This has to be sour grapes at their sourest.Lehmann saying that he thinks the match was fixed.
June 2008 Archives
As compiled Ali Martin writing in the Sun - in order of increasing floppiness.
10.The electrical storm that blew out the TV transmission of the Germany Turkey semifinal.
7.Austria and Switzerland
2. Petr Cech
I have tears of joy. Watching Spain get over their mental block against their more heralded European rivals, doing it their way, playing beautiful, attacking soccer and finally winning what was rightfully theirs. There is a God occasionally and he chose the right time to be munificent.
There was Ballack his face streaked with congealed blood and the nonplussed Metzelder and Mertesacker, their faces frozen in disbelief and dismay, as they contemplated another championship without a title. Ballack is now the eternal stepchild, having lost out on the World Cup, Premiership, Champions League, and now the Euro.
It was Germany that came out in the first 20 minutes looking sharper and crisper as the Spanish backpedaled to keep the ball away from Podolski and Klose. But the defense gained in confidence as they won some hard fought 50-50 tackles. And slowly Spanish superiority in the midfield exerted itself. It was El Nino who created the best chance as he went up against Metzleder and guided a header which fortuitously hit the goal post after beating Lehmann and bounced out of harm's way. Germany was suddenly the team with their backs against the wall.
As it was with Turkey, Philip Lahm again donned the mantle of scapegoat as he went toe to toe with Torres, and got blistered. Torres turned the corner and then toed the ball past Jens Lehmann who over committed himself, telegraphing the little faith he had in his defenders. It was the 32nd minute and the Spanish were ascendant. There was Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, and Ramos stringing together fantastic passes and relying on flicks, sleight of foot, and peripheral vision to tease and torment the Germans.
Spain should have gone about three goals up as Sergio Ramos's header was parried out by Lehmann, Senna flashing a nanosecond late following a beautiful one- two with Iniesta heading down a cross from Silva across goal, and Ramos whistling a shot just past the far post.
Viva Espana and congratulations to them. We will see them again. And its onwards full speed for Aragones boys to the World Cup.
"We must fight back as a team, not allow them into the game. The Spaniards don't like it if we fight back aggressively. We must try that and then play our own game," said Frings.
The plan is to play Spain like they did Portugal. Expect a very physical German side that is relying on set pieces and lots of aerial relays to overwhelm the Spanish defence. That and an impeccable history in the finals having won three, the most in Euro history. For the finals, the fans will be overhwelmingly German with 40,000 expected to Spain's 15,000.
The newspapers in Spain are touting the new muscular and sleek Spanish team, unified in purpose. The future lies bright as Luis Aragones has molded a team that is young and resilient.
"Spain must decide whether it wants to be a bull or matador", proclaimed Cesar Luis Menotti.
This Spanish team has found ways to be both. Under Aragones and his successor in waiting Vincent Del Bosque, they are now a serious challenge to German and Italian supremacy.
Expect David Villa not to be in the line up, the Valencia striker has a muscle tear in his thigh and has been ruled out.
Expect Cesc Fabregas to start. Arsenal's maestro has been having quite a tournament
Expect Michael Ballack to be a gametime decision.
Expect a foul filled initial 20 minutes as the Germans try and break the rhythm of the free flowing Spanish midfield.
Expect very few aerial balls from Spain as the longer limbed Germans would have a field day.
Expect Germans to loft the ball to Klose and Ballack to beat out the shorter Spanish defence.
Expect the German left flank with Lahm and Podolski to be hyperactive in attack.
Expect David Silva to be a thorn in Arne Friedrich's side, and in general, the whole German side
Expect Jens Lehmann to cause a few heart attacks on either side.
Expect Fernando Torres to break his Luca Toni like dry spell.
Expect Cesc Fabregas to stamp his authority in attack.
Expect Per Mertesacker and Christoph Metzelder to look nonplussed.
Expect Tommy Smyth to have an orgasm everytime Germany touches the ball.
Expect Angela Merkel in German face paint and a beer in her hand.
Expect Spain to beat Germany.
Germany will be feeling a bit relieved as Spain will be without David Villa who has been ruled out with a muscle tear in his thigh. But they still have Torres and Guiza to contend with. And Silva, Fabregas, Iniesta, Xavi, Senna, and Ramos.
This Spanish team is not afraid to let it fly from long distance and Lehmann's reflexes will be sorely tested. He was not upto the task when he deflected a shot onto the post and the ball came back to Ivica Olic for Croatia's second goal. Against Turkey, Lehmann could not stop Ugur Boral's weakly struck shot.
I expect the Spanish team to come out smoking, creating chances with their clever interlocking play as they pull and probe the German defence and soften them up with their 20-30 pass sequences. Lehmann better be on top of his game to keep the Germans competitive. He has looked tentative, been caught out of position and not clean with his collection.
The German strikeforce of Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose have scored 10 goals in five games and that has taken their tally to 69 international goals between the pair of them.That's just one more than Gerd Muller scored all by himself.Ballack is looking doubtful for the final.There's no question about this - Germany needs a new bomber.
Marcos Senna is being celebrated as a find, a player finally giving teeth to the much maligned Spanish defence, a noteworthy ally in its potent attack. But he is in a minority because this Euro shone a spotlight on the number of flatfooted defenses which became red meat for swift counter attacks. Teams could not hold onto leads. Goals were given up by defenders without thought. And attacks were sustained by the inability of the defenders to clear the ball effectively. In basketball terms, the advantage lay with the team making all the offensive rebounds.
Many examples abound, Gianluca Zambrotta's interception of a Razvan Rat long ball which he mishit into Adrian Mutu's direction that the Romanian striker gobbled up gratefully. Or Sergio Ramos whose problems staying upright led to Zlatan Ibrahamovic scoring a goal. In between we were treated to Florent Malouda defending in vain against Dirk Kuyt's goal. Or Philip Lahm's atrocious defending against Sabri that led to Semih equalizing for Turkey. The Czech defence kept Nihat onside enabling him to score the game winner. These defensive lapses became de riguer and costly to the team's chances.
Managers discovered that experience was an over rated attribute and that age and attrition had sapped players of the quick reflexes resulting in porous defenses breached repeatedly by a fast counterattacking style. Many teams too were forced to employ a makeshift defense because of injuries to their first line.
The French relied on Lilian Thuram and Willy Sagnol, players brought back from retirement, which saw the Dutch shredding them in one of France's worst defeats. In turn, the Dutch led by Andre Ooijer and Wilfred Bouma at the back, slowed down by injuries and age, were no match for Arshavin and company. Italy in Cannavaro's absence patched its defense pairing the 36 year old Christian Panucci with the much younger Andre Barzagli or Giorgio Chiellini at the center, to ultimately no avail. The Czech Republic's defensive line boasted 242 caps, a lifetime of experience which counted for nought as the Turkey embarassed them in the match of Euro 2008. The Turks repeated their performance against Croatia, another team with a veteran defense, with Dario Simic one shy of a century of caps for his country and Robert Kovac and Josip Simunic accounting for another 143.
Spain will try and exploit a German side that has had trouble keeping the ball away from the back of the net with Croatia, Portugal, and Turkey giving plenty of heartburn. Age and injuries can slow down a defense but these are not the excuses for a German team that has a group of young defendees who should have no problems with speed or reflexes. But their team has been found wanting. Per Mertesacker and Christoph Metzelder as the sentinels in the center have looked slow and tentative. At right back Jogi Low has tinkered with Lahm, Fritz, and Friedrich but they have proved inadequate. Lahm has used his attacking prowess down the left flank effectively but his defense has been questionable. Even with Torsten Frings giving additional cover, the Germans look shaky. Given that Jens Lehmann has been having some problems with motor co-ordination, this does not bode well for a team having to stop the likes of Villa, Torres, or Guiza.
