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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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1st Semi Final: Germany v Turkey – pre game prediction

Why Germany should win:

  • They are great at set pieces. Ballack has scored the only free kick in the tournament and Podolski and Schweinsteiger are also good strikers of the ball. They are strong in the air and have scored two goals off set pieces against a supposedly strong Portugese defense where Pepe and Carvalho are good in the air.
  • This is the knockout stage and the Germans traditionally get stronger as the tournament starts getting to the business end of it.
  • Ballack has now scored two straight winners. Look out. Klose is off the mark too.
  • Schweinsteiger had a hand in all three goals against Portugal. While Turkey is not Portugal, he has now had a hand in six goals against a strong Portugal side in the last two matches. His drive was missing in their games against Croatia and Austria. Now you can count on Podolski and Bastian to provide energy from the wings.
  • Loew is back on the sideline.
  • Turkey is decimated (they would be happy with a decimation – this is a thirdamation) by injuries and suspensions. It’s a bit much to have your entire starting attacking trio be out for the match – Nihat, Tuncay and Turan – along with your starting central defense and goalkeeper. It might not be a good thing to be captain of Turkey – first Emre and now Nihat are out with injuries.
  • By now they know that you REALLY, REALLY, REALLY need to concentrate against Turkey from minute 87 till the final whistle… and then keep playing for another 30 seconds to make sure the ref actually blew the whistle.

Why Turkey should win:

  • Why ask why? Just look at the last three games. If you can beat the host nation on a lake in the last second, then have one of the best goalies in the world drop a ball for you to equalize and then score again (all in the last three minutes) and then score in injury time of overtime after conceding with a minute to go – all on fumes and with three days rest in between in each game – what barrier does Germany pose. It’s not like Der Kaiser is suited up on the other side.
  • Super sub, thy name is Semih. He has played a total of 148 minutes and put in two last minute goals. Let’s see how he does from the start.
  • Hamit Altintop (his name supposedly translates to golden ball – Beckham the singular). He had a great game once he was restored to the center of the park instead of playing at right back. He knows the German game – he regularly tangles with Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Jansen, Klose and Podolski in practice at Bayern Munich. He has nothing to lose and one of his blasts is due.
  • I think the stadium will look like a Turkey home game.
  • Turkey should win, because the underdog seems to be winning most of the time at this tournament.

CH12 believes that Germany will win. Turkey has just too many injuries and the adrenalin will wear off when they find themselves two down and without the firepower to bring themselves back into it. Also, they will not be able to deal with the German height on set pieces. Whoever scores first in this game will win.

Pre-game prediction: Germany 3 Turkey 1

I would like to see Turkey win, though. Maybe they will come back from being two down with three sets of penalty kicks to go…

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Portugal v Germany – post game

CH12, this is the Germans we are talking about. Look at the history, son. OK, so I am going to put in my comments in bullet fashion.

Portugal wins. Germany wins.

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo. Like he isn’t already motivated, Lehmann fires him up even more by saying that he knows his weakness since Arsenal has had great success against him over the last few years. I guess they must know something. Actually, packing the midfield and having Portugal not get him the ball enough was an issue. Also, Nuno Gomes is past the sell by date. Maybe Almeida or Postiga should have come on earlier.
  2. Portugal has pace on the wings – the German midfield and back four are just too slow. They couldn’t control Korkmaz properly. How exactly are they going to keep up with Simao, Ronaldo, Moutinho along with Nani and Quaresma off the bench? Short answer, they did. A lot has to do with going 2 up and then being able to stick with five in midfield to deal with the wing pressure.
  3. Germany has lacked drive in the middle of the park. IF Ballack plays well and IF Schweinsteiger shows the drive he was starting to display before his red card against Croatia, then Germany may have a chance – don’t forget that Bastian had a hat trick against Portugal in the 3rd place match at World Cup 2006. But I think the extra time that Deco should get against the German midfield – especially if Frings is out – is going to kill Germany. Ballack did play well. Schweinsteiger DID show the drive and the five man midfield didn’t give Portugal enough time or space.
  4. Pepe and Carvalho are good in the air. Bet Gomez doesn’t start. So it’s going to be tougher for Klose to win aerial battles. Germany’s chance is going to come from one twos between Podolski and Klose. Also, whoever is coming down the right wing needs to put pressure on Ferreira – he’s the weak link. Too bad Lahm plays on the left. Maybe Loew should switch him to right back to get the matchup. I don’t know what to say when Portugal gives up two goals from headers off free kicks. Carvalho was to blame for switching off Ballack for the third goal (Ricardo too – what kind of weak attempt was that?) and Ronaldo was hanging out for Klose’s goal. Ferreira was the weak link – he was beaten on Schweinsteiger’s near post run for the first goal and unfairly got victimized by Ballack for the third goal. Shocking to me was how easily Podolski held off, and actually accelerated past, Bosingwa and Pepe on the left wing before crossing for the first goal. Carvalho was jogging back and marking grass while Ferreira let Schweinsteiger come all the way across the box and get in front of him for the finish.
  5. Germany hasn’t played well since the first half against Poland. Nothing to say.
  6. Portugal is well rested with their starters having had a week off between games. Germany had to labor through 90 minutes a few days ago against Austria and Podolski is supposedly banged up. Frings did sit out but the extra man in midfield helped. And Bastian was off for a week as well…!

