Category Archives: match comments

Chelsea v Barcelona – Post Game

Well Chelsea played it exactly as they should have and they should have won this game 2-0.  But, that’s what happens when you don’t score the second goal and have to worry about the away goal.  It happened to Man U against Porto to launch Mourinho’s career and it happened again today.

Messi and company were choked just as I said they would be.  One real shot on goal and they scored in injury time.  Doesn’t get closer than that.  Chelsea deserved this win.  They should have had two penalties.  But it was a questionable red card for Abidal.  What’s with these referees?  They don’t seem to talk things over with their linesmen for very long before handing out red cards.  It’s ridiculous.

Anyway, now it’s Man U vs Barca in the final.  Messi and Henry.  Rooney and Ronaldo.  Barca without both wing backs and Marquez, but with Henry probably back.  Man U without Fletcher.  Should be awesome.  More awesome – I will be at  the final!

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Euro 2008 Wrap up comments

Spain wins 1-0

Pre-game prediction: Spain 3 Germany 2

Scorer: Fernando Torres (Spain)

Spain deserved to win the Final and deserved to be the Euro 2008 Champions. It is always good when the best team wins and they were the best team. They had the most depth, played the best football and scored the most goals. Germany just did enough to get to the finals and finally couldn’t squeeze any more out.

Some closing thoughts:

Aragones, you are one lucky dog. It made no sense to pull Cesc and Silva with that much time left and replace them with more defensive players. It absolutely made no sense to pull Torres who was killing the German defense. But, hey, it worked out.

Puyol and Marchena – I owe you an apology. You didn’t concede a goal in knockouts and only gave up two goals all tournament (they didn’t play against Greece). Regardless of what the opposing strikers didn’t do, you got it done.

Cesc, Ramos and Torres – hope you can handle the heat, because you three along with Iniesta, Silva, Villa and maybe Xavi are the core of the World Cup 2010 effort for Spain. Look for someone like Pique to step in at center half. But this is a young, young team and look to be there for many years.

Player of the game – Fernando Torres. He was unplayable and only Aragones could solve the problem for the Germans.

Player of the tournament for Spain – Marcos Senna. The rock that kept it together. No bad games or major mistakes.

Player of the tournament period – Andrei Arshavin. Yes, he had a bad one against Spain and only played three games, but he is the one everyone is talking about. Close seconds are Zhirkov, Senna and Casillas. Top sub is Semih Senturk.

All Star Team of the tournament:

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (sorry Buffon, but he played two more games and gave up only two goals – and he did save two penalties to your one save during the shootout)

Defenders: Yuri Zhirkov, Carles Puyol, Christian Panucci, Sergio Ramos

Midfield: Andrei Arshavin, Marcos Senna, Cesc Fabregas, Bastian Schweinsteiger

Strikers: Fernando Torres, David Villa

Subs: Gianluigi Buffon, Razhvan Rat, Luka Modric, Wesley Sneijder, Lukas Podolski, Semih Senturk

Coach: Guus Hiddink

On to the club season. Here is the next discussion – Ronaldo, you would be a fool to go to Real Madrid right now…

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Spain v Russia – half time comments

A few things to watch for in the second half

The rain.  Someone’s going to make a mistake.  Both goalies are good, but it’s tough in these conditions.  Good thing both teams like playing on the ground.  The ball’s going to move faster.  Expect the pace of the game to increase in the second half.

Zhirkov.  He’s going to get a breakaway a few times with Ramos caught upfield.  Will be interesting to see how Puyol deals with him.

Torres.  Ignashevich is having a hard time staying with him.

Iniesta.  He needs to come off.  Cesc is on, and should have been on for him instead of Villa (hope the injury is not bad), and these weather conditions are ideal for him – he’s used to playing in rain in England.  Bring on Guiza – his height is going to bother the Russian central pairing.

Arshavin.  He hasn’t expended much energy or seen enough of the ball.  Look for him to get more going in the second half.

Pavlyuchenko.  The stage is set for him to tuck one away after getting in between Puyol and Marchena.

Both teams look like they could win the game…

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Germany v Turkey – post game

I am just exhausted. You know what the Turkish team reminds me of – the trick birthday candle that you just can’t blow out. So you finally get a big bucket of water and douse it. That’s what Germany had to do. I still don’t believe the Turks lost since the last two minutes of injury time were black screened due to technical difficulties. I had absolutely no doubt that Turkey would come back and score during that time. However, it was not to be. It is amazing that everyone who saw this run will talk of this Turkey team’s performance long after anyone remembers who won the tournament. Hats off to you. You played with possibly four starters and almost made it to the final.