The eternal greed machine that is club soccer just outdid itself. The present over-correction in the market which reversed club domination now finds players without any shred of guilt opting out of multi- year contracts and hold out for more money. Arsene Wenger believes that the present course is out of control reminiscent of a Wild West mentality.
It is interesting he makes these observations in the context of the Ronaldo saga. The only way clubs can be forced to make further concessions is to paint them as being the entities that wield ultimate power which is what Ronaldo and his agent are doing.
Ronaldo feels that leading Man U to two Premiership and a CL title is enough price to be paid for his independence. It seems he reportedly pursued his dream of joining Real since December of last year. His perfomance seems to be partly fueled by the perception that if he had a great season which resulted in winning Man U its titles that the club in its gratitude would have no problems releasing him.
Naive or calculatingly conniving? Does Ronaldo really think that Man U would let go of its golden goose, the one player chiefly responsible for its success and give Chelsea and Arsenal snapping at its heels, a huge leg up.
Or is Ronaldo calculating that Man U comes off looking like an ungrateful slave master with a sketchy conscience, forcing players into servitude, unwilling to negotiate even with Real ready to break the bank. The only way they can redeem themselves is to re-negotiate his five year club contract agreed upon just last year to give him more money. Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes believes that Man U will make that happen in order to help Ronaldo renew his passion to play for the club.
Either way Real is ready to offer a sum which is making most pundits and managers sick to the stomach. The asking rate is worth €200m (£158m) for his services. The so called best player in the world is worth more than Werder Bremen's valuation.
History : - Germany have a superior head-to-head record against Spain. In 19 previous meetings, the Germany have triumphed eight times to Spain's five.
This will be Germany's sixth final, having won three of their previous five - won in 1972, lost in 1976, won in 1980, lost in 1992, won in 1996.Spain's greatest Euro moment came on 21 June 1964 when they won the competition in Madrid, defeating the Soviet Union 2-1. They were runners-up to France in 1984.
And as we get ready for some more history to be made we have the Spanish barbers hoping to make history by shaving a record number of heads and the Germans making history by having none other than their Chancellor Angela Merkel as their number one fan.
In the midst of Euro fever, there was sad news for the millions of Iraqi fans as their national team crashed out of World Cup qualifying contention beaten by Qatar.
A draw would have sufficed to get them to the final round of qualifiying.
For the Iraqis, their national team was one of the few unifying forces that brought the various warring sects together, laying down their differences to answer the call of their common passion.
Just ten days ago, the team was flying high as they eliminated China from the race through a 2-1 win through goals by Nashat Akram and Emad Ridha. A few weeks earlier, the Iraqis had defeated the Socceroos, arguably the toughest team in Asia, 1-0 through a sizzling free kick by Emad Mohammad.
Guus Hiddink couldn't get his Russian Ballet started last night and it was Flamenco all the way.Where was Andrei Arshavin ? He changed superhero identities last night.For the last couple of games he was the kind of superhero who was leaping over tall defenders and goalkeepers in a single bound.Yesterday he was the kind of superhero who runs around being invisible.It was the reign of Spain in the rain.Goal video below.
Spain made it to the Euro finals after 44 years. So long ago it came during Francisco Franco's iron fisted rule, an era abhorred and overturned by thousands who have made Spain, a beacon of democracy and social progressivism.
Today's match against Russia turned out to be anti-climactic as Guus Hiddink's team was a shadow of itself, tentative and tremulous. Andrei Arshavin chose the wrong match to turn invisible. Roman Pavlyuchenko provided a few uplifting moments for the Russian fans but the Spanish defence and Iker Casillas proved to be a step quicker, in a reversal of the much parodied versions of earlier teams.
Spain right from the outset went on the attack and tested Igor Akinfeev with some smart and crisp volleys which was a good tactic as the incessant rain made the ball slick and hard to handle. Fabregas introduction for the injured David Villa as the slot striker leaving Torres up front was a bit surprising (he usually replaces Xavi) introduced a crisper passing game. But the Russians managed to battle the first half to a draw.
The second half saw some of the most scintillating soccer from Spain as their fluid midfield led by Iniesta, Xavi, and Fabregas began wearing down the Russian defence. The stalemate ended when Xavi smartly sliced the ball past Akinfeev from a heads up pass by Iniesta after a lovely bit of passing. Torres was surprisingly taken off and replaced by Dani Guiza. To be fair, Torres was a thorn in the Russian side but he seemed to be just a bit off his timing. Aragones probably realized that he needed at least one more goal to put this past the Russians to avoid a Turkish surprise.
His move paid dividends as minutes later in a brilliant 1-2, Fabregas adroitly lifted the ball past Ignasevich and Guiza chested it down and toed it past Akinfeev to score the second goal. Then after a great bout of passing, Iniesta hands of to Fabregas, whose run ends in his pass threading the needle to find Silva, and the diminutive left footed winger controls the ball, shifting it to his natural foot and lays the ball into goal. Spain is three up and the nail is in the coffin.
The Russians were outdone by a superior team and their fairy tale written largely by Arshavin's exploits, came to an end. Except for a few moments, the fluid and open style that the Russians used to shell shock the Netherlands was missing. In its place, the Russians became as predictable as the Italians as they sought their big man, Roman Pavlyuchenko.
Correction: Spain also made it to the 1984 Euro finals where they were beaten by France, 0-2.
It is obvious as daylight that Germany's Lukas Podolksi and Philip Lahm operate with a right brained attitude which is at polar opposites to the rest of the team. Germany's creative zest arises from the left flank. Four goals and a hand in three more. But the intuitive right brain is also prone to blunders. And so it is with Podolski and Lahm, especially Lahm whose defensive gaffes have proven embarassing. Opposing teams have been punished by them but they have also found that the door is left open.
Tommy Smyth is an execrable piece of humanity. After the Turkey - Germany match, he condescendingly dismissed Turkey's performance as "No one will remember who played the semi-finals, it only matters who won, and Germany won." He then went into a paean on how Lahm scored a goal which strikers would be well advised to watch. There was no praise for Turkey and their effort.
Kudos to Julie Foudy who smacked him down by saying that there would be many who would remember Turkey and their never say die spirit. Smyth looked like he had swallowed an "auld onion bag."
Why ESPN continues to tolerate Smyth is beyond me. Keith Olbermann should do a Worst Person segment on this buffoon.
Semih Senturk did it again. He guided the ball exquisitely between Lehmann and the goalpost for a 86th minute goal after Sabri turned Philip Lahm inside out at the sideline and then slid the ball across. Semih was at hand to beat out Lehmann and Metzleder. The magnificent Turks had stormed back after they familiarly looked defeat in the face from a Miroslav Klose goal in the 80th minute. The match looked like it was heading to extra time.
The loss of TV transmission at crucial intervals of the second half added to the tension and the fast changing scoreline had to be updated by the studio crew. We could not get to see Klose and Semih's goal live but the link came back in time to see Philip Lahm's dagger in the waning minutes of the match to dash Turkish hopes. Lahm atoned for his embarassing mistake by speeding down the left flank as he left Kazim Richard sprawling on the turf. Hitzlsperger was at hand to receive his pass and in a clever 1-2, relayed it back to Lahm who had continued his run. Lahm finished off with a curling right footer that Rustu had no chance of stopping. The Turks were caught napping and Mehmet Topal, the makeshift center back could not react in time. The link went dead again. Fatih Terim's thin roster, attenuated by injuries and suspension, could not pull of a miracle this time.
