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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 C Day 3 pre-game predictions – France v Italy, Holland v Romania

Who would have thought pre-tournament that France v Italy could have no meaning for either side? As it stands, if the two draw, Romania would go through unless they lose by more than three goals. If, however, Romania doesn’t beat Holland, the winner of the France v Italy game goes through.

France has apparently not lost to Italy in regular play over 90 minutes since 1990. While this is too close to call and Panucci and Chiellini don’t really inspire that much confidence in me, and Zambrotta is going to be struggling against Henry or Ribery, I think Italy wins this match. Buffon is going to be tough to beat and will make the difference. Also, Italy has been creating chances – they just haven’t been able to score. I think that changes today.

There have been rumblings that Cassano is going to start alongside Toni. I think that’s the right move. He’s been very creative and slippery while playing in the hole behind Toni. That’s the way we assume Del Piero would have played, but he didn’t do much in the last game. So start Cassano on the left behind Toni and keep Camoranesi on the other side to do a lot of the running. The midfield has got to start Aquilani alongside Pirlo and De Rossi. While there may be a desire to start Gattuso, given the magnitude of the game, I would not do that. Aquilani and De Rossi are more offensive minded players and De Rossi can play the holding role very well. Bring Gattuso on late in the second half if you are ahead and need to protect the lead. Aquilani has a very good shot, is good going forward and has young legs, which you are going to need today. Perrotta is not the answer for this game.

For France, it is simple. Play the best team, Domenech. Here, I will do it for you. Henry and Benzema up front. Ribery, Nasri and Malouda behind them, with Maka or Diarra as the holding midfielder. While Toulalan has played well, I think Diarra has more quality going forward. Evra, Gallas, Thuram and Sagnol at the back with Coupet in goal. If you are scared of this lineup being too aggressive in the first half, start both holding midfielders and drop Malouda. However, you need to be aggressive and try to score the first goal. You are not playing Turkey, so you should be good if you score the first goal.

Romania – everything seems to be in your favor. The Dutch will be aggressive and open but without their best players executing the total football game plan. That plays into your hands. Plus, you have taken four points out of six from them in qualifying. So you know their personnel and style. Just don’t give up the first goal to the Dutch and you will be fine. The other issue, of course, is that you are going to have to play for 90 minutes without a let up as the Dutch are going to try to score, and are capable of doing so, for 90 minutes. Don’t give in to the temptation of starting only Mutu upfront. That’s fine as far as the lone striker goes, but you have to have at least two wingers close to him and coming up with him in attack all the time. That’s how you can score against the Dutch on the counter. Looking forward to Huntelaar starting. Rat, get ready for a tough game – you are going to have to excel.

CH12 predicted that France and Holland go through. It will be interesting to see if that happens. I don’t think so, as I believe Italy will beat France.

Pre-game prediction: Italy 2 France 1, Romania 1 Holland 1

I have said Hup Oranje, Allez Francaise, Forza Italia. It’s only fair to say Hai România…

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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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Holland vs France – post game

Now that was a fun game to watch. The 2008 Dutch model reminds me a lot of the 2000 model – exciting to watch, with fantastic technique and movement going forward. I still have questions about the middle of the defense and the holding midfielder, Engelaar, didn’t really stem the flow of the French down the middle of the park.

However, they are through as the winner of Group C, which means they will probably play either Russia or Sweden in the quarter finals. They can beat both those teams, which means they will either play Italy or France or Spain in the semi finals. They have beaten the first two handily and I have doubts that Spain’s central duo can keep this squad from scoring. I don’t know that Ooijer and Mathijsen can keep Torres and Villa off the scoreboard either, but based on current form, I am a believer in the Dutch. So it’s looking good for the Dutch to get to the finals. Normally, you would be concerned with the Dutch in knockout matches given their poor record in penalties. However, this team has great penalty takers – Ruud, Van Persie, Gio Van Bronckhorst, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael Van der Vaart – and Van Der Sar is one goalkeeper I would have all the confidence in the world in, given his recent winning save in the Champions League Final in Moscow.

France outplayed Holland – yes, I will refer to them as Holland till they lose (and the dead match against Romania doesn’t count since they will probably rest some of their starters and players on yellow cards) – for the first 60 minutes and had the bulk of possession during that period. However, as so often happens, the Dutch had two real chances and put in two goals while the French couldn’t put away their chances much like Italy couldn’t against Romania. Henry, in particular, was wasteful. I don’t understand why the strikers at Euro 2008 aren’t rounding the keeper on breakaways. With his speed, he should have gone around Van der Sar. He chose to try to lob it instead. Why, Thierry, would you lob with the top of the boot instead of sidefooting the lob given that you had enough time and space? One has so much more control when one does that. Instead, he put it over the crossbar. Yes, Ooijer should have been penalized for his handball off Henry’s blast, but c’est la vie. There is no way France should have given up goal #3 to Robben within a minute of cutting it to 2-1… and the angle he scored from was hard to swallow. People are blaming Coupet, but sometimes, you just have to admit that a blast to the top of the goal from that angle is unexpected and hard to stop when struck with that pace. You just can’t get your palms up fast enough to push it over the top of the bar or block it back.

