, despite the unfortunate actions of some Croatian fans who kept throwing flares on the pitch. Despite all the action, no more goals were scored, and it was a drawn game.



Pirlo was majestic, not a single pass astray. Mandzukic continued to impress for the Croatians, as someone I pointed out before the tournament started, it is nice to see him break out under the spotlight.



Italy look an exciting work in progress. The job Prandelli has done in little under two years has been nothing short of marvellous. The team have two 1-1 draws, same as in 2010, but the difference in team spirit and effort is like comparing Dickens with Jeffrey Archer. They are just a few missing touches off a brilliant final product: the forwards just a little rusty, the back line thrown off balance by injuries. Di Natale will need replaced before the next World Cup. Pirlo and Buffon might be able to keep going till then – both still seem evergreen – and if the Italian FA keep faith with Prandelli, and with the plaudits the team are getting for their efforts, why shouldn’t they, then they will be a genuine threat to the other nations in Brazil.



Now, if Spain win v Ireland, a 2-2 draw between Spain and Croatia in the last group game could KO Italy regardless. Now where have I heard that one before?




"We wasted some opportunities in the first half. After the restart, we did not press as much, but we showed a good balance. We are here and we will fight until the end. We must continue to believe."
Cesar Prandelli




Alan Kalder: Good observation by Adrian (fellow forum member on Bert Kassies’ site), with which my wife and I concur: Spain got better and better as the game progressed, ending on a high note. Torres did everything hoped of him; Del Bosque will look like an absolute genius if he rehabilitates Torres after so many wrote him off. Silva has been nothing short of great, and Iniesta could be the player of the tournament.



So with all the conspiracy theories flying about . . . Spain doesn't go in for that sort of thing; they could consider playing with six midfielders if they want to go for a tie, but this sort of thing can easily bite one on the butt--we've seen it happen before, when Spain qualified after two rounds and "took it easy" in the third game, only to be KO'd shortly thereafter.



I think we'll play our normal game, with no compromises, on Monday.





"Pirlo makes the difference but I have to say that the real surprise has been the quality and the confidence with which the Italy midfielders have been playing. Largely [Thiago] Motta and [Claudio] Marchisio but more so Pirlo because he is the player who has a lot of the ball and every time he starts a move it's a move which will be dangerous for the opposition." Fabio Capello





Jon:

I confess my attention was divided during this game between keeping a four year old happy and watching the game I’d tipped as the crucial match in the group. It didn’t let me down. The first half was an Italian symphony conducted by Pirlo and crescendoing with a masterpiece from his free kick repertoire. They dominated the Croatians, Balotelli looking lively but not testing Pletikosa and having more than three times as many shots as their opponents. 




Unfortunately for Italy Pirlo’s baton was snatched by Modric at halftime. Bilic moved him forward and he began to manipulate proceedings, giving the Italians a couple of warning shots. Italy were supine, as recalcitrant in the second half as they had been dominant in the first. With twenty minutes left they were punished, Chiellini mistiming his leap at Strinic’s cross and Mandzukic forcing home a shot off Buffon’s near post. Both sides produced some fine build up play in the final stages but none of it was matched by the quality required to break down two well organised defences. Croatia proved that their display against Ireland wasn’t just a good day against a bad side, Italy showed that they’re a talented side but still a work in progress. I’d still hate to call who’s going through from these two – Croatia are good enough to test the Spanish while Italy are surely going to enjoy a field day against the Irish.





“The first half was one of the best Italy played in their history. The defence was great and the attacking style had so much pressure on the opponent." Arrigo Sacchi





"Perhaps I am not going to be objective, but there was a penalty on Nikica Jelavic, while the foul which preceded Pirlo's free-kick goal did not exist. I do not want to stir up controversy, but the referee favoured Italy." Slaven Bilic, not wanting to stir up controversy (heaven help us if he does then)




“Spain are human beings, out of flesh and blood, as we are, and we'll fight them. We have a huge confidence, this is a hard group, and I think we can go through.” Darijo Srna




"I made the mistake for Croatia's goal. I gave too much space to Mandzukic. He did well to control the ball and score, but I had to be closer to him.” Chiellini





Spain v Ireland 





"We can be proud to have seen our best game against an opponent who refused to give up.” Del Bosque





Gav: Spain vs Euro 2012 Gatecrashers




After their 1-1 draw with Italy, Spain continued to disappoint with a lacklustre performance against the Republic of Ireland. Spain looked great on the ball, but never really capitalised on their excellent amount of possession – able to only accrue four goals against arguably the worst team in the tournament.