The most crucial play was the one that Rustu gambled on and lost. Lahm, from the left floated a cross towards Klose and Rustu, from a full 10 yards rushed out. His effort was a nano second too late as Klose headed the ball into an empty goal. If Rustu had held his ground he would have had an easy collection.
The Turks were everywhere in the first half as the Germans looked like the makeshift team. Under siege, the Germans cracked. From a Kazim Richards floater which hit the cross bar, the ball fell to Ugur Boral. Fortunately for him, his weak shot caught Lehmann off guard, and the ball squeezed past the goal line. The Turkish celebration was shortlived as four minutes later the Germans in their only good moment of the first half came back when a Podolski drive across the goal saw Schweinsteiger reaching before Topol and flicking the ball past Rustu.
Fatih Terim's remaining men rallied magnificently. Mehmet Aurelio did a fantastic job reducing Michael Ballack to a bystander. Kazim Richards was a force on the right. He could have easily had two goals if the crossbar had not come in the way. Semih Senturk with his guile slipped past the twin towers of Mertesacker and Metzelder with ease. Ugur Boral resurrected Tuncay with his hard running, down the left to attack and falling back on defense. Gokan Zan provided a physical presence in the middle. Hamit Altintop although not quite having the game as he did against Croatia, marshalled the midfield, to enjoy an advantage in first half possession.
This Euro shall be remembered for the Turks and their indomitable team. They not only played with courage and an unflagging spirit but they did so with a sparkling display of creative and attacking soccer. They might have lost this match but they won the admiration of milions around the world. And which team would not love to have such passionate fans engulfing the stadium with chants of Turkiye Turkiye. We know you will be back.
The Turkish march has ended.They scored an equaliser 4 minutes from the end and then finally ran out of miracles.Germany beat them at their own game - Philipp Lahm scoring a last gasp winner in the 90th or so minute to take the game 3 -2. Alas ....
Thousands of supporters of the Spanish national team have sworn to shave their heads if their side wins the Euro 2008 football championship.10,000 fans and counting have made the following pledge on a online petition connected to the Spanish sports daily Marca "I, an unrepentant lifelong fan, solemnly commit myself before Marca, the fans and the national team, to shave every last hair on my Spanish head if our team wins Euro 2008."
Spanish barbers are slavering in anticipation......
What's the best thing to listen to while you are watching the Turkey Germany semifinal.
Mozart's Turkish march of course.
I'm suprised no one has mentioned this before..!
Just click play - then sit back and cheer your team.
For the guitar minded here are some youtube guitar versions of the Turkish March - Classical Guitar or if that's too gentle - electric guitar.
Of all the players missing from the Turkish squad, Tuncay Sanli's absence hurts more than others. The Middlesbrough striker has been the catalyst and the motivator par excellence for all the Turkish comebacks.
Against a German side ready to exploit their physical play against the more diminutive Turkish side, Tuncay would have brought his strength and pace to cause problems down the flanks and up the middle. But more than that Tuncay has given 110% to the game, running back all the way to tackle, racing upfield to chase a ball, test the goalie with a sizzling shot, crunch heads with defenders to get to a ball, take corners and free kicks, send in crosses, and even play goalie.
I am not discounting the immense efforts of Adhar Turan, Nihat, Semih, Hamit Altintop, Hakan Balta, and others but Tuncay's impact has been as important as Andrei Arshavin's to the Russian success. Personally, I think he would run Per Mertesacker and Christoph Metzelder ragged. Torsten Frings would probably have to soften him up with fouls to break his rhythm and Philip Lahm would have to chase him down.
When Germany and Turkey meet tomorrow on the field it will not be just another soccer match but one which reflects deep socio-political connections between the two countries largely though the prism of the 2.5 million people of Turkish ethnicity living in Germany.
Tomorrow's match raises to the fore, the heated issue of German attempts at Turkish integration and its success. Both countries will get to see Hamit Altintop and Hakan Balta, German born players of Turkish ethnicity, who have opted to play for their country of origin. This is the first major clash between the two countries, and on the eve of the match, many on the political left believe that the two players chose to play for Turkey because assimilation has not gone far enough. Politicians from the right tout Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski as success stories in German integration, which seems to be a bit of a stretch, given that they come from Poland, a neighbouring country, where German is the second language.
The answer lies in the way Germany set about ignoring the citizenship claims of hundreds of thousands of Turkish guest workers invited by Germany in the post World War II reconstruction phase, once they settled down, learned the language, began families, and started the process of assimilation. Germany then shut down the guest worker program in the early 70s and then tried to get rid of the existing workers, even giving them cash awards to return. The immigration laws were not very kind to the subsequent generations also leaving the status of German born Turks in limbo.
German laws till very recently, did not grant citizenship to children of foreign born parents, even as German Turks enter their third generation. In fact, only about 30% of the population have been granted citizenship. New federal laws passed in 2000 under Gerhard Schroeder sped up the process of naturalization but left it up to the state to decide on how immigrants were perceived to uphold the constitution. The southern state of Baden Wurttemberg now requires that potential citizens from Muslim countries answer questions pertaining to their cultural beliefs, grounds for disqualification if they are anathema to Western tenets. The large Turkish population in that state sees this as racist and discriminatory, and a further obstacle to their integration.
More recently, tensions between Angela Merkel and Tayyip Erdogan flared up over rules which increase the bar on family re-unification. Turks joining their families have to now learn basic Deutsch. This marginalizes families from more remote regions of Turkey where German classes are not readily available.
Erdogan's visit wih Merkel came at a time when German - Turkish community relations were already at a low ebb. A fire had killed nine Turks, five of them children, in the German state of Hesse. It was widely suspected but not proven to be a hate crime. Erdogan to allay Turkish fears, in a populist speech, exhorted the Turkish community to remain aloof from German society and to take pride in Turkish culture and its language. To many Germans, already suspicious of Muslims following 9/11, it appeared that Erdogan, a devout Islamist, was fueling the feeling of alienation which many Turks publicly acknowledge. His first visit ended with widespread condemnation by the German media. The talk of attending Turkish language schools should be seen in the context of German dismay with the erosion of its world rankings in reading and math largely because of the poor performance of its "migration background" children. This illustrates the quintessential Turkish conundrum. In order to assimilate, the Turks learn German, the benefits of which have not paid off in terms of citizenship, higher education or employment. Germany nationalists are quick to blame the Turks for their country's high unemployment rate, increasing crime, and falling educational standards. However, embracing the Turkish language and culture, would be perceived as reactionary, the genesis of a parallel culture which many Germans see as responsible for breeding radical Islam.
It is not just Germany's foot-dragging of the immigration issue that has disenchanted millions of Turks in Germany but also the larger issue of Turkey's integration into the EU. Angela Merkel and the CDU want a more diluted version of full membership, in which Turkey will be accorded special privileges, with cultural and economic caveats.
Even Hamit Altintop acknowledges that this is not just a soccer match, its implications are far more significant, and that he dances a delicate dance.
"It will be a very special game for me," Altintop said. "I have Germany to thank for a lot -- actually for everything…. I would be very happy if every fan were to see Wednesday's game as a huge folk festival between the two countries. Regardless of the result, the game is an excellent opportunity to take another step toward the much-discussed goal of integration."
I don't think German fans will be so sanguine if he scores the winning goal. In soccer, rationalization is best left to managers and pundits.
A collection of Ballack quotes about the semi final against Turkey.
