Euro Blog Part 6 (Semi Finals and Final)

Euro Blog Part 6 (Semi Finals and Final)

This great tournament ended a bit anticlimatically as Spain showed no mercy in destroying their Italian counterparts.

Spain had got to the final the hard way finally besting Portugal on penalties after a farcical situation with Nani and Bruno Alves during the shootout, the former sending the latter back whilst he was walking up to the spot, Nani scored, Alves went on to miss.

Meanwhile Cristiano Ronaldo never even got to take one, some said that him taking the last penalty was an egocentric move, perhaps it was but at the end of the day it’s irrelevant plus it’s not a given that he would have scored (who can forget his penalty in the Champions League final a few years back?).

The game itself as a spectacle was a bit different to what was expected as Spain struggled to find their rhythm, the excellent Moutinho fed the ever dangerous Ronaldo several times but the Real Madrid star didn’t shine as his attacking opportunities ended in frustration.

Spain had started with a striker but del Bosque once again chose to alter that tactic on the hour mark and Spain looked more dangerous as a result and as the game wore on it was the Spanish who looked far more dangerous, a mixture of superb Portuguese defending and Rui Patricio saw the deadlock fail to be broken.

Italy on the other hand stunned Germany with a Mario Balotelli double seeing them through.

This was the better game of the two semis with Buffon and Neuer often called into action, Germany could well have been ahead early on had Pirlo not cleared off the line but a resolute Italian defence made it hard work for the Germans to break them down.

Germany’s defending was very suspect as a brilliant passage of play saw Balotelli nod the Azzurri in front, all the hard work being done by Cassano, the Germans were even more exposed as Montolivo found Balotelli with an excellent through ball and the striker doubled their advantage.

Germany tried to respond, the anonymous Gomez and Podolski were replaced by Reus and Klose but they just couldn’t find a way through until a late Ozil penalty.

The talented German side fell yet again at the semi final stage, their third last four exit in the last four major tournaments. They lost the midfield battle in this one, they failed to contain Pirlo,De Rossi,Marchisio and Montolivo and for once Balotelli capitalised on the good work they did.

The Germans will go into Brazil 2014 heavily fancied and will learn from this experience. If Joachim Low can add the traditional German mean streak to their defence allied with their obvious attacking flair perhaps they can break the glass ceiling and go on to win tournaments.

The Italian performance in the semi final was excellent but they were simply blown away by a dominant Spain side in the final.

It wasn’t for a lack of effort and they never gave in but they were passed into oblivion by Spain, their cause was hampered by Thiago Motta going down with injury with a fair chunk of the game still to be played.

The run up to this game had seen pundits,media and fans on message boards brand Spain “boring”, the performance in this game stuck two fingers up at all those as the football played by them was simply joyous to watch.

Perhaps Spain had been saving it for the final, perhaps Italy were spent with the toll that the England and Germany games had took on them but the Spaniards played with a pace and tempo to their play we hadn’t seen prior to this and they reduced the Italian general Andrea Pirlo to a mere spectator.

At times in this tournament I haven’t exactly been a fan of Spain’s formation, I saw it as a bit arrogant and when they did start with one in the groups they destroyed the hapless Irish compared to a draw with Italy and a nervous win over Croatia, they proved me wrong with this though.Spain probably wouldn’t have adopted this approach had their talisman David Villa been available, del Bosque perhaps adapted his tactics knowing this and it was in the final brutally effective.

Jordi Alba also showed the sort of impact attacking full backs can have, his lung busting run saw him receive Xavi’s pass and finish with a coolness that a centre forward would have been proud of.

Spain won convincingly and became the first team to win consecutive Euros and 3 consecutive major tournaments.

This Spain side will probably go down in history as one of the great international sides, they’ve mercilessly passed their opponents into submission and have a midfield that is the envy of teams around the globe, add to that a miserly defence and a quality goalkeeper and this Spain side is also tough to break down.

The beauty of football is that someone will find a tactic and a way to combat the Spanish way of play and beat them, their top players will still be around for a few years yet though and it wouldn’t surprise me if Spain continued to dominate for a few more years.

Italy can go away with their heads held high despite the result, not a lot of people gave them a chance in Euro 2012 after their chastening experience in South Africa, finishing bottom of a group with Paraguay,Slovakia and footballing minnows New Zealand.

Cesare Prandelli has gone some way to rebuilding their reputation as a footballing power, Andrea Pirlo was magnificient throughout but at 33 probably has one major tournament left. He will be hard to replace. Mario Balotelli has been described as many things throughout this tournament, he produced just one moment of magic prior to a brilliant display against the Germans and he still has that frustrating mix of the woeful and wonderful.

The end of the tournament came in an anticlimax as a result but the football wasn’t. There’s been some terrific football on display in this tournament and just about every game has entertained, the fact that only two games ended goalless says a lot.

The dark sceptre of it was the racism and hooliganism with several nations fined for racist chanting. Russia and Croatia being the most notable and violent clashes between Russian and Polish fans was saddening to see. It’s a never ending problem but FIFA and UEFA must do more to combat these two blights on the game.

Goal of the tournament for me actually came way back in the group stages, Jakub Blaszczykowski’s finishing strike to a wonderful Polish counter attack gets my vote.

The biggest disappointment has to be the Dutch performance, the fact that only the hapless Irish matched their pointless tally says a lot for one of the pre tournament favourites.

We saw a lot in this tournament, great football, headed goals, wonderful counter attacks, dodgy refereeing, tense penalty shoot-outs, fight backs, teams that never gave up, everything!

The 2014 World Cup has a lot to live up to.

Danny (D-Good)
Owls Alive
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @DGood83

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