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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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Euro 2008 Final: Spain v Germany – pre game

Some further musings with 18.5 hours to go…

Injuries seem to be have made Aragones a lucky man. It looks like Cesc is going to start. He has been forced to make the right decision and start Cesc Fabregas only due to the injury to Villa. Bad as it is to say it, Villa’s injury was a blessing in disguise for Spain who were able to win the game due to the strength in midfield that Cesc brings. Not only that, it looks like Ballack might miss the final due to a calf injury. As it usually is, sometimes its better to be lucky than good…

If Ballack’s injury keeps him out of the final, he will have never played in a major final for Germany. He missed the 2002 World Cup due to suspension, got knocked out of the 2006 World Cup Final in their semifinal overtime loss to Italy and now potentially Euro 2008 as well. May be just as well, because if he suffered through a repeat of 2002, it would be just too cruel. In 2002, when he played for Bayer Leverkusen, he lost the German Bundesliga in the last week and lost the Champions League Final to Real Madrid with a brilliant Zidane volley leaving him trophyless. That was followed by the defeat in Korea to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup Final. Fast forward to 2008 and the same thing could happen – Chelsea lose the Premier League title to Manchester United in the last week and then the Champions League Final by the width of a post. Ironically, the tournament Germany most deserved to win – when they were playing their best football – was the 2006 World Cup when Grosso and Del Piero’s last minute goals in overtime knocked them out of appearing in the final on home soil. I don’t foresee the Ballack curse changing tomorrow…

If Ballack is out, it might turn out alright for Germany. It might force Loew to have a three man defensive cordon to jam up the Spaniards. Frings, Hitzlsperger and Borowski or Rolfs to hold behind Schweinsteiger, Podolski and Klose. I personally think that Loew should use this setback to become more aggressive. Have Kuranyi join Klose up front and have Schweinsteiger, Frings and Hitzelsberger play behind the front three. Challenge the middle of the Spanish defense and it will cause Ramos to stay home more which will help slow down the Spanish attack. Keeping three in defensive midfield is going to result in death by a thousand cuts against the superior passing Spanish midfield…

The other side of Ballack being out – the height advantage is gone. Podolski, Hitzlsperger, Frings, Lahm, Klose (he can jump though) and Schweinsteiger aren’t that tall. So in midfield and at the offensive end, Germany is going to have to win the battle on the ground during regular play. That’s why dead ball situations are going to be even more critical…

Should Loew try another tactic and use Lahm at left wing and move Podolski up front to partner Klose? Lahm didn’t really played that well defensively against the quicker moving Turks – Sabri undressed him a couple of times. If you move Lahm up front and have the quartet of Podolski, Lahm, Klose and Schweinsteiger free to interchange and attack, it will give Spain problems. Have Frings and Hitzlsperger hold and bring in Jansen or Fritz at left back. Lahm can drop back and help defensively but will provide more drive down the left if he plays at left wing. Podolski and Klose should be playing up front together where their movement will cause issues for Puyol and Marchena thereby giving Klose more room for the high balls. Just a thought, Joachim…

Very glad to see that Domenech is supposedly going to be fired and replaced by the man I had picked as my choice – Didier Deschamps. Domenech is Aragones’ more arrogant twin – except he doesn’t have the luck to balance out his lack of ability…

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Who will win Euro 2008 – pre final

I picked Spain early and, while this is not an easy match up for them, I still think they will win against Germany.

Initial take on the potential formation and the impact of Villa’s injury

Villa not playing is a big loss but it may actually work in their favor if it forces Aragones to play the extra man in midfield – hopefully it’s Cesc Fabregas. That is going to cause the Germans to play five in midfield as well and I think that plays into the Spanish hands as they are better at moving the ball and will allow their defenders a better chance to handle the aerial abilities of Klose since he will usually be outnumbered in the Spanish half.

The match ups

This game is going to be won or lost based on who creates the most chances from midfield. I think Germany has really flattered to deceive. The Poland game was fool’s gold as they played too openly and made the Germans look better than they were. Croatia carved them up and they didn’t really impress against Austria. Against Portugal – good result but two of the three goals were defensive mistakes on free kicks. Ballack hasn’t played a great game yet. Schweinsteiger and Podolski are the ones doing all the damage for Germany. That advantage is going to be smaller against Spain. If Cesc starts, it will make it hard for Germany to focus on shutting down Xavi as the playmaker. Spain is too mobile and will give Mertesacker and Metzelder a hard time on the ground. So Spain wins the midfield battle and generate chances. It is us to Torres and Silva to get the goals. This is the game for Torres to deliver. I keep saying that, but with Villa out, it’s his time and I think he will come through. Cesc will help him out. Silva’s scoring in the semi should also give him the confidence to be aggressive in the final.

The German left wing is going to be a big battle. Podolski and Lahm on Ramos is going to be a very good matchup. Look out Sergio. Don’t forget about getting back. Lahm, with Frings backing him up and Podolski in front of him, is going to break down the left wing often. Concentrate on the tackle. Cesc is going to have to help him out as Iniesta is not the answer. Spain obviously needs to limit dead ball opportunities for the Germans where their height advantage will cause the Spanish defense problems. Free kicks are more dangerous than the corners where Casillas can be more effective. Puyol and Marchena are going to have to concentrate on Klose for the full 90 minutes.