"I am very calm. All us see a great chance to be in the final and win the title.It's up to us.
They know how to adjust to opponents and that shows they are very strong mentally.I expect them to be more defensive, I think we will have more possession. We won't underestimate them, for sure, we respect everyone and we expect a difficult job.Turkey beat Croatia and we lost to it. There is no favorite.The memory of Dortmund shows us that we have to give our best until the end, and especially against the Turks we have to be committed until the final whistle."
Meanwhile rumour has it that Lehmann is busy compiling a a new set of cheat sheets in case the game goes to penalties.The last cheat sheet if you remember was up for sale in December last year.
Arsene Wenger is pursuing the Zenit St. Petersburg striker with deadly intent notwithstanding his coy statements. To do that he has to cloud Arshavin's mind by blurring Arsenal's style with that of Barca (which remains Arshavin's first choice). Having Cesc Fabregas team up with the Arshavin on display in this Euro should be a mouthwatering proposition for Arsenal this season.
So far La Liga has not paid much interest to Arshavin whose age appears to be a factor. The Spanish league loves to catch 'em young, watch them grow, unless you happen to be RVN or Thierry Henry, proven superstars. Barca is also shopping their surplus in Deco, Eto'o, and Ronaldinho, and some of the money in that trade will be used to woo Adebayor, also being pursued by Milan.
Here is how I see it. Arsenal's attack stems from the midfield. Other than RVP, the rest of the strikers rely on clear supply lines. Man U's distinct advantage lies in the fact that their strikers are more adept at creating goal scoring opportunities unlike Adebayor or Eduardo. I have seen Rooney and Tevez go deeper than Adebayor to nurture attacks. Rooney has honed his short passing skills to great effect. This is in part because Scholes and Giggs, in their waning moments, are not the crisp passers they once were and Anderson and Nani, their potential replacements, are still in the showboating phase of their development. Man U's stutters in midfield are glossed over by their accomplished striker corps.
Arshavin does everything. He drops deep to fuel an attack with his efficient passes (54 passes completed out of 72 attempts), he uses his speed and ball skills to split the game wide, as his zigzagging run found Dmitri Torbinski for the second goal against Netherlands, and he has shown great opportunism, zipping between Andre Ooijer and Wilfred Bouma, for the third goal. At age 28, he is a late bloomer but with his UEFA exploits and now the Euro, he appears to be in a hurry to cement his legacy. He could be the right antidote for Arsenal's now familiar late season swoon.
Turkey lost their appeal against first choice goalkeeper Volkan Demirel's red card - for the foul against Czech striker Jan Koller. I can't see a blatant foul even in slow motion - the ref saw it well enough in real time to send him off.Can you see what the Ref saw ? Take a look.
Interestingly Volkan Demirel - literally means "Volcano Ironhand" - which is a good name for a goalkeeper to have to have I suppose - the kind that strikes terror into the heart of the opponent strikers and makes their feet wobble when taking a shot.The Germans will have it just that much easier because he's out.
The man who has made it a mission to bleach Brazil of the memories of the Tele Santana era and has some success doing it his way with his system of prizing workman like players and sound technical skills over artistry and attacking play is having a hard time motivating Brazil in the World Cup qualifiers. They are presently 5th in the group with nine points, having survived a dreary draw against Argentina. The Seleccao have dropped points with draws against lowly Peru and Colombia, and then losing to Paraguay. Their one bright spot is a 2-1 win over Uruguay and a 5-0 drubbing of Ecuador.
The Brazilian press and the public have hammered Dunga's approach.
Dunga's playbook revolves around creating a seamless connection between the attack and the defense through his system of holding and attacking midfielders. Elano, Julio Baptista and Gilberto Silva figure as the featured players. The defense has cemented around Lucio, Juan, Dani Alves, and Maicon, with a decidedly physical style of play (Argentina learned this the hard way at the 2007 Copa America). However, in this scheme of play, it is the attack that has been susceptible to Dunga's vagaries and has a decidedly unsettled look.
Earlier tinkering saw lesser lights Vagner Love, Daniel Carvalho, Rafael Sobis, and Luis Fabiano getting the call once Dunga was made manager in the aftermath of Brazil's poor showing in the 2006 World Cup. This was probably natural as none of the marquee players played to their capability. Dunga did eventually recall Kaka. But Dunga's initial rejection probably accounts for the AC Milan star's lukewarm national commitment. Robinho's performance of late has been abysmal, Adriano and Ronaldinho's hard partying has attracted more news media than their no shows on the field. Fred has had a look in but the Lyon striker is not the easiest to discipline. Alexandre Pato remains the one bright spot having an impressive first season for Inter. The attack therefore has been very patchy going through goal scoring droughts.
Dunga has also shifted his emphasis from open field goals to set pieces and Elano, Julio Baptista and a 6' defense offers Brazil their best chance of scoring such goals. This leaves Brazil exposed to fast counter attacks which takes advantage of slow reacting or an out of position defenses. Paraguay was able to win through such means.
Robbed at gunpoint yesterday - Pele's gold necklace, a mobile phone and an expensive wrist were stolen when his car got stuck in a traffic jam in Guaruja, close to Pernambuco Beach where Pele has a holiday house.Now you've heard everything.....
Andrei Arshavin - wears the number 10 shirt and wears it with the style that matches other wearers of the famous number in the past. His virtuoso individual performance eliminated Holland and there was a similarly impressive display in the Group decider against Sweden. Arsenal and Chelsea are circling like vultures and and so are clubs from the Bundesliga.Wenger and Zidane have said they were impressed.He doesn't know much english - but who cares about that as long as his feet do the talking.But anyway - he doesn't need the english language.He's going to the La Liga.
Iker Casillas has been getting all the media coverage because of his great penalty saves yesterday. Jens Lehmann is claiming his own share of the spotlight by apparently saying that he was prepared to put his life on the line in Wednesday's Euro 2008 semi-final against Turkey.You may have to take him seriously though because just the other day he said he had a secret plan to prevent Ronaldo from scoring in the quarter final game -and whatever it was - it seemed to have worked.
They are saying that if the game was a bullfight the bull would have died of boredom..!
Iker Casillas saved penalties from Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Di Natale and Cesc Fabregas scored the winner.Spain had faced shoot-outs to decide quarter-finals on June 22 three times in the past and had lost all three times - to Belgium at the 1986 World Cup, to England at Euro 96, and to South Korea in the 2002 World Cup.
The June 22 jinx is broken was broken at last
In the end it was Guus Hiddink's Russian ballet troupe that powered its way past a very ordinary looking dutch side.In fact if it wasn't for Van Der Saar's heroics between the posts the score would have been more than 3 -1.Roman Pavlyuchenko scored first for Russia.Nistelrooy equalised sending the match into extra time.Dmitri Torbinski (high speed backheel) and the tireless Andrei Arshavin scored the other two goals in the second half of extra time.
Now, the only Dutchman left in the competition is Guus Hiddink......!
Khalid Boulahrouz battles a personal tragedy ahead of Holland's crucial game against Russia. Boulahrouz's wife was taken to hospital this week with pregnancy complications and the couple's prematurely-born daughter later died.We at Soccerblog express our sympathy to him on his loss.
Just when Andrea Pirlo was showing his best form in a while, against France, he picks up his second yellow card and misses his match against Spain. In the absence of Italy's medio, you have to fancy Spain's chances. Previous meetings have been exercises in futility for Spain whose fragile psyche will be tested by the Italians who thrive on opportunism. But this is a Spain whose midfield is so gifted, that Cesc Fabregas comes on as a substitute for Xavi Fernandez. They also have Andres Iniesta who has had a muted tournament so far.