However, the Dwarf (that’s not my nickname for him – it’s what they call him in Germany) made Turkey pay. First he crossed for Klose to leap and nod in in typical Miroslav fashion, then he got turned inside out by Sabri who crossed for Semih to score with the touch of the tournament and finally he cut in on the left wing, dished off, kept running and finished off by wrong footing Rustu with a high blast at the near post. It was a brilliant finish. And it didn’t give the Turks enough time to get another goal back.

Turkey started the game very well and had the Germans looking very ordinary. Ballack really had a sub par game and Lehmann was up to his usual walkabout tricks. Kazim Kazim blasted one off the crossbar before mishitting another one off the other side of the crossbar. Lehmann was totally lost on the rebound, Friedrich was ball watching and Ugur Boral put it in between a confused Lehmann’s legs. This after Lehmann almost let a cross by Altintop leave him stranded too far out of the six yard box. So, Germany was lucky it was only 1-0. They were also lucky that the Turks didn’t immediately shut up shop for the half and instead allowed Podolski space on the wing to cross for Schweinsteiger to make a brilliant touch finish to the far post.

Pre-game prediction: Germany 3 Turkey 1

Result: Germany 3 Turkey 2

Scorers: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Philip Lahm (Germany) Ugur Boral, Semih Senturk (Turkey)

I didn’t see enough from Germany in this game to change my prediction that the winner of Russia v Spain wins this tournament. The German backs are going to have a hard time dealing with the movement, passing and trickery of Villa/Torres/Silva or Arshavin/Pavlyuchenko/Zhirkov. I hope the Russia v Spain semi final delivers what it’s capable of – the best game of the tournament…

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Group D final day post match – Russia v Sweden, Spain v Greece

Let’s get Spain v Greece out the of way.  Spain came back and won 2-1 with Guiza setting up the equalizer from de la Red and scoring the winner in the dying minutes.  Spain started a brand new squad with only Iniesta starting from the first team.  They still won.  Xabi Alonso had a great game and almost scored from the middle of the pitch as he did against Newcastle.  As a reward for getting 9 points out of a possible 9, Spain gets to play Italy.  Sweet.  Before everyone goes on to talk about how this is just terrible for Spain, let me say this – sitting here today I think they got lucky by getting this Italian squad instead of the full French team.  Spain will beat Italy… but more on that later in the week.

Pre-game prediction: Spain 1 Greece 0

Result: Spain 2 Greece 1

Scorers: Ruben de la Red, Daniel Guiza (Spain), Angelos Charisteas (Greece)

Russia put on a master class display.  As CH12 had hoped, they moved the ball around brilliantly.  Arshavin was as good as advertised – he never seems hurried and he seems to put the ball wherever he wants to.  I can’t wait for the Russia/Holland quarter final – and Holland, you better watch out because this Russian team (especially with Hiddink in charge) could have CH12 referring to you as the Netherlands again by the time the match is over.

I said the Russians played pretty football.  They do.  I said they would win.  They did.  I said they play sort of total football.  They actually don’t.  What we saw was pretty football that looks like total football.  What they have are players who all seem very comfortable with playing one touch, on the ground, passes, moving off the ball, creating space and making the extra pass (Pavlyuchenko excluded).  It’s unbelievable how calmly they look for, and make, the extra pass in the opposing box.   Sweden is lucky they didn’t concede 4 or 5 goals – two came off the post and Russia missed a couple of breakaways as well.  Hiddink will be doubly pleased that other than a Henrik Larsson header off the crossbar, his defense kept Sweden well in check with Akinfeev looking confident as well.  Man of the match for Russia was Yuri Zhirkov (picture below).  He was brilliant down the left wing and looked like a rich man’s Fabio Grosso.  The one issue that I see is that the Russians seem to zone mark in their own box.  That will get them in trouble if teams avoid high crosses and instead play one twos on the ground against them.

Pre-game prediction: Russia 3 Sweden 2

Result: Russia 2 Sweden 0

Scorers: Roman Pavluchenko, Andrei Arshavin (Russia)

CH12’s crystal ball was working in Group D.  Look out world, because the Russians are coming.  On to the quarters – the predictions slate in now clean.   I still feel quite comfortable with my original prediction of Spain v Portugal in the finals…

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Group C post game – France v Italy, Holland v Romania

Form held and Holland and Italy are through. As I suspected, Buffon was tough to beat and his save off Benzema’s curler was world class. Coupet played great too with a couple of amazing fingertip saves – one off Grosso’s freekick that he put onto the post and another one off Toni that the ref didn’t catch. But Italy played the cards they were dealt with very well and did enough to see France off.

