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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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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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