22 June 2008


As expected, and if you expected anything else you're an idiot, this match was constipated in midfield. The tedium was briefly lifted late in the half. With 'chances' for either side. Cassano, who spent the match playing for himself, managed to beat Ramos before curling a left foot cross to the centre circle but Toni's header bounced off Marchena to safety. Silva's long range shot, one of many by the Spanish, flew a couple of feet wide of Buffon's left post. Italy finally got a break from a referee when Silva theatrically dived into the box following a mistimed tackle by Grosso outside it.

We had to wait an hour for the first genuine chance. De Rossi lobbed a delightful pass over the Spanish defence after he had a shot charged down, Camoranesi flicked the ball towards Toni, his shot was blocked by Casillas, Puyol and Marchena challenged the striker for the rebound but they all missed, Camoranesi shot on the turn but Casillas made a fantastic save with his feet. Buffon almost literally handed Spain the lead. Senna latched onto a loose ball and let rip from 30 yards, Buffon caught the ball then let it slip from his grasp, it bounced against the inside of the right post and he safely recovered. The useless Luca Toni attempted an overhead kick with Grosso better placed.

In extra time Silva rifled a loose ball just wide of Buffon's right post. Zambrotta put in a cross from the right and fortunately for Italy this time Toni didn't connect, Di Natale did, Casillas made a fantastic one handed save. Cazorla should have won it in the last minute. Running on fellow substitute Guiza's reverse pass he dragged a shot/cross wide with Villa just failing to connect.

Penalty Shoot-Out

Villa - Driven into the bottom left corner
Grosso - Whipped inside the left post
Cazorla - Another low penalty inside the left post
De Rossi - The fourth straight penalty to the left, incredible save by Casillas
Senna - Down the middle into the roof of the net
Camoranesi - The first penalty to find the right corner
Guiza - Low and right of centre, Buffon saves
Di Natale - Almost a carbon copy of Guiza's penalty with the same result
Fabregas - Bottom right, Buffon goes the wrong way. Goodnight Vienna

Donadoni is going to get the sack for this long ball crap. Toni was pathetic, constantly diving and looking for fouls. The BBC's commentary was an absolute disgrace, using all the cliches about how Italy were playing defensive. Italy in fact had the better chances and only marginally less possession. Spain did what they always do i.e. aimlessly pass the ball around in midfield and create little. At some point during the match Di Natale, who came on for Cassano midway through the second half, was tackled, rolled off the pitch and when the ref didn't blow his whistle to stop play rolled back. Tosser. Karma is a bitch.

Spain win 4-2 on penalties.

Attendance : 48,000
Assists : n/a

21 June 2008

NETHERLANDS 1 (Van Nistelrooy 86)
RUSSIA 3 (Pavlyuchenko 56, Torbinski 112, Arshavin 116)

Van der Sar had to be alert to keep out a Zhirkov free kick taken way out wide on the right. The Russians forced a second corner, Arshavin crossed from the right but an unmarked Pavlyuchenko headed over. Van der Vaart took a free kick from an almost identical position at the other but Van Nistelrooy failed to punish shocking marking at the back post. Arshavin tackled Engelaar in his own half to instigate a counter attack. Three passes later he was in the opposition penalty area, Ooijer backed off, Arshavin shot low but Van der Sar saved. The resulting corner was cleared only as far as Kolodin who from fully 35 yards let rip with an absolute rocket, drawing a spectacular save from Van der Sar. Van Nistelrooy turned on a Boulahrouz pass and spun away from Kolodin before hitting a weak right foot shot at goal, Akinfeev saved and Kuyt couldn't reach the rebound. Kolodin made a square pass across his own box but Van der Vaart failed to take advantage, shooting straight at Akinfeev.