The press have tried to paper over the cracks, speaking of the wonderful possession football that Spain played but it’s fairly obvious that there will be unrest in the Spanish camp this week. They should have done a lot more, they’ve really let their fans down, themselves down, and most importantly they’ve let me down.





I think we can all agree that Spain have a lot of potential. The way they react from this performance is crucial. If they manage to pick themselves up, learn from the mistakes they made yesterday, perhaps they might even go on to win the tournament.







Jon: I hear some belly laughs from an Estonian direction.





This was the obvious mismatch of the tournament, the World and European champions against a collection of lower half of the Premier League talent. Trapattoni v tiki taka. A master exponent of the old arts against the masters of the present and future of the game. And what we got? The most predictable match of the tournament,





Ireland actually stunned the world by having the game’s first shot – stunning as one shot was more than many observers expected them to have all game. That sliver of hope didn’t last long though, a lunging tackle on Silva from Dunne won the ball but comprehensively demonstrated the folly of leaving your feet. Dunne rose as quickly as he could but before he had control Torres had stolen in, nicked the ball and beaten Given. It was a predatory strike reminiscent of his salad days at Anfield under Benitez, his finishing finally matching the quality of the rest of his game again. The rest of the half was Ali v Foreman, rope a dope stuff. In case you’re unfamiliar with that fight, Ali danced around the ring, letting the big brute punch himself to exhaustion before delivering sublimely executed knockout blows. The Spanish danced round immobile Irish midfielders, Alonso and Iniesta making Whelan and Andrews dance to their tune as if they had them on strings. The Spanish passed it round, searching for the inevitable chinks, the Irish got the ball and gave it straight back to the Spanish, as if they were enjoying a ringside seat watching the best side in the game and wanted to see more of it while they had the best seats in the house. Normally it’s Xavi who completes more passes than the opposition, here it was Madrid’s Xabi, Alonso, who outpassed the collective might of the Irish. Arbeloa seemed to be spending more time in the opposition half in the first 45 minutes than he had in his entire Liverpool career.








What followed was inevitable as Ireland’s legs tired from the chasing they were having to do. Silva’s goal that killed any misplaced lingering hopes was playground stuff, inducing two Irish defenders to rush in and try to block before calmly slotting it between their legs and tantalisingly out of Given’s reach. Torres was the very definition of clinical for the third and his replacement Fabregas completed the rout. But as ever with Spain the goals are almost mere details, what mattered was the control and possession of the ball, football as a combination of geometry and high art. Ireland lacked the players to force Spain to play in front of them and to be tight and compact enough at the back to keep them out. If you’d put the entirety of the Irish population on the field Spain would probably still have beaten them. Spain effortlessly assumed command of the group, Ireland effortfully assured themselves of an early flight home. If you ever want to know why the British and Irish talk of passion and hard work being all you need is so much hot air, the Spanish demonstrated that you need a touch of talent too.










Michael: You had a bad feeling about this one before kick off. Like, if you were in a swimming pool and suddenly saw four crocodiles in the pool. That level of bad feeling. Ireland were the worried swimmer against the tide of the crocodiles possession in the first half, with Spain snapping at shots like they were going to be rationed by the government shortly after. The Irish didn’t want another goal conceded after three minutes, and this time they lasted a full four before Torres finished. It was the Torres of 2009, but just like the Torres of now, he went on to miss four easier chances. Spain kept possession for all bar one minute of the half, when Ireland sprung a few passes together to a great cheer from the Irish fans. But, be it Shay Givens saves or Spains love to pass into the beautiful goal, it was still 1-0 at the break. Though it was 1-0, going on 30-0. It was like the siege at Rorke’s Drift, if the Welsh there had been incompetent defenders. So, not at all, basically.




