Euro Blog Part 5 (Quarter Finals)
We’re down to four nations now who can lift the trophy, some of the eliminated nations were valiant in defeat,others bowed out with a whimper but there’s been some entertainment inbetween and the usual England penalty disappointment, more about that later though.
Portugal were the first nation to advance and they were never threatened by the Czech Republic who didn’t even register a shot on target! Cristiano Ronaldo finally broke their resistance scoring the winner. The Real Madrid man’s displays against the Czechs and the Dutch in their final group game showing why he is one of the world’s elite footballers.
His effectiveness in this game came to the fore once Paulo Bento put him in a free midfield role after Gebre Selassie initially shackled him.
It’s hard to sum up the Czechs’ tournament, on one hand you remember the dismal display against Russia and let’s be right about it the only thing close about the Portugal game was the scoreline but on the other hand they bounced back from the thrashing and defeated Greece and Poland to win the group.
The Czechs aren’t a particularly good team and will now need to look elsewhere for goals following Milan Baros’ international retirement, with star man Tomas Rosicky also considering his international future, qualifying for Brazil could be a tall order for Bilek’s men, maybe it’s time to introduce some of the stars of their decent under-21 side to the front.
Group A’s presence in the tournament has now gone as the Greeks were comprehensively defeated by Germany. It took some quality to finally put the Greeks away with all four of their strikes being crackers and the Greeks managed to fight back from one down to be holding their more illustrious opponents. It may have been seen as impudence as the Germans stepped it up and comfortably finished the game off. The Greeks had the last word however with a dubious penalty.
|For a nation that’s had a reputation of being boring, the Greeks weren’t that bad to watch, the more worrying thing from a Greek point of view would be the Keystone Cops standard of defending seen from them in this tournament especially given that their defensive nous and organisation was supposed to be their main strength.
With some of the veterans of the side approaching the twilight of their careers, the Greeks are in a time of transition, midfield seems to be a problem and any nation that relies on Giorgos Samaras for goals is in severe trouble.
Greece have had a lot of success in recent times by their standards, it’s up to Fernando Santos to build a team that can maintain them.
Spain knocked France out in their own fashion. under Vicente del Bosque Spain really do believe that possession is 9/10ths of the law. To some it’s not exciting, to others it’s as sexy as it gets. Xabi Alonso was the main difference here, his quality helped see them overcome the French who looked powerless to resist. People seem to dislike the 4-3-3 without a focal point in attack but so far it has generally been effective. Llorente and Torres are a dependable Plan B.
The French were a huge disappointment. Not just in this game but in the whole tournament, so much had been made of the progress made under Laurent Blanc but they didn’t look much different to the hapless French under Raymond Domenech. The usual rumours of infighting in the French camp have reared their ugly head but for me they lack that somebody who rises to the occasion when odds are against them and they’ve lacked that since the great Zinedine Zidane retired. This French side has a lot of ability but seemingly not a lot of fight.
Italy were the last team to secure their place in the semi finals by defeating England on penalties.
Italy created a lot more chances than the Three Lions but spurned them time and time again, the best effort being Daniele De Rossi’s left-foot volley which had it not struck the woodwork would quite easily be goal of the tournament.
||Much was made of John Terry’s last ditch blocking and tackling but I for one found it a bit frustrating seeing collective defensive mistakes lead to him having to make those blocks and tackles in the first place.
Too many times Mario Balotelli was put through on goal due to a lackadaisical offside trap but thankfully it was never punished.
England’s plan appeared to be sit back and hit the Italians on the counter attack, it had one flaw, namely the execution from the wingers.
Ashley Young had a poor night to go along with his poor tournament and our forwards were feeding on scraps for most of the night. In fact Abate, the Italian right back caused Young more problems than vice versa.
That being said England did have one or two decent chances, one fell to Glen Johnson who couldn’t quite hit it how he wanted, Danny Welbeck also had an opportunity to score.