Arshavin got a lucky bounce off Ooijer as he tried to knock on a cross, he took a few steps infield, dragging Ooijer out of position and slipped a passed out wide to Semak who swung a low cross into the box and Pavlyuchenko got ahead of Mathijsen to volley past Van der Sar. Arshavin tackled Van der Vaart as he tried to carry the ball out of his own half then out muscled Heitinga before releasing Zyrianov, he ran into the box passed to Bilyaletdinov, he flicked on to Torbinski and with Van der Sar hopelessly out of position the midfielder scuffed his shot from two yards out. Two minutes later the Russian's bush league finishing and poor set piece defending came back to haunt them. Pavlyuchenko was wrongly punished for 'handling' the ball. Sneijder swung in a free kick from the left and Van Nistelrooy headed in at the back post. Referee Lubos Michel looked to have majorly screwed over the Russians a second time when he sent off Kolodin for fouling Sneijder in the 91st minute but withdrew his second yellow card after consulting with one of his linesman. Replays showed Kolodin didn't make contact.

Penalties? The Russians weren't interested and dominated extra time. Arshavin was giving Ooijer fits. He received possession 35 yards from goal and ran straight at the Blackburn defender, forcing him to back, he worked an opening but blazed over from the edge of the box. Torbinski sent Pavlyuchenko away on the break and he cut inside Ooijer before curling a shot against the crossbar. Two minutes later Arshavin made Van Bronckhorst look like a fool with a great dummy then a change of pace took his past Mathijsen but Torbinski again missed an absolute sitter, weakly shooting at Van der Sar. Pavlyuchenko blazed over with the net gaping before the Russians finally took a chance. Arshavin was of course the architect and Ooijer once again his victim. From an improbable angle on the left by-line he swung over a left foot cross, the ball bounced off the underside of the bar and from an inch out even the shit Torbinski couldn't miss. If the Russian's still had firing squads he'd be next in line had they lost this match. Arshavin made sure the scoreline reflected his team's superiority with a late third. Turning onto a throw-in, with Ooijer still in his pocket, he fired a shot through Van der Sar's legs, via a tiny deflection off Heitinga.

Torbinski and Kolodin's suspensions are irrelevant. They both suck. The Russians have a good chance of beating Spain but won't have a prayer against Italy. Arshavin? Player of the tournament, based on his last two games.

Attendance : 42,500
Assists : Semak, Sneijder (fk), Arshavin, Anyukov

20 June 2008

CROATIA 1 (Klasnic 119)
TURKEY 1 (Semi Senturk 122)

Kranjcar played a one-two with Modric on the centre circle before spraying a crossfield pass out wide to Srna, he sent Modric between two defenders and the tiny playmaker made a run away from goal, creating enough space to rolled a pass to the back post and from 2 yards out Olic slammed the ball against the underside of the crossbar and with the goal at his mercy Kranjcar headed the rebound over.

Rakitic hit a long ball into the Turkey half and Gokhan made a mess of the header, inadvertently flicking the ball onto Olic, as Rustu advanced off his line the ball bounced and Olic over him towards an empty net, Emre Asik got back to clear and Olic, who was off the pitch, headed across goal. I would love to see what sort of ruling UEFA would have invented had that gone it. Rakitic played a great one-two with Pranjic on the edge of the box and tried to curl the ball first time into the top right corner but sent it high into the stands. Rustu made his first difficult save 10 minutes from time, diving across goal to tip away a Srna free kick bound for the right post. Olic could have won it twice in the injury time. He made poor contact with a Modric centre, shooting straight at Rustu, and then horribly miscued after getting a lucky break off a miss-hit Niko Kovac shot.

The Turks were the better side in extra time but rarely threatened. A calamitous mistake by Rustu appeared to send Croatia into the semi-finals. Petric was tackled as he was about to cross from the left flank, Rustu chased down Modric for the loose ball, straying miles off his line, Modric sent a cross to the back post and Klasnic headed into the net as Rustu unsuccessfully scrambled back. Bilic tried to waste time by bringing on Leko but the referee Rosetti, who had a poor game and was too whistle happy, was wise to his tricks and let Rustu launch a goal kick into the Croatia half, Emre Asik threw himself into a pile of Croatian bodies and amid the confusion Semih turned and rifled a left foot shot beyond a shell-shocked Pletikosa. Rosetti blew for penalties as the Turks were celebrating. Shades of Brazil vs Argentina in the 2007 Copa America with the psychological advantage clearing shifting to the team that stole a late equaliser.

Penalty Shoot-Out

Turkey won the coin toss and the penalties were taken at their end.