Other

Lehmann is looking shaky while Casillas has been playing well. Spain seems to have a deeper bench, especially since Gomez has played poorly and Kuranyi not at all. I’d take Loew over Aragones. Germany has the mental edge since they have played in so many of these finals. Never count the Germans out. Big question – we know the Germans can rally from being down a goal, but can Spain (the Greece game doesn’t count)??

Pre-game prediction: Spain 3 Germany 2

Torres, Ramos to score for Spain with Podolski and Ballack scoring for Germany. Top performers will be Podolski, Cesc and Casillas.

I want to hear from all of you out there. More to come prior to the game on Sunday…

Prior blogs with my predictions on the winner are below:

Prior to semi finals

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/25/who-will-win-euro-2008-pre-semi-finals/

Day 0 of the tournament

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/07/who-will-euro-2008-day-0/

Pre-tournament (actually about the most accurate overall call CH12 has made this tournament)

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/who-will-win-euro-2008/

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Spain v Russia – post game comments

While the scoreline was a bit harsh, much like it was in the first game they played, this time there was no doubt who the deserved winners were. Spain outplayed Russia in the second half. Yes, the first goal made a big difference because it made the Russians come forward more and so there were more gaps in midfield and at the back for Spain to capitalize on. However, Russia really didn’t create many opportunities themselves. The best chance they had was off a free kick near the end of the game.

The first goal was not lucky – it was fortunate. It was lucky that Iniesta’s shot was way off target. It was a good, instinctive, pre-meditated run into space by Xavi and it was fortunate that his side footed redirect went between Akinfeev’s legs. Xavi does this all the time for Barca, especially this season, where he makes a late run into space and finishes off crosses. So, I will give him all the credit for the goal. After that, it was tough to imagine that the Russians would get back into it given that Arshavin and the midfield never really got going. Maybe Hiddink should have brought in another left back and let Zhirkov get up the field more often as he seemed to be the only one to get any penetration against Spain. Ramos had his best game of the tournament but I think a lot of it was due to the fact that Zhirkov didn’t have anyone in front of him and so had to stay home too often. Russia should have made Ramos pay for coming forward so much. Guiza and Silva finished off good set ups by Cesc once the gaps had opened up with the Russians having to press upfield in search of an equalizer.

Man of the match – Cesc Fabregas.

Some other observations:

Aragones, why won’t you start Cesc? Especially against the Germans, Iniesta is too slight to play in the midfield with Xavi. He also is not as good at starting moves – he is better in the last third. You need Cesc there to provide an alternative to Xavi else the Germans will put someone on Xavi to stifle the ball getting forward. If Villa is out (as he is supposed to be at the timing of writing), I would prefer you drop Iniesta and start Xabi and Cesc alongside Senna, Silva and Torres.

Also, Aragones, stop substituting Torres. He had two chances at goal in five minutes and looked good all game. He needs a goal for confidence. Why put Guiza on? Torres could have scored in the last 15 minutes and felt good going into the final. Whatever.

Still don’t like Puyol and Marchena in the middle. I have to believe the combination of Klose and Ballack in the air along with Schweinsteiger and Podolski’s quickness is going to give them problems. Get ready Casillas.

Ramos and Lahm. Look out Sergio because if you thought Zhirkov was problematic, Lahm is going to be even tougher for you since he has carte blanche to go forward just as you do, is low to the ground and cuts quickly and is backed up by Frings so you can’t just bomb down his side. Don’t foul Lahm with your usual tackling. Free kicks on the wing are exactly what you don’t want to give up.

Pre-game prediction: Spain 2 Russia 1

Result: Spain 3 Russia 0

Scorers: Xavi Hernandez, Daniel Guiza, David Silva (Spain)

The Euro 2008 final should be great. I still think Spain will win but let’s see if Villa is going to play…

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Italy v Spain – post match

Back in business. At least one half of my pre tournament final pairing is still alive with Spain coming through against Italy. This was a toss up – either side could have and should have won it. With that said, Spain deserved to win for a few reasons. They were the aggressors during the game and were looking to actively score whereas the Italians resorted to their tried and trusted catenaccio. That works when Paolo Rossi, Roberto Baggio or even Totti is your striker. Not so when Toni can’t score, Cassano is tricky only in the middle of the field and Del Piero is given only 15 minutes to do so. It was left to Camoranesi to almost score for the Italians. Except that Casillas is the king of the foot save given how much improvisation he has to do when keeping goal for Real Madrid. Torres and Villa toiled without reward and the Italian defense were great. I didn’t think they would be able to keep them out with the makeshift central pairing, but they were solid. No clean looks.