Into the second half, and seemingly the first time the Irish got a touch of the ball was when Shay Given had to pull it out of his own net. Attempt, attempt, attempt, and Silva put it away on the fourth effort. This wasn’t even me v Kasparov. This was me trying to take on Rafa NAdal in the French Open!



Given produced great saves to deny Iniesta but Spain kept the ball. On the hour, Casillas even gets to touc the ball for the first time that half. Trappatoni looked lost, like an old dear who was once the main Stag. It was a sad sight to see. Even as someone as was not fond of his footballing philosophy. Ireland began to tire out. It was a more technical version of Croatia/Ireland. You could sense Spain could finish them off quite emphathically if they felt like it. Ireland had their chances, but they were moped up easily. It was a continual game of good news, bad news for Ireland. Good news, Xabi Alonso is off the pitch. Bad news, Javi Martinez is on. And so on.




For the first seventy minutes, this was the most one sided 2-0 you’ll have seen in some time. Then Torres decided he was bored of the nice passing and scored again, to make it 3-0. If it wasn’t already, now it was goodbye, farewall, auf wierdshen, goodnight for the Irish. At 3-0 though, the worry of a 3-1 win for Spain and memories of a certain 2-2 from 2004 began to flash before my eyes. McClean got a shot in the last fifteen minutes, but the next goal was still Spanish as they took an effort straight out of the Argentina v Serbia book. Twenty or so passes before a shot forced a save from Given, and as we came back from the replay, Fabregas was smashing the ball into the net. The Irish were a bad team with a terrible draw, and it was beginning to show.




When you are facing the likes of Xavi and Iniesta, who would both easily enter any World XI, a Fernando Torres with something to prove, and players like Silva, Fabregas and Alba capable of creating chances in the tightest spots, then you must have great players working to the peak of their talents. Ireland do not have great players, and their best players let them down. Given was too sloppy in goal at crucial moments, Richard Dunne not the towering figure in defence he had been in key qualifying games, Aiden McGeady wandered out of games like he was in a daze, and Robbie Keane was effortlessly out classed by a strong Spanish defence. It has been the lesser names that dazzled for them, and I want to single out Simon Cox, who tried to ask questions of the Spanish defence all night, and produced one or two fine saves out of Casillas, who had little else to do all night. He played with effort and determination beyond the meagre capabilities of the team and himself, if some of his “star” team mates had put half as much work rate they might have given a better fight of it. As it is, they are on the plane home after the Italy game.






"It's a reality check for a lot of the Irish players. I think a lot of them think they're top players, and it goes to show that they're so far behind a lot of these players." Roy Keane




"The Football Association of Ireland would like pay tribute to our fans who have once again proven that they are amongst the very best in the world. The atmosphere that our supporters generated in the stadium was phenomenal and has brought great pride to our country. Our players and management are disappointed that they could not get the result tonight that would have kept us in contention to qualify for the knockout stages and give the fans what they are hoping for."
FAI statement




“Ireland are so bad, might as well have Scotland in.” Brentford Chris




Jon: And all the Irish have left to face is an Italian team that need to score a few goals to try and ensure their participation in the knockout stages. It never rains but it pours. Talking of which…







Ukraine v France 





Jon: The conditions which suspended play for an hour were so bad that Noah was heard to opine that it was too wet for him to take the boat out. Lightning storms so spectacular that Frankenstein must have cursed that he hadn’t got his monster ready for resurrection will be the abiding memory, leaving a lot of British fans grateful that they could do their working day and still get all but five minutes of both games.



The first half was largely uneventful, enlivened mostly by Jeremy Menez doing his singlehanded best to keep the hosts in the tournament by missing two chances which fall into the category generally described as ‘gilt edged’, collecting a soft yellow then somehow escaping a second yellow when leaving a foot in on Selin. This was mainly a re-run of the England-France game, France hogging the ball but lacking an edge around the box and the Ukraine content to try and hit them on the counter attack. As with much of the tournament it was the tale of a proactive team trying to control the game and a reactive one seeking to limit them and strike if they overcommitted themselves. It also exposed that Ukraine were as limited a team as might have been thought from much of their play against Sweden. And maybe, just maybe, it told us that Sweden’s qualifiers had them flattering to deceive everyone.



