26 June 2008

SPAIN 3 (Xavi 50, Guiza 73, Silva 82)

The Villa-Torres connection (like the Can-Am connection without the steroids) combined for one of the few highlights in an otherwise sleep inducing first half. The Valencia striker chested down a David Silva longball before passing to Torres, he rode Ignashevich's challenge and snapped a shot at Akinfeev who had taken up a great position at his near post and saved with his feet. Villa injured himself when taking a free kick and was forced off with what appeared to be a thigh strain on 35 minutes. He was replaced by Fabregas.

After some predictable square passing Xavi ran forward and spread the play out wide left to Iniesta, he used his left foot to turn inside Anyukov then switched the ball back to his right before arching a low cross towards the centre circle for the onrushing Xavi to volley first time past Akinfeev. Brilliant goal. Fabregas and Ramos combined from a throw-in, after the midfielder lead the Russian's on a merry dance he passed to the overlapping Ramos but Torres wasted his cut back, shooting hopelessly wide. Guiza scored within three minutes of replacing the ineffective Torres, who should NOT have had a first half penalty. Capdevilla started a counter attack by winning possession on the edge of his box, Xavi Alonso turned the ball onto Fabregas who in turn sent David Silva running through the centre of midfield, Silva passed out wide right to Guiza and he held up possession until reinforcements arrived, Guiza laid off the ball to Ramos before making a diagonal run into the box, Fabregas flicked on the Real Madrid defender's pass with an exquisite first time lob over the Russian defence, Guiza bounced the ball on his chest before volleying over Akinfeev as he dived at his feet. Absolutely magnificent. Fabregas made the third on the break, his pass between two defenders was so perfectly weighted David Silva even had time to take a touch before finding the bottom left corner.

Semi-final Guus does it again (1998 with the Netherlands and 2002 with Korea). Arshavin and the rest of the Russian team choked which is understandable given their age. This was considerably more one sided than their group stage hammering by the Spanish.

The first half was distressingly similar to Spain vs Italy and the majority Sweden vs Sweden with little goalmouth action and Spain doing what they do best, make aimless square passes in midfield. Although it was Iniesta and Xavi who broke the deadlock after that point Fabregas ran the show. Villa has been ruled out of the final though I believe he shot his load in the group stages. The question on everyone's lips is whether Fabregas will start or whether Aragones will continue to use him as an impact player off the bench.

Attendance : 50,000
Assists : Iniesta, Fabregas, Fabregas

25 June 2008

GERMANY 3 (Schweinsteiger 26, Klose 79, Lahm 90)
TURKEY 2 (Ugur Boral 22, Semi Senturk 86)

The Turks made an aggressive start and struck the woodwork in the opening minutes. Mertesacker failed to deal with a routine cross into the box, Ayhan Akman prevented the ball from going out of play and pulled back to Kazim who left the crossbar trembling with a violent first time shot. Germany were caught cold from a throw in. Kazim hit the woodwork for a second time when attacking a cross from the right however the bounce was kinder leaving Ugur Boral to plunder a goal from close range. Germany scored with their first attack. Ballack tackled Hamit Altintop to start a counter, Hitzlsperger chipped a ball out wide to Podolski, he beat Sabri and Schweinsteiger got in front of his marker to nonchalantly flick Podolski's centre past Rustu. Brilliant goal. Lehmann back peddled to save a Hamit Altintop free kick. Hitzlsperger sent Podolski clear on the break but with Klose unmarked at the back post he elected to shoot from a tight angle and blazed over. Lehmann struggled to deal with another free kick. Hamit Altintop should have restored Turkey's lead late in the half but was let down by a poor first touch after a lovely one-two with Sabri on the edge of the box tore open the German defence.

Germany should have been awarded a penalty when Sabri floored Lahm as he cut inside the box. The non penalty decision seemed to take the sting out of what had been upto that point an excellent match. An absolute clanger by Rustu sparked a late flurry of goals. Lahm swung in a cross from the left, Rustu came off his line and got nowhere near leaving Klose to head into an empty net. Lehmann was hung out to dry by his static defence on a corner and clawed the ball away with Semih Senturk about to score. Sabri nutmegged Lahm on the left wing before pushing a low centre across goal, Semi Senturk left Mertesacker for dead and poking the ball past a poorly positioned Lehmann who for the second time in this tournament was beaten at his near post. Turkey's joy was short-lived as Lahm gave them a taste of their own medicine by scoring a late goal. Kazim went down with an injury when trying to turn with Lahm, the full back played a delayed one-two with Hitzlsperger, a fantastic first touch put him in on goal and he drove a right foot shot past Rustu.

Terrible goalkeeping at both ends. Turkey played excellent football but had no cutting edge. The result most probably would have been very different if they had their full compliment of players. Turkey showed their 2002 World Cup semi-final was no fluke and unlike in 2002 this is a young side. Among the first choice starting XI, Mehmet Aurelio is the only player in his 30s. Two semi-finals in six years is a record most European teams would kill for. Fatih Terim is a of course a genius.

Germany were much improved following the second half introduction of Frings who was still nursing a fractured rib. Ballack once again disappeared in a big match. He'll get another chance to show up in Sunday's final. Germany's opponents will need to keep a very close eye on Podolski, Schweinsteiger and Hitzlsperger who combined brilliantly with the Polish born striker.

Attendance : 40,000
Assists : n/a, Podolski, Lahm, Sabri, Hitzlsperger