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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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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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Who will win Euro 2008 – pre semi finals

Why Germany will win:

I believe Germany will beat Turkey in its weakened state. That leaves Germany playing either Spain or Russia for the trophy.

  • The psychological edge: Neither Russia nor Spain has been at this level in the lifetimes of these players. That is going to weigh heavily on them if the game is close, goes to overtime or in penalties. Germany, by contrast, is battle tested. Ballack and Klose were in the squad that lost in the 2002 World Cup Final to Brazil. While Puyol, Marchena, Casillas, Xavi and Iniesta have been in Champions League winning squads, that’s not the same as a quadrennial tournament for your country. I know Spain won their shootout, but I will take the Germans in a shootout if it comes to that – Lehmann is very good at penalties as well. I believe it will be less of an edge against the Russians as they have nothing to lose. They have overperformed and have a great coach to take some of the pressure off the players.
  • The physical edge: Russia has been particularly vulnerable on free kicks as evidenced by the slack marking against the Dutch. That will bury them against the Germans who demonstrated their aerial capabilities against Portugal. Spain has also struggled with the high ball – they gave up a headed goal to Pavlyuchenko and had trouble against Ibrahimovic on the diagonal cross. In midfield, it’s going to be tough for Spain to match up with the speed and aggressiveness of the Germans. Podolski, Klose, Ballack and Schweinsteiger are also going to be a handful for the Spanish rearguard.
  • In-form players: Ballack, Klose, Schweinsteiger and Podolski are all on the board. Look out.

Why Spain will win:

They can beat Russia by keeping possession – the less time the Russians have on the ball, the less damage Arshavin can do. If I was Spain, I would slow the game down so that the Russians’ late game fitness is not an issue. Spain also has enough mobility in midfield to stay with the Russians. It’s a toss up, but I think Spain can win because of the scoring threat that Torres and Villa will provide. They will not be flat like the Dutch were. However, Casillas is going to have to have the game of his life to keep the Russians from scoring with Pavlyuchenko set to give Puyol and Marchena fits.

  • Spain has the bench: Their depth will be the key to counter Germany or Turkey if the game goes into overtime. Arragones has a depth of midfield choices to change up his gameplan as well.
  • In-form players: Villa leads the tournament in scoring. Torres has scored and all the penalty kick takers, excluding Guiza, should be full of confidence. Casillas is on form as well.
  • They believe now that they have thrown off the quarterfinal jinx.
  • They are quicker at moving the ball around than anyone Germany or Turkey have played so far. That will give them fits. I think Spain should want to play Germany because only Genghis Khan’s hordes will be able to keep Turkey from winning the title if they beat Germany with half a squad. Tuncay, Turan, Volkan and Asik will be back for the final, so beware.
  • It’s their time – it just feels like it.

Why Russia will win:

They can beat Spain if they score first. Spain will have to be more aggressive playing from behind and that will leave more space for Arshavin to exploit. It’s going to be tough as Spain has been warned after seeing the Dutch get served up. So if Russia can get past Spain, they will beat Turkey handily in my opinion. The Turks will not be able to recover from giving up as many chances as Russia creates. Can they beat Germany is the question. Yes, they can.

  • Russia plays the best football of any team in the tournament. It’s pretty, one touch, direct, motion football. As a result, they create a ton of chances regardless of the pace of play.
  • They have nothing to lose. They are already heroes.
  • They have in-form players in Pavlyuchenko and Zhirkov as well as the player of the tournament in Arshavin.
  • They have Hiddink.
  • Their movement will make it tough for Germany to shut them down even if Germany plays five in midfield.
  • They will have learned their lesson against Holland and mark people tighter on free kicks and corners.

And after all that, CH12 picks…

My gut says the winner of the Spain v Russia semi final wins the tournament with my choice being Spain. More after the semi finals…

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Spain v Italy – pre game prediction

No Pirlo. Much as I like Aquilani, he’s a different kind of player. Maybe the way to make up for Pirlo is to start the entire Roma midfield and have De Rossi and Perrotta along with Aquilani to support a threesome of Toni, Del Piero/Cassano (I prefer Del Piero in this game) and Camoranesi. That should give Italy enough bodies in midfield and a set of younger, more dynamic midfielders who have had a good season in Serie A. All this to say that that is the only way Italy are going to be able to beat Spain. Jam up the middle of the park, play Italian catenaccio football and hope for Toni to convert a header off a deadball situation. The weakness of the Spanish team is the center of defense where Marchena and Puyol (or Albiol if Puyol is still out injured) cannot match up with Toni. I give the Italians a 30% chance of winning – and given my predictive powers in the quarters, that would guarantee them a spot in the semi final.

Spain should just continue doing what they have been doing. Dominate ball possession and rely on Torres and Villa to score goals. Italy’s defense is uncharacteristically weak – Panucci (the usual right back) is the leader in the middle and plays with Chiellini, the lowest ranked central defender in the squad (Materazzi, Cannavaro and Barzagli are all injured). Grosso is good at left back, but more known for going forward, and Zambrotta has had an average tournament. Unfortunately, for Spain, they are backed up by Buffon. If I were Arragones, I would not start Xavi and Iniesta together. I would have Senna, Cesc, Xabi Alonso and Xavi to go with Torres and Villa up front. Drop Silva and Iniesta. Xabi and Senna are good holding midfielders and will counter the Italian midfield, while Cesc is a very tough two way player and will support them at the defensive end. Cesc, Xavi and Xabi are all great passers and you are going to need all of them so the Italians can’t focus on shutting Xavi down. Silva hasn’t done much in this tournament. If you are behind, then bring on Iniesta and Silva, but otherwise, go with this lineup.

Pre-game prediction: Spain 2 Italy 1

It’s time for Torres to show the world what he has learned in England and impose himself physically on the Italian defense…

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