The find so far has been David Silva, a diminutive winger, who has been a live wire with his versatility, speed and outstanding ball control. He stretches the game out wide and uses both flanks equally well. Swedish defenders had a hard time stopping his crossing runs one of which led to the Torres goal.
Spain's game is very circumscribed. Their success lies in their midfield creating chances for Torres and Villa to score, rarely do they themselves avail of scoring opportunities. Against Sweden it became de riguer to watch 20- 30 passes strung together as the midfield probed the Swedish defense seeking supply lanes for the strikers to score. The Swedes were very good at crowding them out.
The tie was broken in heartbreaking fashion in extra time as David Villa latched onto a long ball beating the Swedish defenders. They will have to employ the same unorthodox methods against Italy which will be gearing up for Spain's control of the midfield. Italy on the other hand have won even with their biggest scoring threat, Luca Toni registering no goals.
Spain's weakest link remains the defence. Carlos Puyol and Carlos Marchena provide bulk but also a great deal of inertia, Puyol in particular has been slowed down by niggling injuries, Sergio Ramos has great pace but his defensive instincts are somewhat suspect. The one bright spot has been Marcos Senna, whose defensive organization is similar to that of Gilberto, while providing a threat on set pieces too.
There it is. If Portugal had beaten Germany, Chelsea's announcement on their website, announcing Big Phil's hiring during the Euro, would have been overlooked. But they lost and the Portugese football federation quickly heaped plenty of criticism at Chelsea for their inopportune timing. It was a distraction to the team and a motivational dampener to the players. That well maybe. Chelsea's act was self centered and crass. And it just adds to its reputation as a club that believes money buys everything.
However, we have seen so many Portugese teams overloaded with talent, crash and burn in the past that these statements from the federation are mere rationalizations. The Portugese defense failed to apply themselves against the German set pieces, their approach was disorganized, and the marking shoddy. The Klose goal should never have happened. Ricardo's indecision resulted in a tentative hand which did nothing more than deflect the ball into goal.
Go up a goal against Turkey at your peril. Because you will lose. Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and now Croatia.
After 122 minutes of a grueling match, it was suddenly over in a flash. Semih Senturk's last second equalizer seemed to have drained all the life out of Croatian legs as the penalty shootout unfolded. Modric and Rakitic tiredly sprayed it wide and Petric's shot was saved by Rustu. On the other end, for all too brief a moment it appeared that Stipe Pletikosa had turned away Turan's PK but the ball jammed its way through. The rest of the PKs were converted with ease.
Turkey had snuffed out Croatia's hopes. In the end, it was the team with the greater mental strength that prevailed. A bereft Darijo Srna was comforted by Slaven Bilic, his face contorted with grief, his anguished wailing painful to watch. It had gone so swimmingly well in stoppage time as Luka Modric's cross drew Rustu yards out of position, Klasnic headed the ball as Rustu scrambled back unsuccessfully. Fatih Terim could only gesticulate in dsigust. Two minutes left and not even the resilient Turks could dream of coming back. But Rustu blasted the ball towards the other end, and as the ball dropped from the sky, the Croats fell away, and in a dream sequence, Semih garnered the ball and gratefully drove it past a diving Pletikosa. Bilic ran onto the field apoplectic at the referee's apparent tardiness with the clock. The Turks were galvanized.
Bilic's first order of business post Euro will be to rebuild his team's self confidence. They have to get on very quickly with the business of qualifying for the World Cup. England, no doubt will be watching very closely, their ability to rebound.
But Turkey has been the wonder team of this Euro. Fatih Terim's pugnacious personality permeates this team. He looks like a prize fighter when he stalks the sidelines punching the air, willing his team to another level. But Terim's task is made easier with a player like Tuncay Sanli, who apparently only needs the motivation of playing for his country. The man motors tirelessly up and down the field. His job description is that of a striker and to the great relief of all of Turkey, he does not take that seriously because he is also one of their best midfielders as well as defenders. He is in short, omnipresent.
He will be missed against Germany as will be Adhar Turan and Volkan Demirel, their first choice goalkeeper. But Germany better watch out. Their reputation as a team that can never be counted out is seriously being challenged.
I watched the LA Galaxy clobber the San Jose Earthquakes last weekend thanks to Edson Buddle's hat trick. David Beckham's name was barely mentioned a half dozen times, he was that inconsequential in the win. So far he has been rugged, injury free, playing almost a 1000 minutes, scoring some important goals, and assisting in half a dozen more. He also leads unsurprisingly, the fan balloting for the All Star MLS team. He is an important reason for the LA Galaxy's top spot in the Western Division.
But his contribution has been overshadowed by Landon Donovan, Alan Gordon, and Edson Buddle, who between them, have scored 20 goals and assisted in a dozen more which comes as a great relief because it means that the MLS is more than just Beckham. It also proves the preening braggadocio of Alexi Lalas and Don Garber when Beckham came into town. With the advent of Becks there would be no daylight between the MLS and the Premiership.
As it stands, Beckham is not even in the running for the Golden Boot. A marked climbdown for the anointed saviour of the MLS.
We need a striker. Period. Someone who puts the exclamation point to all the artful text that we scribe on the field. Waiting for Godot is exquisite but we need some culmination. Get Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
We lost Mathieu Flamini who I thought Wenger should have done his utmost to retain. We are in danger of losing Hleb and his masturbatory exploits with the ball, sans goals. We had Lassana Diarra for two seconds.
But we still have Cesc Fabregas to steady the ship. Spain's maestro should lead a midfield, a combination of youthful talent and experience, into the next season. Aaron Ramsey has signed up. Fran Merida is assured of Wenger's green signal. Nacer Barazite is ready for the big transition. Denilson will be a year more experienced. Walcott is coming into his own. Diaby and Song have signed new contracts. On the other end of the spectrum, Tomas Rosicky is healing from his injuries. Gilberto will still be there for cameos when called for experience or a leadership role. And Hleb with all of his smoke and mirrors, will remain a Gunner. Midfield congestion abounds.
What is not known is Eduardo's return to top flight, Van Persie's durability, Bendtner's equation with the rest of the team, in particular Adebayor. In a nutshell, up front we have many questions, few solutions. It would be reassuring if Wenger seemed to be as serious filling a real void in the striker corps, as a perceived one down field.
All hail Guus Hiddink. The man is a maestro. S.Korea, Australia, and now Russia. Each country tasted success with him at the helm.
Today the Russians beat Sweden in their biggest post Soviet era win. The pick of the players was Andrei Arshavin, back from suspension, and his blistering pace ran the Swedes ragged, forcing them into defensive contortions that Harry Houdini would have had problems getting out of. A hand in the first goal and then shutting down the Swedish comeback with a goal of his own.
But leave it to Hiddink. He is not resting on his laurels.
Here's a video that almost slipped through the cracks.USA beating Barbados 8 - 0 in a World Cup 2010 qualifier.
Its a pretty empty studio at halftime for the last round of matches. Rece Davis with Julie Foudy. Its a relief not to hear or look at that gnome Tommy Smyth who pound for pound is the most obnoxious and annoying sports pundit. His buffoonish attempts at humour are usually swatted away by Derek Rae with , "I won't go there." Rae is a decent bloke and his commentary is usually on the mark. Nothing spectacular but he takes the edge having to listen to Smyth and his “bulges the corner of the auld onion bag”.