Andrea Pirlo pulled the strings in the Italian midfield and England really didn’t make a plan to close him down or limit his effectiveness. His penalty in the shootout oozed cheek but he would have looked a fool had Joe Hart saved it.
For one brief fleeting moment it looked like England would actually win the shootout even leading 2-1 after Montolivo missed but Ashley Young cracked his penalty off the bar and Ashley Cole missed his when Buffon guessed right. There’s nothing to be gained by criticising them, the racist abuse seen on twitter aimed at them doesn’t belong in the present day and for those who are saying “so and so should have taken it” – why didn’t those individuals step up?
England went out on penalties for the sixth time in ten tournaments and it was gutwrenching to see it happen yet again but there are a few positives to come out of this tournament.
|The worst England side since the early 90s still made the last 8 and still won the group holding their own against France and Italy if not overcoming them.
There’s some promise in the future with Kyle Walker,Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain,Jack Wilshere and Tom Cleverley the pick of England’s young lions and I wouldn’t bet against some more emerging in the near future.
Theo Walcott’s stock has risen with his gamechanging performance against Sweden, Andy Carroll despite being widely derided did a decent job and offers a different option upfront.
The feeling is that England will be tough to beat but becoming a free flowing passing team won’t happen in the near future, it’ll be all about being tough to beat, organised and disciplined in that 4-4-2 formation.
Is it the way forward or is it just treading water?
It’s hard to say given that 4-2-3-1 is now a popular tactic on the continent and England do have the personnel to employ that tactic, I’d like to see it tried at one point. Hodgson isn’t a tactical dinosaur but does realise that this side has a lot of limitations, he’s been thrown in at the deep end yet has emerged unscathed from this tournament and he now has something to build on with a friendly with Italy and then those World Cup qualifiers on the horizon.
There’ll be the inevitable loss of interest now England are out but there’s two semi finals that on paper provide intriguing contests, we know the two sides that are favourites to advance but it’s never as cut and dry as that.
PORTUGAL v. SPAIN
After a disappointing start Portugal have got better as the tournament has progressed, Cristiano Ronaldo grabs the headlines but he has a very able supporting cast in midfielders Joao Moutinho and Miguel Veloso. The free role Ronaldo had against the Czechs saw him wreak havoc and he can cause that sort of panic in the Spanish defence if given the opportunity. The key of course is how efficient the Portuguese are in possession and making the most of it. They can be open and expansive and they can frustrate opposition by sitting deep and absorbing a lot of pressure, something they did to great effect for a long time against Germany.
the Spanish game is about ball retention, keeping possession and gradually inching their way forward forcing their opponents to chase the ball and eventually tire them out. The no specialist striker policy has raised an eyebrow or two but so far it’s done it’s job. Portugal have only conceded three goals so far with Spain only conceding one and both have denied their opponents chances.
This will be a low scoring affair and may even go the distance. The first goal is absolutely crucial in this one, if Portugal get it we may well see an upset.
GERMANY v. ITALY
The Germans have been going about their business in their usual style and never really broke a sweat in beating Greece. There are a few frailties in the side at the back but Mario Gomez has been in solid form and has teammates who will create chances for him. The Germans still possess that lethal counter attack as well.
Italy simply cannot afford to spurn the numerous chances they’ve created in this tournament and not be punished. England didn’t make them pay for their profligacy in front of goal, Germany will. Balotelli has had one moment of brilliance in an otherwise poor tournament and the Italian forwards often undo the good work of Pirlo,Marchisio and company in midfield.
Both teams have played some excellent football so far in this tournament and this one should be a cracker. Germany have never beaten Italy in a competitive game but that record may be broken. It wouldn’t be a shock if the Azzurri won.
Germany to edge a thriller.
We’re down to four sides now, each of them have in patches played brilliant football, each of them have in patches shown vulnerability. Germany-Spain in the final will be the bookmakers favourites but Portugal and Italy cannot be written off and it wouldn’t upset me to see either of those sides playing on July 1st.
This tournament hasn’t disappointed so far and it’s leading up to a cracking climax, let’s hope the football continues to entertain.