Modric - Curled low to the right, not even close
Arda - A poor penalty, left of centre which nonetheless squirms in under Pletikosa
Srna - Straight down the middle but Rustu goes the wrong way
Semih - Bottom left with authority, Pletikosa goes the wrong way
Rakitic - An absolute dogshit of a penalty miles wide of the bottom left post
Hamit - Curled into the bottom right corner past Pletikosa who now isn't even trying
Petric - A nervous Petric sees his spot kick brilliantly saved by Rustu

I was getting very, very tired of Croatia's nauseating chest thumping and Bilic's delusion about the quality of the squad at his disposal. Modric? He's got great balance, is a neat passer but hardly the second best player in the World as Bilic claimed. Olic, Pranjic, Petric? Desperately average as are Croatia's centre backs. Rakitic on the other hand looks to be a fantastic prospect.

Germany might as well be given a free pass to the final. Volkan may or may not have his two match ban reduced, Arda and Tuncay picked up yellow cards, ruling them out the semi-final and Nihat, who limped off, could became the latest player to join a growing injury list which includes Servet, Emre Gungor and Emre Belozoglou who admittedly is no great loss.

Turkey win 3-1 on penalties.

Attendance : 50,000
Assists : Modric, n/a

19 June 2008

PORTUGAL 2 (Nuno Gomes 40, Postiga 87)
GERMANY 3 (Schweinsteiger 22, Klose 26, Ballack 61)

Deco, Simao and Bosingwa combined to create a great early chance which Nuno Gomes headed way off target. The trio combined again after Germany quickly lost possession having successfully defending a corner. Bosingwa picked out Moutinho at the near post and he was shaping to head the ball before changing his mind and it bounced off his knee over the bar. Germany gave the Portuguese a lesson in possession football by scoring a fantastic team goal which spanned 17 passes and involved seven players. Germany's centre backs spread play out wide to Lahm who in turn passed to Podolski, now stationed on the left wing, Podolski flicked the ball inside Bosingwa, played a give and go with Klose then did the same this time using Ballack to steal a yard on Bosingwa and power upfield, he took one touch before rolling a centre into the box and Schweinsteiger arriving from nowhere to slide the ball into the bottom left corner. Another contender for goal of the tournament. The Portuguese were still reeling when the Germans doubled their lead from a more predictable route. Schweinsteiger swung a free kick into the box and Klose took advantage of ridiculous marking to power his header past Ricardo. Nuno Gomes gave the Portuguese a lifeline five minutes before half time. Schweinsteiger lost possession deep in the Portuguese half and they quickly broke, Deco showed great strength to hold off Klose before sending Simao down the right, Simao switched flanks with a crossfield pass out to Ronaldo, he had too much pace for Mertesacker but botched the finish, shooting straight at Lehmann but the rebound fell kindly to Nuno Gomes who scored via a deflection off Metzelder.

Portugal should have drawn level just before the hour but Pepe blazed over from a corner. Minutes later Ballack restored Germany's lead. The pathetic excuse for a goalkeeper that is Ricardo got caught in no man's land (a great series of movies) on a Schweinsteiger free kick, as Ballack pushed Ferreira out of the way to attack the ball Ricardo cowered to his knees and feebly put up his hands. Watching that twat pick the ball out of his net will NEVER get old. Despite having their fair share of possession Portugal's second goal came out of the blue. Nani, a late second half sub for Nuno Gomes, showed tremendous strength to hold off the determined Ballack on the left flank, he put on the breaks, checked onto his right foot, sold Fritz with a brilliant dummy then clipped a marvellous ball between two defenders and Postiga headed over Lehmann. Podolski should have added a fourth on the break but having wriggled past Pepe shot straight at Ricardo with Borowski unmarked at the back post.

Simao looks absolutely ridiculous with his jerry curl, tight shirt and shorts which are clearly one size too small. Ronaldo? Isn't so effective when Tevez and Rooney aren't creating space for him. With an early exit there's a good chance he's blown the Ballon D'or. I would say, and obviously this depends on what happens during the rest of the tournament, Wesley Sneijder is the front runner.

Attendance : 42,000
Assists : Podolski, Schweinsteiger (fk), n/a, Schweinsteiger (fk), Nani