Archive for June 20th, 2012

Euro 2012: Day 11

Play Badly And Win: Spain 1 – 0 Croatia

What should have been a great match was made dreary by tactics. Despite the Croats needing to score to have a chance of qualification (only a win or a high scoring draw would do) they really didn’t pose much of a threat for the first 70 minutes or so. Their plan seems to have been to tire the Spanish out by allowing them to have too much possession of the ball.

The Spanish, meanwhile, appear to have been playing well within themselves. Either that or they were giving a very good impression of a team that was unable to meet its own high standards, appeared somewhat exhausted and was unable to gel together properly. Indeed, there were moments when they were comprehensively outplayed by the Croats, when Modric sparkled down the right wing, then put in a beautiful cross off the outside of his boot only to see Rakitic head it straight at Casillas. That and a volley from outside the area were the Croats two significant chances. After that the game was effectively over.

Spain’s one moment of genuine class decided the game. A through ball from Fabregas saw Iniesta finally break the Croat defence and square the ball for the onrushing Jesus Navas to slam into the net from a couple of yards. The venom with which he struck the ball ensured that, but for the net, that ball would still be traveling two days later.

Play Badly And Lose: Ireland 0 – 2 Italy

Well top marks the Irish. At least they managed to hold it to nil-nil for more than five minutes. Indeed it wasn’t until the 36th minute that their chronically useless defence spreadeagled itself in front of the Italian onslaught. A corner headed in and once again the Irish had conceded from a set piece. And while an Irish goal might have sent the Italians home, it never looked like really happening. And when they conceded a late second, again from a corner, their misery was complete.

Bad beyond belief the Irish have even less to take home from this tournament than the Dutch (and that’s saying something). Null points, one goal and a goal difference of -8. Two goalkeeping howlers, three goals from set pieces and a brace for goal drought Fernando Torres. The Irish represent everything that is wrong with ‘macho’ football. Staffed by big men with plenty of ‘heart’ and nothing in their boots, they showed that there is no point to football without skill, tactics and guile. Rarely threatening, always in danger, Ireland were like the minnows of the Cup coming up against the big boys and finally understanding the possibilities the game they had been playing all their lives had to offer and realising that they would never, as individuals, begin to ascend the foothills of the talents they were playing against.

The idea that the Irish can qualify for this tournament while teams like the Belgians are left on the sidelines makes a mockery of the qualification process. The sooner they and the footballing philosophy they represent are banished the better.

Archive for June 20th, 2012

Euro 2012: Day 10

The Run And Ronnie Show: Portugal 2 – 1 Holland

Up until now Ronaldo had always been damned with the faint praise that he’d been alright in the big games. He’d been the outstanding player at Man U and then Real Madrid for years. His goalscoring record is almost unbelievable. Messi aside he is the seminal player of his, our, age. Yet the same criticism has always dogged him and it is strangely valid, he goes missing in the really big games. You think of his first Champions League final, where he had simply no impact on the game, or those early games at Real Madrid against Barcelona. Or Portugal’s various exits from previous World Cups and Euros. That was Ronnie in a nutshell.

Not anymore. Today Ronnie made himself big, finally erasing the single, long term doubt that has surrounded him. He was simply sensational. Almost single handedly he dominated the Dutch, continually threatening their goal, scoring both Portugal’s goals and fundamentally destroying any last vestiges of hope the Dutch had of leaving the Euros with any credibility.

One moment when he won the ball on the edge of his own penalty area, passed it and ran the full length of the pitch for the return, summed up his contribution. Even more so than Real Madrid, this is a team standing on the shoulders of a single player. And for the first time they played like a team who were capable of supporting him. Doubly ironic that they should be playing against Holland, a team which is so much less than the sum of its parts and has been falling apart throughout the competition.

Yup, Ronnie was terrific, he mullered the Dutch and this was the game of the tournament so far.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho… Germany 2 – 1 Denmark

Given that there was a moment when the Danes could conceivably have sent the Germans out of the tournament, this was a match with a very subdued atmosphere. One of the real issues with the whole both matches starting at the same time thing is that you have to choose which match you want to watch and, inevitably, during the match you learn what happened in the other game. All of which makes the second game far less compelling.

Once you learn that the Danes have been defeated everything becomes a little less interesting. Despite a fightback by the Danes and the possibility of a penalty to take the lead this game never had any tension.