Ten minutes into the second half it was all over. Ironically France were the ones who found an effective counter attack, Ribery and Benzema combining to play Menez in, Menez finally taking his chance at the third time of asking. Benzema then played in Cabaye to effectively kill the game. As it sounds from all of that it was a hugely impressive display from the Madrid forward, demonstrating his knack of knowing when to shoot and when a teammate is better placed – he may well be the perfect modern forward. The home crowd, so raucous and inspirational against Sweden, were flattened and couldn’t lift their team. France were closer to a third than Ukraine were to getting back in the game, Cabaye cracking a shot against the post. Ukraine’s well of ideas had long run dry and the last half hour saw the game wind gently down . This might actually have been the least entertaining game of the tournament so far, simply for its one sided nature.



Good news for England is that Shevchenko was forced to play the full 90 minutes on a heavy pitch so it’s unlikely that he’ll be at his best for the final group game. Ukraine will be happy to go into their last group games knowing a win will still see them through though.






Michael: Thunder bolts and lightning – very very frightening - during the anthems suggested bad omens (credit Rober Thomas. And in a first I’ve seen, the game was suspended after four minutes after a torrent of rain. It was a lot of rain. Looks like we could put this game down to a win for Zeus! (credit Charles Daniels) Two gags in the opening paragraph of the match, and both stolen off other people. Oh dear.



ITV apparently took the time to chat about England. Quelle surprise. ESPN spent it talking to Michael Ballack about Germanys chances, and the possibilities in Group A. ITV, not even second best this tournament. UEFA decided the match must continue though, much like they did in 2008 during the Switzerland/Turkey game in similar circumstances. 




"Does the referee or the UEFA officials decide if the match goes on?" said the ESPN pundit.
"The referee must agree with the officials" replied Ballack in a notably barbed reply.




The game did kick off, and France got the ball in the net, but it was offside. There was no flow or tactics to the game, it was anarchy football. You have a shot, I’ll have a shot. And so on. I wouldn’t like to have been betting on it. You could sense the French would be in the ascendency though, as the pitch made it harder for the older men of Ukraine to have a foothold in the game. Yarmolenko had a chance midway through the first half, but it eased past the post. 




At the break though, despite the best efforts of Menez who missed a bagful of chances and then got a yellow card, it was 0-0, and seemed destined to become the first game to finish that way.





UEFA have banned Ukraine from football for life due to adverse weather conditions. Platini said a thunder storm was against the spirit of the game, and would not be tolerated...



Sorry, daydreaming there.




Suddenly, Menez finally scored. So my prediction of 0-0 was slightly off, in that it was wrong. And that was a big one for the group. Ukraine of course could still qualify with a win, though it meant if England lost they would almost be out for sure. France then scored a second, as the Ukrainian players were tiring out. So with France almost certainly going to win at this point, a loss for England later would see them on 1 point compared to 3 for Sweden and Ukraine and 4 for France. Then, a draw between France and Sweden would KO England regardless. The group was still very much up in the air. And if England win, France play a Sweden with nothing to play for, and England have to take on the hosts. Difficult.




Ukraine had a few chances, but little to show for their efforts. Shevchenko continued to toil like a man twice his age, but his legs caught up with towards the end. Voronin by contrast never got going on the heavy pitch. Yarmolenko looked very bright, and is one to watch for the future. France seemed more like to make it 3-0. Cabaye smashed it off the bar, and then Ukraine went racing up field. Credit to the co-hosts, they never gave up this one. The game started to peter out. It was a good win for France in hard circumstances, all things said.





Gav: I got home a little late because we were in Tartu picking up a pram. I spent most of the match admiring our new pram. France scored one or two.


Michael: All together now: Awwwwwwwwwwww.





England v Sweden 





“Once or twice, especially in the first half, there were some very promising counter-attacks that broke down because we tried a one-touch pass to finish it off rather than taking that extra touch. I thought there were quite a few other attacks which floundered, I suppose, on the fact we didn't quite get the last pass right.” Roy Hodgson on the France game 



“They’re a good side, but they’re not France. If we reach the same level of performance, it should be enough for a victory. I’m really happy with the start we’ve made to this tournament. I’m confident we can get to four points after this game.” Steven Gerrard. (What is that hubris thing again?) 