Andy Gray is a bit more palatable, but by not much. He comes across as judgmental. He has this penchant of saying "Italian nation" as if it is some metaphysical place. He belittled Austria's effort against Germany saying that they did not have any quality. Well, apart from Ballack's free kick, I saw very little quality from the three time Euro and World Cup champions. Austria would have loved to have the chance that Mario Gomez so execrably missed. A colicky baby kicking his legs could have gotten that ball across. Adrian Healey, the commentator, provides a soothing balm.
Julie Foudy does sum up the game nicely in broad strokes but she knows very little about tactics and even less about the teams and its players. I am surprised that ESPN with access to so many ex-players and coaches does not try and get some aboard. Juergen Klinsmann may have turned down the US coaching job but he could be courted as an analyst. He lives here. Ever thought about that, ESPN?? And does the halftime show have to become the news source for other sports like Willy Randolph's firing or peddling the NBA finals on ABC. Did we get to hear Stan Van Gundy or Mark Jackson reminding us to turn to ESPN Classics for the Sweden vs Russia game?
Klaas- Jan Huntelaar this time, folks! Another player with a strong id comes through for the Oranje as they pile on the goals. Nine so far. The nonplussed Romanians could only gawk.
Thierry Henry loves to get cute in front of goal. All flashes and finesse touches. And today he scored a stunning goal just that way. Unfortunately, it was into his own goal as he stuck out an instinctive foot to a Daniel De Rossi free kick and deflected it neatly into the right hand corner. From the replay it was evident that the ball would have gone wide if Henry had not tried to intervene.
But France was going to have to do some heavy lifting as their play maker Franck Ribery was carted off with what appeared to be a knee ligament tear. Samir Nasri was brought in. It got worse as Eric Abidal barged into Luca Toni like a drunken sailor and brought him down in the box. Andrea Pirlo banged home the PK. And then Domenech substituted Nasri with Jean Alain Boumsong. What? You just substituted your creative force for another enforcer? Where would your attack flow through? It must have encouraged the Italians too as they put their foot on the accelerator and Luca Toni proceeded to miss three more opportunities spraying the ball just wide each time. How many chances has this man had? If Toni was a stock with his P/E index, it would be a sure sell.
Benzema provided some uplifting moments and a neat curler that Gigi Buffon had to extend to parry away late in the game stands out. But highlights were few and far in between for the Les Bleus fans and once the news that the overmatched Romanians were down a goal early in the second half, they looked deflated. But then the camera panned onto the most gorgeous woman in the Euro and it reminded everyone why we play soccer.
It was a cruel match and France did not deserve to be bundled out of the tournament this way but when you look at the overarching theme of their campaign you see a manager who played it too safe, sacrificing innovation and talent and promoting the status quo with players like Sagnol, Thuram, Malouda, and Toulalan. It is the oldest team and they looked creaky.
All the talk of Italy and France in their biggest encounter could be mere piffle if Romania wins against the Oranje.
The Oranje may decide to take their foot off the accelerator for this match, inconsequential to their advancement. If they do, then Romania has a chance.
Well, as good a chance as any, considering their ball possession will be similar to Bush's approval rating. So they have to make it count.
One way to do it would be to exploit Van Der Saar's noticeable unease with sudden, powerful, open field shots. He either reacts a bit late or parries it back into play. We have seen this in the Premiership and as an Arsenal fan I wish my team would do some more of it. I am looking at Gabriel Tamas and Christian Chivu laying the hurt on VDS hands. Tamas came close against Buffon. Mutu might be able to cash in on a slip up.
Another way to do it would be to float long balls Mutu's way and wait for an offside trap mistake or a mis-hit. Against Italy, Mutu pounced on Zambrotta's mistake to score a goal. The weak link in the Dutch defense is Andre Ooijer, not the quickest or sharpest tool and liable to commit cheap fouls. He should come under some pressure from the deep passes. Joris Mathijsen should also have his hands full against Nicolita's pace.
But it will be left to Bogdan Lobont and the Romanian defense yet again to keep them in contention. In the Euro qualifiers they were able to win against the Netherlands and it will be up to Goian and Rat to blunt Sneijder, the fulcrum of the Dutch attack. Nistelrooy's fox in the box instincts with his new found altruistic inclinations have made him deadly. He needs a shadow. Contra will have to be extra sharp.
It will be the tale of the two keepers. And who will be more effective in keeping the ball away from the crypt. If that is the case then you would take Buffon over Gregory Coupet in a heartbeat. Coupet's heedless charge led to the Robben goal and his delayed reaction could have stopped Van Persie. On the hand Buffon against Romania showed why he is the best in the business.
Coupet vs Buffon: Advantage Buffon
The Azzurri come front loaded with Luca Toni accumulating all the frequent flier miles and Fabio Grosso and Zambrotta raining in crosses from wide positions. The Italians will stretch out their attack as they try and soften the shorter Les Bleus with an aerial assault. With a distracted defense, Del Piero could slip in something from a Toni knockback.
Gallas vs Toni: Advantage Toni
The key player in the midfield matchup will be the wily Claude Makelele, whose sharp mind and sharp elbows will be called upon to disrupt the Italian attack. Enabling the speedy midfield led by Malouda and Franck Ribery to push through the flanks and feed Thierry Henry.
This is the one game that Raymond Domenech should throw caution to the winds. Start Karem Benzema just behind Henry. Start Lassana Diarra. Start Patrick Vieira. The French game gets infinitely more creative and attacking. Toulalan is more of an enforcer and if you want to knock a few bodies to the ground, fine. But don't expect to win matches. Gallas and Vieira should keep the Italians honest through their aerial presence in set pieces.
Makelele vs Pirlo: Advantage Makelele
The feeling is the Italians come to this game with a bit of wind on their backs. They should have won the Romania match and were done in by some poor refereeing decisions. I expect that they will win this match. And should it go to PKs, then the advantage again lies with them.
He is putting his life on the line by returning to football - coming back to the game after undergoing two kidney transplants. Last night he scored the only goal on his debut in the European Championship.A remarkable comeback..
Mario Gomez's footwear is not built for speed
So far under Joachim Low, the Germans have looked flat in the first big tournament in the post Klinsmann era. The mojo is missing and it is missing badly, especially from Mario Gomez who missed an absolute sitter. All it required was a tap in from a Klose pass. Instead he scooped the ball for a Garics goal line save. After that miss, Gomez looked like Grima Wormtongue and so did Joachim Low.
Super Mario was super bad. But the rest of the Germans were not much better. It seemed likely that Austria could force a draw. But as expected it took Ballack's power packed free kick in the 49th minute to get the Germans ahead. The Austrians pushed the German defense but lacked the final finish to really threaten.
Germany now meets Portugal and its high powered attack. It will be interesting to see how the German defense holds up.
The biggest question is not Big Phil's management of Abramovich or Arnesen or even whether Chelsea becomes a version of Bolton on the Thames. Daunting themes to contemplate, no doubt. It has to do with seemingly the simplest relationship which in actuality is the most complex task. Can you go unscathed in the largest media circus? The unrelenting on crack fish eye world of British tabloids? Even media savvy Jose Mourinho was upended by the constant scrutiny. Even if he had wanted otherwise, the media had internalized his fractured relationship with Abramovich. It made for great theater. Reconciliation was out of the question.
Scolari has so far managed to escape the public limelight in his club management. He has been peripatetic, managing 17 clubs in double quick time, most of them operating in a minuscule media market with limited global appeal. The perfect antidote to escaping scrutiny of your personal vagaries. It was his success with Gremio and Palmeiras, the two big Brazilian clubs that propelled him to the national stage.