Now for the rant. Yes, losing Ribery was very unlucky. And yes, it is a harsh rule that sees the last man off along with the granting of a penalty. Yes, it was an unlucky deflection of Henry’s foot on De Rossi’s wayward looking free kick. However, France lacked inspiration and I blame that on Domenech. You are the worst at picking a team that I have ever seen. Abidal in the center of defense? With Toni to deal with and Gallas not the tallest man either. Are you kidding me? Then you start Gouvou instead of Nasri. Then you bring on Nasri for Ribery and take him off when you are trailing 1-0. Are you crazy? There went the bit of creativity and drive you had in the middle of the park. You want to play with two holding midfielders still? OK. Take off Gouvou for Boumsong then. Now, for Boumsong. Is there a reason you chose him ahead of Mexes to play in central defense? Better you had Distin in the squad then that stiff.

One more pet peeve. I don’t like the last man rule when there is a penalty as well. It seems to me that that is doubly harsh. I think it’s absolutely right to send the last man off when he takes down an attacker outside the box. But the double whammy of going a man down and giving up a penalty is a bit much.

The Dutch and the Spanish have got to be nervous with the Italians now in the quarters. Having said that, I don’t know how the Italians are going to fare without Pirlo. The Dutch also look so good that I don’t think they should be overly concerned if they have to face the Italians. One thing we have to keep in mind is that this Italian team is a bit old and games every three days are going to take a toll by the time the semis roll around. Should be fun.

Players of the game – De Rossi (though Pirlo and Grosso were very good) for Italy and Henry for France.

Romania – nice try but you paid for missing the penalty against Italy and not scoring when you had good chances against Holland in the first half. Holland looks very good and it’s always good when Van Persie keeps scoring. He needs the confidence since he’s missed most of the regular season – and a fresh, confident Robin Van Persie is deadly.

Pre-game prediction: Italy 2 France 1

Result: Italy 2 France 0

Scorers: Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi (Italy)

Pre-game prediction: Romania 1 Holland 1

Result: Romania 0 Holland 2

Scorers: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Robin Van Persie (Holland)

Sweden v Russia. I can’t wait. This is going to one where I am cheering for Russia as that would set up an amazing game against Holland. Hiddink v Van Basten. Total football all around…

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Group B post game – Germany v Austria, Croatia v Poland

Well, Germany are through, but that was a pretty tepid performance.  I would have thought Loew would have seen the writing on the wall and put in Kuranyi or Neuville for Gomez, but I guess he wanted to give him a chance to put one on the board and rebuild his confidence.  As it was, he blew a two yard open net tap in five minutes into the game, didn’t go for the rebound header and then meandered his way about for 60 minutes before being subbed for Neuville.  Ballack did step up and blasted a rocket of a free kick – the first one scored at Euro 2008 – but was quiet for the rest of the game.  Podolski was again the only German, with momentary flashes from Lahm, who seemed capable of doing anything meaningful. Still, it was enough to send Austria home.  Thanks for hosting, we have some nice parting gifts for you (my version of Kenny Smith’s “Time to go Fishing”).  Players of the game – for Germany it was Podolski, for Austria it was Korkmaz.

If Germany are to beat Portugal, they are going to have do way better.  The main thing missing seems to be creativity and drive in the middle of the park and a lack of team speed, especially on the wings.  Ballack has not really got into gear in any of the matches so far.  Will have more on game tactics against Portugal before Thursday’s quarterfinal.

The Poland game saw Croatia’s second team show aggression and desire and they deservedly won that game 1-0 with Klasnic putting a very nice left footed grasscutter to the far post.  End of Poland’s tournament. Keep in mind that Poland is the team that finished above Portugal in qualifying and beat Portugal at home 2-1 and drew 2-2 away.  Not that that means much if you want to triangulate those facts with Germany beating Poland 2-0 a week ago to determine the winner of the quarterfinal between Germany and Portugal…

Pre-game prediction: Germany 3 Austria 1

Result: Germany 1 Austria 0

Scorer: Michael Ballack (Germany)

Pre-game prediction: Poland 2 Croatia 1

Result: Poland 0 Croatia 1

Scorer: Ivan Klasnic (Croatia)

Can’t wait till tomorrow.  This is going to a treat with the France v Italy game juxtaposed with Romania v Holland.  Hopefully, the Romania game is 0-0 at the half so as to give France and Italy all the motivation they may need to go for the win…

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