"I just don't think England maybe have the same respect for us as they do for countries like France or Brazil. Maybe they shouldn't, but I think England are a great team, although Sweden are not far behind and haven't been for the last 10 or 15 years.” Anders Svensson 




Michael: England had never beaten Sweden in a competitive match, but had beaten them in a limp friendly a few months prior. It was a massive game for both teams though. Would Ibrahimovic deal with the English defence? Would Toivonen improve on his disappointing first match? Would England make a big step to the last eight, or a big step to the plane home? A lot was riding on the game. The answer for Toivonen was no, as he was left out. He can’t argue with that one. 




Not much was on for the first seven minutes, then suddenly Welbecks shot forced a good save out of Isaksson. Sweden had some crosses in, but too far for Larsson to make use of them. It seemed like both sides knew how important a result would be, and had come out looking for it. It did seem like the first goal would be crucial, and the referee was giving free kicks out like candy. The English defence had to good to block Ibrahimovic once or twice. Then, Andy Caroll heads in a goal from a nothing cross, and England were 1-0 up. 



The arguing going on in the Sweden camp, seemingly determined to wipe away a good chance, if true, was staggering, and seemed to sabotage their efforts. It was worthy of a Scotland failure. All the good play in the season, and the attacking style, was all for nowt when Mellberg comes out and says there are tensions in the squad to the press, and accusations of bullying fly about. It is beyond disappointing, as they had not played within their abilities at all.




The game for the minutes after the goal seemed to have an England win written all over it. Despite John Terrys best efforts, Ibrahimovic was able to continue after a knock, and Young hit into the side netting after finding himself through. Sweden had several chances but gave the ball away on the final pass on all of them. There was similarities between how Sweden played and the Dutch problems, and I found myself infuriated by the very issues I was smiling over before. Football karma. 




John Terry got booed by the Swedish fans, showing they had some taste. England were looking dangerous for a second though. Sweden couldn’t complain about Ibrahimovic’s efforts though, he was giving it his all for the cause, but the rest of the team had trouble latching onto his ideas at times. He effortlessly outsmarted Lescott on the wing trying to get the ball in. You sensed Hart need to be on top of his game all night as the English defence were being asked questions. Of the eight goals Sweden have conceded in 2012, seven were headers incidentally. 




Sweden came out for the second half like they knew a defeat would eliminate them, and levelled straight off from a free kick when Hart failed to save. Mellberg of all people scoring. I’d said three minutes before to Jon that the only way Sweden would score was if they got over the English defence once more and Hart failed to clear it that one time, and thats exactly what happened. Sometimes I even impress myself! Sweden had their tails, and could have had a 2nd soon after but missed. Their play still gave away too many free kicks to England though. England still looked the more dangerous side on the break, but the Swedish seemed to have a new found belief in themselves. Despite being at fault for the equaliser, Glen Johnson saved the English bacon on several occasions, incuding one tackle from behind which he had to get spot on and did. When Sweden were bombing forward though, England were tackling and giving away fouls. It seemed like whoever scored the third would win, and whoever conceded the third would snap. Then from a free kick, Mellberg scored again! 




There’s the sexy Swedish football! 




Glen Johnson is a good defender though. He gets a bad press, due to highlights packages, but whenever I see him play he comes across as a strong defender who saves his team more often than not, and when he does make errors his head rarely goes down. 




Milner came off before he got a red card, and Walcott came on. The speed demon. Ibrahimovic then nearly scored from a run from Englands own corner! Then Isaksson made a wonder save from Terry. You felt like this was the sort of the game where the winner could breed confidence in a nation for years to come. Then Walcott scored from outside the area. 




Twenty five minutes to go, and this could be anyones. Chances at both ends, defenders getting in the way for last ditch saves, this was turning into a great match. Not had many of those for England in recent tournaments. Not since Portugal/England at Euro 2004, if I am brutally honest. Hart tried to keep the ball in play but didn’t, much to the English fans yelling at the referees disproval. It was getting a bit bitty, with more fouls all over the place. Olsson swept past Walcott and Johnson in the corner and his pass met Kallstrom who missed the chance. Then Hart had to produce a great save to prevent Ibrahimovic scoring his second of the tournament. Welbeck then tapped it in from a Walcott cross, and Roy’s substitution was looking very good. 