Most of Big Phil's transgressions are known through managing Brazil and Portugal. His commitment to his players was unquestioned even though his temperament on the field was. Much of it was overlooked because of his success with these teams. But the Premiership is one of the most claustrophobic leagues. It packs the most games and commands the largest fees and salaries for big time players. It also has the largest fan following and bandwidth devoted to it. Big Phil also comes at a time when many pundits are bemoaning the dearth of English players and managers in the top flight. And if Cristiano Ronaldo cools off, the tabloids will be screaming that Scolari is practicing the dark arts from the sidelines. It is a giant fishbowl and one does not know whether a manager such as Scolari accustomed to his space would be able to take it or even tolerate it.
One team must have pricked up their ears hearing the Czech Republic's elimination at the hands of Turkey. This is Austria's big moment against Germany. Unlike the genuine Polish antipathy, the Austria's performances playing their vaunted neighbors have bordered on schizophrenia. Cozy and complicit on the one hand and a spoiler in the other.
Hans Krankl's side stopped W.Germany from advancing in the 1978 World Cup as they defeated them, 3-2 in their group match, even as they stood eliminated.
Four years later, the 1982 World Cup was marred by an infamous match involving these two teams as both playing the numbers kept Algeria from advancing out of the group stage. Algeria prior to this match defeated Chile garnering four points from three matches. The Germans had four points and the Austrians two. In their final match, the German squad went down to Austria early , 0-1 and for the remainder of the match both teams proceeded to play lackluster soccer. The result ensured both teams went to the second round on superior goal difference. FIFA could not prove any conspiracy but after the 1982 World Cup, far reaching changes were made with deciding group encounters played simultaneously to ensure against collusion.
This time around the Austrians have no choice but beat Germany.
Luckily for them, this German squad's form has been underwhelming. Their two big men up front have disappeared. Mario Gomez suffering somnambulism, gets caught offside time and time again. Miroslav Klose is playing ball retriever. In midfield, Michael Ballack has looked insipid and uninspiring in play and leadership. Against Croatia, Ballack was at his petulant worst. Lukas Podolski, their only goal scorer has been the opportunistic beneficiary of some defensive mis-hits and lapses.
If the attack has been woeful, the defense has looked disorganized and error prone. The left back position has been especially problematic. Marcel Janssen is slow and foul prone. Philip Lahm is quick but shows a reluctance to track back and tackle and Thomas Hitzlsperger fancies himself as a striker even though his day job lists himself as a left back.
Jens Lehmann so far has vindicated Wenger's decision to bench him while at Arsenal. Per Mertesacker and Christoph Metzelder, the twin towers have looked flat footed against speedier teams.
Under Joachim Low, this German squad looks dispirited and tired. Bastian Schweinsteiger is the one bright spot and introduced some needed urgency in the German attack.
Austria has some bright spots. Martin Harnik has made scintillating runs down the right. I fancy his match up against any of the German left backs. Roman Keinast has shown some aerial ability and will be called upon late in the game to outjump Mertesacker and Metzelder. Sebastian Proedl and Martin Stranzl have been more effective at center back than their German counterparts at blunting the inside game.
The only way Germany wins this is through their superior set pieces and it will be a Ballack conjuring up a perfect free kick or a Metzelder putting his head on a Lahm corner. Garics and Pogatetz are also liabilities against a speedy Podolski or Lahm.
But I think Austria will prolong German futility for a third Euro in a row.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Robin Van Persie. Arjen Robben. Most people can safely say that these three do not play with a sense of charity when they get the ball. The me first mentality of these players is quite pervasive. There was great relief at Old Trafford when RVN departed for Real. Robben was criticized during the 2006 World Cup by his team mates and fans for being a ball hog. RVP, a talented striker, is an exception to Wenger's selfless scheme of play at Arsenal. He appears to have tunnel vision when he gets the ball.
Yet the second goal which Persie scored against France was the product of unprecedented co-operation between these three players. First, Nistelrooy's artful drag back from the sideline and pass to Robben, who then charges upfield and to the left, dragging out the French defence, he looks up and sees Persie and Sneijder swiftly closing down on goal, lays down a perfect pass across goal which Persie crisply volleys. It had enough power to trickle home after Coupet got a hand to it. France is down two goals.
Ten-man Turkey came back from 2-0 down to stun the Czech Republic 3-2 and take their place in the quarter-finals.The Turks scored their 3 goals in the last 15 minutes - two by captain Nihat Kahveci in the 87th and 89th minutes.Truly a game to be remembered .A quote from Fatih Terim - the Turkish coach. "I've seen many things happen in the last minute," he said. "That's the beauty of the game we call football. I'm very pleased to have a team that doesn't give up."
Andy Gray said "This is the best I have seen seen Turkey play." Me thinks he held back a bit. It would not have been awry if he had said that this was the best any team could have played. In the second half the sea of red breached the white shores time and time again. The 25,000 Turkish fans raining down Turkiye Turkiye provided a lifeline to their players, and not even Jaroslav Plaisil's goal could snuff out what now looks like destiny. Tuncay Sanli embodied the Turkish renaissance. There he was blasting a 20 foot piledriver, running back to tackle Jans Koller, laying a pass for Nishat to score a goal. And so when Volkan Demirel was red-carded, Fatih Terim without hesitation gave the goalie jersey to his most omnipresent player. By the time the match ended, Tuncay had played every position known to soccer.
Tuncay was magnificent. So was Nishat. So was Turan. So was Altintop. The Turks tore up the Czech defense in the second half reducing them to bystanders. Aeons had passed since the Jan Koller and Jaroslav Plasil goals gave Bruckner's team a comfortable 2 goal lead. The Czechs were well on their way to the Geneva pubs to cement their reputation as the hardest drinking nation.
Two things took place to derail that celebration. The Turks kept coming in suffocating waves mostly down the right where Marek Jankulovski and David Rozenhal gave away generous clumps of real estate which Sanli and Altintop exploited to feed Nishat and Turan. And under the unrelenting pressure the normally adroit Petr Cech crumbled.
Cech barely caught a whiff of the Turan goal. And minutes later he had an even more unforgivable mistake as he dropped an Altintop cross and an opportunistic Nishat cashed in on the mistake. The Turks had stormed back. This match was going to PKs. Or so everyone thought. Tuncay Sanli had other thoughts and lofted a pass that Galasek waffled on. The result was an onside Nishat who smartly angled the ball to the right of Cech. In a short span of 14 minutes the Turks scored three goals to turn conventional wisdom on its head.
And the other match saw Hakan Yakin, a Swiss player of Turkish origin, score two goals against Portugal as the hosts ended their Euro run on a positive note. Everyone is talking about the obligatory Brazilian in the national side. How about the obligatory Turk?
So I ask this question. Turkey is unwanted by the EU. Why would they want membership when they perform best with that chip on their shoulder?
A greek tragedy of monumental proportions unfolded in the second game yesterday as the defending champions bowed out of the competition after Russia beat them 1 - 0 .
Hat trick hero David Villa scored this injury time winner to ensure that the reign of Spain continues.The spanish fans chanted "For he's jolly good Villa" till they were hoarse - or they would have if they had thought of it.
With the final score reading 4 -1 it was total football from the men in orange and total embarrassment for the french....more
In the other game Buffon kept Italy alive in the group of death by saving a penalty.It now means that the next game with France will decide who stays in the tournament.That will be like the world cup final all over again - only the butter and butted will be missing this time.
This time, there was no miracle comeback for the Germans.
Ivica Olic scored midway through the second half and Croatia withstood a late surge to hold on for a 2-1 upset win....
Germany came back with one of their famous late goals but couldn't get the other one.
