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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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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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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 A third round pre-match – Czech v Turkey, Portugal v Switzerland

Portugal are through as winners of Group A and Switzerland are out with two losses against Turkey and Czech Republic.  The winner of the Turkey/Czech Republic game goes through to the next round to play Croatia.  They are even on points, goal difference and goals scored, so if it is a draw at regular time, there will be penalties to determine the winner.

The main game is about matchups.  Both teams play well collectively, have good technical skill, are tough to break down defensively, have had recent success on the world/Euro stage and strikers who are good but yet to set the tournament alight.  Czech Republic vs Turkey.  Petr Cech vs Volkan Demirel in goal. Tuncay and Nihat vs Koller and Baros (and Coach Brueckner needs to start both of them) up front.  Servet Cetin vs Rozenahl at center back. Turan vs Sionko at attacking midfield.  All key matchups that need to be contested.  We need to see Altintop step up for the Turks – he has too much talent to not have an impact.  This is not going to penalties much as that would be highly entertaining given Demirel’s heroics for Fener against Sevilla in the Champions League and Cech’s participation in one of the most dramatic penalty shootouts in recent memory in the 2008 Champions League Final.  I predict a Czech Republic victory in a close game.  Even if it goes to penalties, I will pick the Czechs to win.

“I will make about five changes before the match and the standard three (substitutions) during it,” said Scolari. I wouldn’t be surprised if Switzerland does the same to blood some of the younger players.  So it’s tough to call this one with the Swiss probably desperate to win at least one match at home.  That said, I think the Portugese bench players who start will be desperate to impress Scolari, so the intensity will be even higher.  I predict a Portugal win with Nani and Almeida on the scoreboard.

Pre-game predictions: Czech Republic 2 Turkey 1

Portugal 3 Switzerland 2 

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Group A second round predictions – Portugal v Czech Republic, Switzerland v Turkey

Portugal wins. Scolari will finally tell his guys how to play with Ronaldo – get him the ball as often as you can and then move around and leave him in space as much as you can. Deco and Moutinho will have better games and Ronaldo will finally score. However, it IS big Petr Cech in goal and bigger Jan Koller at the other end, so this is not going to be a walkover. Pepe and Carvalho are going to have to get on their pogo sticks. The Czechs will play better, but Portugal will put a lot more pressure on them than the Swiss (and the Swiss put a lot on them as it is). The Czechs need to start Baros or Sverkos alongside Koller. Also, I think a key mismatch that the Czechs can capitalize on is on the right wing. Paulo Ferreira is overrated and is playing out of position at left back – Sionko needs to eat his lunch and get those crosses in to Koller. This is going to be the best game in group A.

I hope the Swiss win against the Turks. My gut says that Nihat and Tuncay have better games and the Turks will score. Will Switzerland be able to respond with two goals without Frei? I don’t think so, but I think their will gets them a goal – so this is a scoring draw.

Pre-game predictions:

Portugal 2 Czech Republic 1

Switzerland 1 Turkey 1

Second round of group play, here we come. Now there is no room for error….

People – let me know if you are digging CH12 (way better than CR7 or CP3, no?) …

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Portugal vs Turkey – Half time

No surprise that Portugal look the better side and have controlled posession and had the better chances – one goal disallowed for offside and a Ronaldo free kick saved off the post.  However, Turkey looks comfortable enough and have moments of decent football. 

Portugal needs to learn from Manchester United regarding how to play with Ronaldo.  Get him the ball.  He is the best in the world, not Simao or Nuno Gomes.  He is going to start dropping deeper to get the ball and that puts him further from goal.  Let him start moving inside to get more of the ball.  Portugal’s problem is the lack of a good striker.  Gomes is neither big nor fast.  I would take Simao and Gomes off and bring on Quaresma and either Postiga or Nani and allow them to interchange with Ronaldo.  Simao is just not good enough in my book.  Deco needs to start dominating the ball – he and Moutinho should be getting the ball every time they start out of their end.  But the team does look dynamic going forward and very comfortable on the ball.  Look for Ronaldo to start making longer runs in the second half.

For Turkey, play it down the middle.  Forget the left wing.  They are not going to get change from Bosingwa.  Press Ferreira who doesn’t play at left back normally and isn’t as quick or just go through the middle.  Emre, Tuncay and Nihat can get it going.  Altintop needs to shoot a bit more – he has a great shot.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see them sneak a goal.

Portugal should win….

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