So England led again, and they were looking for the kill. Sweden did keep going though, and on came Wilhelmsson (for Elm) and Rosenborg (for Elmander), neither of whom looked likely to score. Parker blazed it over the bar in a great break away that would have rubber stamped Swedens elimination. Sweden were heading out, but at least they’d headed out with a bit of fire in their bellies. Sweden had one more free kick, like their earlier goals, but this time it was defended with ease. A similar corner was punched away with authority by Hart. 




And that was that. Roy Hodgson had masterminded Englands first competitive win over Sweden, and Sweden were out despite a second half effort which showed all the talent pundits had pointed out before the tournament but which seemed to disappear for large parts of their first match. It wasn’t to be for them though, and its now 2 from 3 in Group D. 




England only need a draw to progress, but I am wary of that still: memories of 2000, and 2007 come to mind!






“The operation went well but the patient is dead.” Eric Hamren.



He also went on to say “hang me, not the players”. A man of rare integrity that the tournament will miss.






Gav:
So... there is still 10 minutes left of this match, right now I want to say “Wow! What a match” but that’s on the assumption that England will hold this 3-2 lead.



We had a pretty good first half, mostly thanks to Sweden being crap. I gave my biggest cheer of the tournament so far when Carroll scored. I must admit, I love the chap. I think he has a great future ahead of him so I was really pleased when he got the goal.



The second half started badly for England, with two goals in 10 minutes for Sweden from the wonderfully bearded Olaf Mellberg. It seemed quite typical really. I can’t say I was too annoyed because I’m quite used to England having spells of being crap.



Hodgson had obviously got his eye on the excellent Southampton legend Anders Svensson as it gave him the brainwave that he should bring on an ex-Southampton player. Walcott beat Oxo at “rock, paper, scissors” and so was the one to come on. He made an instant impact with a goal. 14 minutes later he made an almost-instant impact with an assist. What a goal from Welbeck too. I don’t know if he meant it but I think he did. Oh, I also need to say that Young is rubbish. I'd drop him against Ukraine and play Oxo in his place.



England won! Lovely stuff from England! As usual they had frustrating spells but actually they are looking better than usual. I actually feel like all the players want to play for the team. Today I’m a happy England fan.



All in all a great two days of football, though I really do wish Spain had done the job against Ireland.





Jon: I don’t own a hat, or I’d have been eating it after this game. As it is I settled for a slice of humble pie. Nailed on 0-0 this, Hodgson’s team creating and conceding very little against a Sweden team showing a Dutch propensity for disharmony. You can understand Zlatan’s frustrations with his teammates spending posing for photos with friends and relatives rather than professionally warming down after the game – they might be wide eyed and enjoying the experience of a major championship but Zlatan’s medal haul will tell you he’s a winner. Disharmony in the Swedish camp at a major tournament seems rare, but then England coming into a major tournament with low expectations is equally unusual. Not quite as unusual as England beating Sweden in a competitive game though – it’s never happened.




But this was a day of surprises. England looked far friskier than they had against France. Gerrard and Parker were far more exuberant in getting forward, more bodies appeared in the box in attack and England pressed high up the pitch. It was Milner forcing a desperate clearance that set up the first goal, Gerrard picking up the loose ball and swinging in a cross which positively invited Andy Carroll’s booming header that might well have put a hole in Isaaksson if he’d got in the way. Sweden looked like they’d be going home, carelessly misplacing passes and creating very little.




England capitulated though, quarter of an hour into the second half it was Beard 2 Ponytail (English variety) 1. First Ashley Cole lost his man from a free kick, then Glen Johnson stayed a yard deeper than anyone else, playing Mellberg onside when the rebound was played back in over the top of the wall and he couldn’t stop Mellberg’s shot with a desperate attempt to clear off the line. Then Mellberg, in glorious isolation thundered a header home to put the Swedes in control. History looked like repeating itself, England being past masters in blowing 1-0 leads to Sweden in the second half. 