Aragones, you are so lucky. Spain should have lost this game based on the moves you made. But, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Hopefully, you still have one more to go. You started Iniesta and Xavi together. Mistake. At least, you had the guts to correct the error and bring on Cesc and Cazorla (that man had the worst body language going into the penalty) in a double switch. I think you should have only taken Iniesta off. Xavi and Cesc would have been more effective at a time when you needed more passers on the field. Silva did have a decent game, but I just can’t get excited about a player who absolutely refuses to use his other foot. If he had used his right foot, he could have put at least two more clean shots on goal. Finally, the biggest gamble came off for you, but it just doesn’t make sense. Cesc supposedly hasn’t taken a competitive penalty since he was 15! You make him take the final penalty because you “felt he would score.” Unbelievable. What if he had to score without Casillas having saved Di Natale’s prior penalty? I knew Buffon was going to get one save. I just didn’t know whether Casillas could save two. Poor De Rossi has now missed two critical penalties following his Champions League miss against Man U. But at least he scored a penalty in the World Cup final. Di Natale has had a miserable Euro 2008 and completed it with a weak penalty that Casillas easily saved. Cesc, Wenger is going to be happy because this is really going to help you in your career. That’s a lot of pressure to put one away under – especially when you are facing the best goalkeeper in the world. Well done son.

Pre-game prediction: Spain 2 Italy 1

Result: Spain 0 Italy 0 (Spain wins 4-2 on penalties)

Ven a España. Приходите на Россию (that’s “Come On Russia” for you non-Cyrillic types). Kommen Sie in Deutschland. sahneye çıkmak turkiye. A respite before Wednesday and Thursday’s games…

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Spain v Sweden – half time

CH12 looks to have cleaned away some of the grime on the crystal ball. The game is even and Ibrahimovic and Torres have scored, as predicted, with great individual skill. It was a great angled ball to Silva that set up the cross for Torres to score from – the defender was fooled into believing the ball was going back to the corner taker and that gave Silva the time to pick out Torres. Ramos is a great player but he was caught slacking on the cross to Ibrahimovic. Zlatan is a big, strong guy and he basically took Ramos’ lash on his left leg, blocked it, and then turned for the finish. Spain may actually benefit from Albiol coming in for Puyol and were unlucky not to get a penalty for Elmander’s clumsy challenge on Silva.

This game is a toss up, but Sweden looks stronger going into the second half. Villa has been very quiet and Iniesta and Silva haven’t really done anything. Silva, in particular, is a bit of a luxury IMO. He is not showing the pace and wing magic that they need in order to give Torres and Villa more space in the box. As a result, it almost feels like Ramos has to come up the right wing more often to deliver crosses. Which puts him out of position when the other team comes back on a quick counter attack. Aragones – bring in Cesc for Iniesta and Sergio Garcia for Silva. I bet you regret leaving Capel, Joaquin and Tamudo behind.

Update – Ibrahimovic substituted at the half due to injury…

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Who will win Euro 2008 – Day 0

My updated thoughts after watching this last week’s action and with the current injury report.

Group A: Still think Portugal wins this group though I think if there is an upset possibility, it’s that the Turks maybe roll them before the tournament gets going. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Turks or even the Swiss pip the Czechs for second place but I think it’s still the Czech Republic through in second place.

Group B: Germany wins this and even though Croatia plays some stylish football I am going to go on a limb and pick Poland to finish second. Eduardo missing is a big loss that Modric and Niko Kranjcar are not going to be able to make up though Olic is nice.

Group C: The tough one. Italy have suffered a major setback with Cannavaro done for the tournament. No Nesta, no Cannavaro and possibly the big Stiff with the stiff chest, Materazzi, on the bench means Chiellini and Barzagli starting in the middle. Sorry, not going to happen in terms of their winning the tournament no matter what Pirlo says about their mental state being better than at the World Cup. This isn’t the World Cup where they can sleepwalk through the first round, almost losing to the US and then squeaking by Australia. This group is as tough as it gets in world football. No Robin van Persie for the first game means if the Dutch lose against Italy, they are up against it. No Viera is a good thing for France in my book. Diarra or Toulalan with Maka is better than Patrick and Maka. He’s lost more than a step in class. Whichever of the three wins the most points off Romania goes through – I think it will be Netherlands and France. Love that man Ribery and hope Evra starts instead of Abidal.

Group D: Spain and Russia. End of story.

I still stand by Portugal v Spain for the title. However, Spain will get knocked out in the quarters if they don’t improve massively relative to their performance against the US. You can’t play Torres up front alone and expect to get it done. No real wingers to stretch the defense in the squad I saw. There’s no Joaquin, no Vicente, no Capel. Aragones is crazy for thinking a whole bunch of Cescs are what you can use in midfield and expect to win. Play Cesc and Xavi or Iniesta. Then get offense on one wing, use a holding midfielder like Senna and get another striker up front. They need Villa in the worst way. And Puyol looks like he is past the Use By date.

Below are my predictions for this weekend’s game – look for updates to this column daily.

Saturday, June 7, 2008
Time Home Away STAGE TV VENUE
12:00 ET Switzerland 1 1 Czech Rep Group A St Jakob Park
14:45 ET Portugal 2 1 Turkey Group A Stade de Geneve
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Time Home Away STAGE TV VENUE
12:00 ET Austria 0 1 Croatia Group B Ernst Happel Stadion
14:45 ET Germany 1 0 Poland Group B Hypo-Arena

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