However, this is the Germans, so don’t ever count them out. Especially if Portugal doesn’t get Ronaldo the ball on the wing enough. Like I said…

Pre-game prediction: Portugal 2 Germany 1

Result: Portugal 2 Germany 3

Scorers: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Michael Ballack (Germany) Nuno Gomes, Helder Postiga (Portugal)

Man of the match will be Deco… Man of the match was Schweinsteiger with a goal, two assists and tons of energy.

Ronaldo – this is what happens when you start thinking about leaving Man U for Real Madrid. I think it’s 50/50 that he goes – it will come down to whether or not Man U gives him his raise.

Hopefully, CH12 is better in the Croatia v Turkey game. Croatia is my horse in that race…

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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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Group B pre-match predictions – Germany v Austria, Croatia v Poland

Germany beats Austria to go through. It’s going to be tough without Schweinsteiger and with Podolski a maybe with an ankle injury. However, Ballack is going to step up and Kuranyi and Neuville will score the goals. They will not give Austria time and space in the German half of the field. Expect the Germans to win convincingly, though Austria will give them a hard time since they have a shot at qualification and it is in front of the home crowd.

Pre-game prediction: Germany 3 Austria 1

Poland v Croatia is a tough one to call since Croatia will probably rest a bunch of starters and Poland has an outside shot at going through depending on if Germany loses and they beat Croatia. If Roger delivers a similar performance and if Poland can finish their chances, they have a shot at beating Croatia. The key will be if they don’t play the kamikaze defense they have played against Austria and Germany. If they do that, they will lose decisively. Weighing it all up, I pick Poland to win but wouldn’t be surprised by a scoring draw.

Pre-game prediction: Poland 2 Croatia 1

We can’t get a repeat of yesterday’s drama, can we….?

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Turkey v Czech Republic – post game

A Tale of Two Halves. Turkish Delight. Bounced Czech. We Don’t Accept Cechs. Let’s Kahveci.  Any one of these could be the headline.  I choose – ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!!!

I have never seen a major international tournament match finish like that.  The closest proxy was France vs W. Germany in a World Cup 1982 semifinal when France went two goals up in extra time only for the Germans to pull them both back and win it in penalties.  But that went to penalties and the Germans did not score the tying goal with two minutes to go. Yes, the Turks were pressing the whole second half.  However, they did fall behind 2-0 against the run of play on a very good finish by Plasil off a Sionko cross.  This after Koller blew a breakaway by not backheeling it to his trailing teammate and instead missing the near post with a left foot shot. This before Polak almost made it 3-0 by blasting a pass by Sionko onto the post and getting kicked in the head when he went for the rebound.  This game should have been over.

Instead, young Turan scored for the second time in two games to bring it back to 2-1 with 15 minutes to go.  CH12 is still feeling good – hey, this is the score I predicted. NOTE TO GAMBLERS – CH12’s predictions are brilliant if you can place bets for the first 88 minutes or so of regulation.  All bets are off once we get to the last two minutes of regular time and injury time. 

Now here come the Turks. However, when Cetin missed an open header from inside the six yard box to tie it up, I thought that was it.  But, no.  The second best goalkeeper in the world – Cech is behind Buffon (and probably behind Van der Sar and Casillas at this point) – drops a simple cross (don’t blame the rain – the man has played in England for the last four years!) for Nihat to poke it in and tie it. Well, okay, the Turks deserved the equalizer based on the game so far.  Penalty kicks it is.  But, no. Nihat makes a brilliant finish off the underside of the bar with Jankulovski trying to play him offside.  Looked offside to me.  Game over.  Unbelievable.  But, no. We were then subjected to Volkan pushing Koller, getting a red card and Tuncay having to play goalkeeper since Turkey had used up its substitutes.  You can’t make this stuff up.  All we needed was for a Czech cross to be spilled by Tuncay, Koller to score and then go to penalty kicks with Tuncay saving the last kick to put Turkey through. Half of Turkey might have suffered fatal heart attacks by then, so it’s good that that didn’t happen. 

Turkey is through. They will play Croatia in the quarter finals. Don’t worry about Volkan not being there for the quarter final – he’s better at saving penalties than normal shots.  He flubbed two against Sevilla and, while they were tough saves to have to make, should have gotten the second goal after having gotten his hands to both. It’s time for the bench to step up and they have the veteran Rustu Recber, who was so key to their 2002 World Cup run to play between the posts.

I said this was about matchups.  Nihat and Tuncay both came through. Turan came through. Koller came through (no Baros). Rozenhal came through.  Cetin was so so but by and large did his job against Koller.  Sionko was very good.  It came down to the keepers and, unfortunately, Cech made the big error. 