Credit then to Roy Hodgson for excellent use of substitutes, something which had been a major failing of his when at Anfield. Walcott came on for Milner and his pace made an instant difference, Walcott equalised with a speculative shot through a ruck of players after a corner then, after a foray from the excellent Johnson played in Welbeck for an insouciant backheel into the far corner. Again the game had turned and while the quality of passing football was nowhere near that demonstrated by Russia or and team in Group B and C not directly west of the British mainland, the game was proving one of the highlights of the tournament so far. Sweden still out then, but with far more fight than it looked at halftime and the strange experience for Liverpool fans of watching an attack minded, entertaining Hodgson side. A strange night indeed!



France and England left needing draws to qualify then, although neither will want the, ahem, privilege of going out to playing Spain in the quarter finals. 






POLAND v RUSSIA reprise




Pawel: It was a good result. The optimism in Poland is now huge. People clearly expect a victory today. To be honest I also think Poland should win the match. Of course, it wouldn't be wise to be sure of it. Both teams are probably equal in their level of play.
What makes me think we should win:


1. We were able to stop Russian attacks. The Czechs shouldn't be better in attacking than our previous opponent.
2. Robert Lewandowski makes a constant threat to any defensive line. Even if he doesn't score there are always at least two defenders close to him. And this makes place for others.
3. Our defensive line played really well against Russia. It was their best match ever.
4. The players proved they were physically strong enough - till the last minute of a match. The Czechs don't seem to me so. Their performances in second halves were clearly worse than in first ones.
5. The support of fans will be huge.
However, I have to admit that Rossicly, Pilar and Jiracek (and maybe Plasil) are top-class players.
In the second match Russia is expected to secure a place in a quarterfinal. I am not sure if it will take place. I wouldn't be surprised if Greece wins.





Joao Diogo Reis on Group C, D and A


The key moment of Spain vs. Italy was when Balotelli won a ball against Sergio Ramos, found himself in a great position to score, but took all the time in the world and allowed Sergio Ramos to recover it.
I thought “Di Natale wouldn’t miss this”, Cesare Prandelli probably thought exactly the same.
After that, Di Natale replaced Balotelli.

And a few minutes later, a long pass by Pirlo found Di Natale and he scored Italy’s goal!




This goal also woke up Spain, who equalized through Fabregas.
Fabregas was later replaced by Fernando Torres, who had some opportunities to score, but missed them.
It’s a bad sign that the “improvised” striker Fabregas scored, while the “real” striker couldn’t. Now Vicente Del Bosque will be tempted to repeat this strategy in the following games – too many midfielders and no striker.
I don’t like this tactic; to me it’s not any different from having too many defenders (or having too many forwards). It is still “parking the bus”, although they are parking it in an unusual place.

Will Italy keep their tactic in the following games? The best way to face this Spain isn’t necessarily the best way to face Croatia (and then Ireland).
Will Di Natale start and Balotelli warm bench?



Expected win for Croatia against Ireland.

The first goal was early (quickest goal in the tournament?): Srna crossed the ball, Mandzukic slipped by still had time to get up and head the ball into Given’s goal.




Ireland equalized from a free kick (typical…): McGeady’s cross and St Ledger’s header.
UEFA.com says (but not for sure) “probably the first ever goal in a Euro Cup scored by a player from a secondary division”

Before half time, Croatia scored again: Modric’s shot ends up in Ward, and he is terrible clearing the ball, putting it right where Jelavic was, and he scored. Jelavic would have been offside but the pass was from an Irish player, so legal goal.

But Ireland’s misfortune wasn’t over.
In the beginning of the second half, again a Mandzukic’s header, this time after a cross from the left by Perisic, the ball hits the post, but then rebounds in Given’s head and crosses the line.




Ireland shouldn’t be so sad. The simple fact that they’re back to a major tournament 10 years later is already a big success for them.
Croatia was very offensive in this game; let’s see if they’ll be as offensive against Italy or if they’ll be more cautious.



In England vs. France, the first goal opportunity was England’s:
Milner has a 1-on-1 against Lloris, dribbles him, but then misses the shot with an open goal.




It reminded me of Lloris’ first conceded goal in the 2010 World Cup: Javier Hernández dribbled him and then scored. Fortunately for him, this time Milner missed.

Some minutes later England actually scored: free kick taken by Gerrard and Lescott won the air duel with Alou Diarra and scored. Alou Diarra had a great game but in this situation he is to blame for England’s goal.