Domenech, you are terrible. No Nasri or Benzema. Can’t you see that your old guys aren’t getting it done – look at the Dutch team to get a clue? And you play Maka the whole game when you are trailing. Terrible decision making. I hope Les Blues fire you and bring in Laurent Blanc or Didier Deschamps as coach of the national team.

On the other hand, Marco van Basten, you are the MAN. I LOVE YOUR SUBSTITUTIONS. I suggested you get more speed in midfield by bringing on Robben or Van Persie in the second half. You bring on BOTH! Forget protecting the lead. You rightly believed that a good defense is a good offense. Fans, like CH12, bray for that all the time, but then we don’t have the pressure to get results. Few coaches ever subscribe to that cliched philosophy. But, you did – the cynics may say you already know you are leaving for Ajax after the tournament, so what the heck. However, it was brilliant and that’s why I am rooting for the Dutch to win the Euros 20 years after they last won it in 1988, when Van Basten scored one of the most unbelievable goals ever in the final against Russia (“rooting” not predicting – this is the Dutch team after all). If you think Robben’s angle was tight, check out that goal. So your two subs combine to score the second goal and Robben scores the third. Wesley, master strike for the fourth goal. The final compliment is to Ruud – the Zidane-step-on-the-ball-and-spin for a pass move!?? Who knew?! It absolutely set up Robben’s lane down the wing and led to the second goal.

Pre-game prediction: France 2 Holland 1

Result: France 1 Holland 4 ( “If one is going to be wrong, sometimes it is best to be spectacularly so” – CH12 June 13, 2008 )

Scorers: Dirk Kuyt, Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder (Holland) Thierry Henry (France)

Man of the match for Holland was Arjen Robben; for France: Ribery again.

CH12 is now 6 and 8. Got to come back strong tomorrow to get back to even. Maybe I will use Van Basten’s philosophy and go with the thought that the best defense is to go with the offense…

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Holland vs France – updated pre-game prediction

With the Italy v Romania result, the group is wide open and France does not want to go into the last game having to beat Italy to go through.  I am changing my prediction.  France wins this game in an upset over the current darlings – the Dutch.

Pre-game prediction: France 2 Holland 1

CH12 feeling shaky now that the crystal ball is playing sub 500…

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Italy vs Romania – post game

That was an exciting game.  We saw more chances, in total and on both sides, than we have seen in any one other game.  It was tactical at times and end to end at others.  As tall as Toni is, if he were a couple of inches taller or his legs were a few inches longer, he would have had a hat trick.  He was so close on a handful of chances – and the one he scored at the end of the first half was wrongfully denied on a bad offside call.  Brilliant save by Lobont on De Rossi’s header.  Unbelievable penalty save by Buffon off Mutu.  Great finish by Mutu on Romania’s first goal.  The back four of Romania played quite well at the end of the day.

The coaches need to be commended as well.  Donadoni was brave in making as many changes as he did.  I would have put in Aquilani instead of Perrotta, but all in all it was a good lineup.  I actually thought that Cassano was more effective than Del Piero when he came on.  Romania also played a good game and had a ton of chances that would have made them winners if they were facing another goalie.

Both teams are alive.  If Italy beats France, they will go through if Romania doesn’t beat Holland and Holland gets a point off France.  Lots of permutations, so Buffon’s save was huge.  Players of the game for the two teams were Buffon for Italy and Mutu (in spite of the penalty miss) for Romania.  It’s tough to toil out there by yourself and he took the chance off Zambrotta’s mistake brilliantly.

Pre-game prediction: Italy 1 Romania 0

Result: Italy 1 Romania 1

Scorers: Adrian Mutu (Romania) Christian Panucci (Italy)

On to the Oranje and Les Blues…

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Holland vs France – pre game prediction

The crystal ball changes from minute to minute.  This is a tough one.  If the Dutch show up the way they did against Italy and the French show up the way they did against Romania, it’s relatively easy to call the Dutch winners.  However, I think the Dutch drop a bit, even with Van Persie possibly starting and the French do better simply because the Dutch will not have 10 men behind the ball like Romania.  There will be more space for the French midfield.  I also think Andre Ooijer and Joris Mathijesen are going to have a much harder time with Benzema and Anelka/Henry/Gomis. 

Domenech needs to start Nasri so that there is more speed and energy going forward else the French midfield will be overrun by the faster Dutch set up of Van der Vaart, Engelaar and Sneijder.   Toulalan and Maka should be enough to slow down the Dutch and give the defense numbers against Ruud and company.  Unsure of how solid Gallas and Thuram are in the middle of the park since Romania didn’t really test them.  Should be a barnstormer.

I still can’t figure out how to call it, but I think there will be goals and I think its a 2 all draw, with the French the more likely to win the game.  Will update once we know the Italy v Romania result.

Pre-game prediction: France 2 Holland 2

Ruud and Benzema will score…   Continue reading

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