The other game saw Austria draw level with Poland after Referee Howard Webb awarded a penalty when he should have been blowing the final whistle.Ivica Vastic scored (video)and Austria is still in the competition.
Portugal became the first team through to the quarter-finals after this 3 -1 victory over the Czech Republic.Ronaldo was the at the heart of things as expected.Scored one and had a large part to play in the other two goals as well..
Arda Turan's heartbreaking stoppage time goal that gave Turkey a 2-1 win over the Swiss.Switzerland became the first team to be eliminated from Euro 2008 last night.....
Wesley Sneijder's brilliant second goal against Italy is being called one of the greatest Netherlands goals ever.As good as what Van Basten did 20 years ago....
Perhaps they can pick themselves up again.The defending champs made a disappointing start to their title defence going down by 2 goals to Sweden.Ibrahimovic scored the first goal ( Not the chap who owns Chelsea.He's Abramovich- and he wasn't playing)
David Villa's hat trick and Cesc Fabregas' first international goal tore the Russian defence apart.
Premier League referees' chief Keith Hackett said that the goal Van Nistelrooy scored was okay after all.He looked a mile offside when he knocked the ball past Buffon.
But it appears he was played onside by defender Christian Panucci, who was lying off the pitch at the time.Take a look at the picture.You can see him lying there.
"The fact is the assistant was correct; the defender who slid off the field is still regarded as active," Hackett told BBC Sport.
"Christian Panucci went off through contact with his own goalkeeper.He is still considered part of the game." This apparently is the correct interpretation of the offside law - rule 11
So there it is folks.You learn something every day.
Holland buried the world champions 3 - 0 .Ruud van Nistelrooy scored the first goal - (which they are saying was so offside that he was almost in Austria when he scored it....!) Wesley Sneijder scored the second and Giovanni van Bronckhorst's put the finishing touches with the third.Report...
The other encounter in the group of death - France vs Romania - was a boring affair with both teams slugging it out to a goal less draw.
Here's a bit of distraction to take your mind off the nail biting tension of waiting for the first matches in the group of death get underway later today.The A to Z of Euro 2008
Lukas Podolski scored two goals as the German's got off to a flying start.He scored both the goals in their 2-0 win over Poland.It was also Germany's first Euro win in 12 years.The flip side to the story is that Podolski was born in Poland and is on the horns of a divided loyalty dilemma "I didn't really celebrate after the first goal as a mark of respect, I have a big family in Poland and was born there, I wanted to show some respect." More...
Elsewhere Austria did not disappoint all those Austrian fans who were expecting to be disappointed.They lost their opening game to Croatia (1 -0 - video ) as they were expected to.
Video highlights of the Euro 2008 opening ceremony here.The Czech's beat the hosts Switzerland by one goal (video) and Portugal made a good start to their tournament.2 - 0 against Turkey (video)But the best goal yesterday was this 35 yard effort from Iraq's Emad Mohammed against Australia in a World Cup qualifier.
...while we wait for Euro 2008 to kickoff.
Most people know that Torres' nickname is 'El Nino' and that Cristiano Ronaldo hasn't got one.Here are a few more.
Greece's Euro 2004 goalkeeping hero Antonis Nikopolidis is 'Clooney' because of his premature grey hair.Okay so maybe he does look a bit like Clooney - if the light is not too strong and you're not wearing your spectacles..!Still on hair - Spaniard Sergio Ramos is 'Tarzan' because of his long hair. France's Karim Benzema is 'BigBenz'.Sweden's Henrik Larsson is called 'The Gold Pearl'.Spanish 'keeper Iker Casillas is 'Saint Iker' for all the fabulous saves he has pulled off.Rumanian's Adrian Mutu and Marius Niculae are called 'dynamite and 'the arrow' respectively.
Marco Materazzi - whose picture does not feature above is called 'Matrix' by his fans and Macellazi' by his detractors [ mostly Frenchmen..!] which apparently is a play on the word macellaio , meaning 'The butcher'.
All eyes are on Basel in Switzerland as Euro 2008 gets underway in a few hours.Venezuela took the opportunity to slip two goals past Brazil while they were thus distracted.It was the first time that they have ever managed to do anything of that nature - never having won in any of their 17 previous encounters.Giancarlo Maldonado and Ronald Vargas scored the goals and will get their names written into the history books.
Messi's 18th minute goal was Argentina's second in Argentina's 4 -1 destruction of Mexico in a friendly.There was a mesmerising exchange of passes around the edge of the Mexican area [ 5 in all ] - go ahead and count them - which ended with Messi sidefooting the ball into the net.Both teams are preparing for World Cup qualifying games later this month, and this goal was truly vintage Argentina.
Bob Bradley's team went down a second time - this time to Spain.It wasn't Torres who scored however but Xavi.He picked the ball up just outside the penalty area weaved his way past two defenders,held off a third with his shoulder and made it 1-0 with a classy low drive past back up goalie Brad Guzan.This is Spain's 16th straight win as they head into the Euro.No more warm ups - the next game will be the real thing.
El Nino's 24 goals for Liverpool made him the highest scoring debutant foreign striker in English football.Nike have now created a hilarious video showing Liverpool fans desperately trying to learn Spanish so they can pay tribute his exploits for the Reds.
Elsewhere Alvaro Arbeloa says Torres will take Spain all the way in Euro 2008 and is better than Cristiano Ronaldo anyway.
Mourinho had them rolling the aisles and cheering wildly in his first press conference.He spoke for the most part in Italian - which he claimed to have learned in a few weeks.
When a reporter from La Repubblica wanted to know how he could speak Italian so well. ...
"Never one for false modesty, Mourinho replied "because I'm very intelligent", bringing the first laugh of the morning."
On being asked to commit himself on whether he would try and shift Chelsea players to Inter...
"Then followed the morning's longest pause, as Mourinho carefully pondered his reply. Eventually he delivered a classic piece of Milanese slang. "Non sono un pirla" – "I'm not a dickhead". The room exploded in laughter and brought Mourinho his first round of applause on Italian soil. "
Rest of that story here..
This is for all the English fans mourning for their team that did not make the cut.The ad represents an England fan's love affair with football by showing him taking romantic days out in the park and dinner for two - with a football.....! The song in the background is "I want to know what love is" by Foreigner.
However, the affair comes to a tragic end when the football gets squashed - it gets hit by a car.
A voiceover then cuts in to his sorrow and you will hear commentary from key moments during England's disastrous Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, which ended with them being defeated by Croatia at Wembley in pouring rain.
The fan is left traumatised. The ad ends with the man walking through the streets in the rain, but then being cheered up by a colourful poster promoting the start of ITV Sport's Euro 2008 coverage on June 7. "The best cure for a broken heart," is the punchline.Enough description - take a look......and see if you feel better already.
Video evidence of the carribean cruise that the english team went on.Becks only managed to be captain for the first half.That apparently was enough to get Jack Warner's votes.Gareth Barry took over the reins in the second half.Two goals were scored when Beckham was captain and one while Barry was captain.More on the game and the politics here and here in that order.
After eight months in the wilderness Mourinho is back.He will cost Inter Milan £7 million a season.His answer to the theory that it was Abramovich's wealth that had created Chelsea's success was "The finance is not the most important factor. It's a big help but it's more about creating a squad, creating a team."Here are some faces from his old team - He will be joined at Inter by Rui Farias, Silvino and Andrei Villas Boas, all three of whom were part of his coaching staff at Stamford Bridge Rumours:Frank Lampard , Michael Essien, Ricardo Carvalho and Didier Drogba are moving to Inter later....