CH12 must be dyslexic and read the crystal ball backwards.  What he meant to say was 3 to 2 would be the score in the Czech/Turkey game and not the Portugal/Switzerland game and vice versa…;)  Anyway, that was a fun day.  Oh, by the way, the Swiss beat Portugal 2-0 with Yakin scoring both (I did predict they would score two goals!).  Thanks for hosting the tournament – we have some nice parting gifts.

Pre-game predictions: Czech Republic 2 Turkey 1, Portugal 3 Switzerland 2

Result: Czech Republic 2 Turkey 3

Scorers: Arda Turan, Nihat Kahveci (2) (Turkey) Jan Koller, Jaroslav Plasil (Czech Republic)

Result: Portugal 0 Switzerland 2

Scorers: Hakan Yakin (2) (Switzerland)

If Germany v Austria provides this kind of drama, we are not going to get to Tuesday alive.  BTW, both games have meaning, I believe, since if Austria beats Germany and Poland beats Croatia, Poland and Austria would be in the reckoning for the second spot in Group B.  Too bad they can’t then fly to a neutral stadium and have penalties to decide the tiebreaker… 

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Group B post game – Germany vs Croatia and Austria vs Poland

Germany’s performance made me almost have to retire CH12.  The crystal ball was looking very opaque.  Football reiterated to me – “CH12, you think you know me but you don’t.”  Or to paraphrase  Biggie, “If you don’t know, now you know”… that you don’t know as much as you think. 

 

Croatia did improve their performance as I anticipated, and Olic and company did give Mertesacker and Metzelder problems.  However, the first goal was Jansen’s fault, not the central defenders’, while the second Croatian goal was lucky but the two M’s didn’t react as quickly as Olic.  Modric was great in the first 20 minutes, the last 20 minutes and skated through the time in between.  However, Kovac and Pranjic picked up the slack during that period, the defense was solid and, if not for Kranjcar’s profligacy, the game should have been over in the first half and the result could have resembled Spain’s scoreline against Russia.  Coach Loew, Fritz is not working out.  Start Schweinsteiger – Podolski and he were the only ones who showed a sense of urgency.  Too bad you won’t be able to yell Bastian till the quarters at the earliest given his silly red card, but something needs to change on the wing.  Odonkor is not really the answer either.  Maybe Hitzlsperger.  Super Mario – you are killing me.  It may be time for Kuranyi to start.  He’s good in the air and better on the ground than Mario has shown himself to be in this tournament. 

 

Having said all that, I give Bilic credit.  They played well and didn’t let the Germans play their game.  I have to also give them credit on the set up work on the first goal.  The pass into the box sucked the right back into the striker, but instead of turning or laying it off to his teammate in the center of the park, he sent it back to the passer who had all the time and space to make the telling cross.  It was very much like an inbounds play in basketball where the ball goes back to the inbounding player and no one is there to pick him up.  And of course, they needed Jansen to be asleep on the back post, but that’s already been picked up in the earlier rant.  

 

Man of the match for Croatia was Modric for asking for, and taking care of, the ball when he needed to; Rakitic was also brilliant in spots. For Germany, Podolski again was their best player on the pitch.

 

Pre-game prediction: Germany 2 Croatia 0

Result: Germany 1 Croatia 2

Scorers: Darijo Srna, Ivica Olic (Croatia) Lukas Podolski (Germany) 

 

The second game gets going, gets toward the end and I am starting to have confidence in the crystal ball again… and then injury time happens.  That’s two picks that have been blown after the 90 minute mark.  Not that I am keeping score or anything but I am now at 50% at 6 and 6. Good thing I don’t bet on games.   

 

Watching Austria blow two one on ones – too bad Harnik’s not an out and out striker – and one point blank shot, I had no doubt that it was going to come back to bite them.  It’s the same as when the shooter doesn’t throw the dice hard enough to hit the back wall – you almost always seven out.  Boruc kept Poland in the game and, sure enough, Roger scored a goal – offside though it was.  Poland actually played well thereafter, with Roger and Krzynowek (that man has a harder left foot than Jon Arne Riise, and that’s saying something) creating options every time they came down the field.  It was probably a just result that Austria pulled a goal back but it’s ridiculous that they called that a penalty after all the tugging and pulling that has gone on, and will continue to go on, unpunished in dead ball situations.  Great penalty.  Anelka, that’s how you strike it.  Man of the match for Poland was Boruc, though Roger ran him a close second; for Austria, I was digging Korkmaz.   

 

Pre-game prediction: Poland 2 Austria 1

Result: Poland 1 Austria 1

Scorers: Roger Guerreiro (Poland) Ivica Vastic (Austria) 

 

Now we will hear about all the permutations that can occur to determine who goes through from this group.

 

On to the game of the tournament.  I can’t wait.  Italy vs Romania…  Okay, so that’s a close second to the other game – Holland (that’s what you call them when they play fantasy football.  If they lose, they are back to Netherlands IMB… In My Book for you non literary 18 year olds) vs France.  Hup Oranje, Allez Francaise… Forza Italia?? 

 

 

 

 

 

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