This was the first (and also the last) shot on goal for England during the entire game.

France equalized by Nasri some minutes later. The Manchester City players were in the spotlight in this game: Milner, Lescott, Nasri, also Hart.

France kept trying to score more goals but couldn’t do it.
They can’t win a game in a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup semifinals, 1-0 against Portugal.



Sweden had the best goal opportunity in the first half; Ibrahimovic’s shot hit the post.

And in the second half, Ibrahimovic scored!



With this goal, he became Sweden’s all-time top scorer in the European Championships history, with 5 goals, ahead of Henrik Larsson with 4.

Ukraine’s reaction was quick, 3 minutes later they equalized, by Shevchenko.
And a few minutes later, Shevchenko scored again, after a corner kick taken by Konoplyanka.
In this second goal, there’s a big Lustig’s flaw. He should be covering the first post, but the ball passes right between him and the first post.



With this result, Sweden is almost eliminated. They couldn’t even win the supposed easiest game, and now they’ll face England and France.
Ukraine is leading Group D, and now they’ll face France, who doesn’t win a game at a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup semis.



Compared to the first games, some changes in Greece and the Czech Republic’s lineups:
Greece’s central defenders duo was Kyriakos and Katsouranis (Sokratis was suspended and Avraam is injured), Fotakis played in midfield (since Katsouranis retreated to defense), Salpingidis was the right winger, Samaras the striker and Fortounis the left winger.
The Czech Republic played with Kadlec as central defender and Limbersky as left defender (relegating Hubnik to the subs bench), and Hubschman as central midfielder, with Jiracek going to the right wing.

Overwhelming start by the Czech Republic, they were already winning 2-0 after 6 minutes.



By the way, congratulations to Wolfsburg! In January they signed Jiracek for only 4 million €, now they’ll sign Pilar for only 1 million. Croatian goal scorer Mandzukic also plays for them, they signed him for only 7 million €.
Three Euro 2012 stars, that they got for only 12 million €! There are others that pay a lot more than that for alleged stars, that don’t even have the quality to clean these guys’ boots.

Three goals conceded by Greece, all from Greece’s left flank, where “Holes” is being humiliated by everybody – Piszczek, Blaszczykowski, now Jiracek, Gebre Selassie…
I’m already feeling sorry for this guy today, against Dzagoev and Anyukov!


Greece scored a (fair) goal in the end of the first half. It was (wrongly) disallowed for offside.

But, while the referees have been Greece’s enemies, the opponents’ goalkeeper have been Greece’s allies!
In the first game it was a Szczesny’s gift that caused Greece’s equalizer, and now it was a Cech’s gift that caused Gekas’ goal.




Awful tournament for Cech so far, with 5 goals conceded and beginner’s mistakes like this.
Let’s see if he can improve his level against Poland today, otherwise the Czech Republic will be in big trouble.



Compared to the first games, Russia played with the same team, while Poland played with Tyton on goal (Szczesny is suspended), and Dudka as an extra central midfielder, pushing Obraniak to the left wing and relegating Rybus to the subs bench.

Dzagoev scored Russia’s goal, his third in the tournament. It was also Arshavin’s 3rd assist.



Poland equalized by Blaszczykowski in the second half. It was one of the best goals of the tournament (so far my favourite is Welbeck’s against Sweden).




Russia tried the same substitution that worked so well against the Czech Republic: Pavlyuchenko replacing Kerzhakov. But this time it wasn’t effective, and the final result was 1-1.

Russia is almost qualified. Only a defeat against Greece and a win in the other game (either for Poland or the Czech Republic) can prevent it. There’s also the theoretical possibility of a draw in the other game and Greece defeating Russia by at least 6 goals. But that’s not going to happen.
Poland must defeat the Czech Republic, otherwise they’ll be eliminated.





Jon:  Tiki Taka is going to be the most overused phrase in football since Catenaccio.

Michael: Shame Zone Mista never caught on as a buzz word. I like it.
 So at the end of all of this, who is going to win? Haven’t a clue. I guess we should have a séance and ask Paul the Octopus...

What, too soon? I'll get my coat.


(All quotes from Goal.com, except Brain Glanvilles which can be found in his weekly column at World Soccer)