Euro 2008; The futures bright, the futures orange

19 June 2008

SiB

Sports Editor

If you aren’t watching Euro 2008, you should be. For the past two weeks Alan Shearer has had the match analysis graphics out and Alan Hansen has been typically criticising the German centrebacks, even when they aren’t playing, for being too static. This is of course the joy of tournament football, or rather, of continuous sport on terrestrial TV for a month.

The BBC have subtitled the Championships, “who will you support?” but they have missed the point. The football so far has been of such outstanding quality that you don’t need to support anyone to enjoy it. The fact that there has not been the usual frenzy around England followed by the inevitable disappointment is a good thing.

You do, however, end up supporting teams. I drew Switzerland and Austria in my sweepstake. From the outset they obviously had no chance of winning so I’ve been backing all who play them to win. They need to finish outright last so that I get my stake back. At one point I did even whoop for Germany.

Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland has been a pleasure to watch and we already know who has made it to the quarter-finals. Group A has inevitably seen Portugal come out on top, who were joined by Turkey after what has to have been one of the greatest comebacks in Euro Championship history. The Czech Republic were 2 – 0 up until the last 15 minutes until a goal from Turan, and two goals within the last three minutes from Nihat, saw the Turks power into the next round.

Petr Cech, arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, handed the victory to Turkey on a plate with a couple of howlers David James would be proud of. Switzerland, the co-hosts, left the competition with only a consolation victory against Portugal after the Portuguese had made eight changes to their starting line-up.

Group B, the weakest group, had Croatia winning three out of three, being joined by the ever reliable Germans who eliminated the other co-hosts Austria along with Poland. This creates the quarter final line-up from Group A and B of Portugal v Germany and Croatia v Turkey. No easy matches at this stage.

The group of death ultimately lived up to its title. Group C was not the group for the faint hearted or those of a nervous disposition. It was however the group for you if you are Dutch! Holland have been absolutely fantastic beating world champions Italy 3 – 0, France 4 – 1 and even after numerous changes, Romania 2 – 0.

Only six teams had ever managed to win all of their group games before this tournament started, with all previous teams going on to make the semi-final, at least. This year, Holland, Croatia and Spain have all reached these heights. What better testament to the tournament’s quality could there be?

If Romania had won their final game against the Dutch then they would have qualified. Unfortunately it was not to be and with Italy beating France 2 – 0, helped by some very dubious refereeing decisions, it was Italy that made it through.

France finished the group bottom with only one point, have seen Makelele and Thuram decide their international futures are over – again – and now their coach Domenech seems to have his days numbered. All in all it hasn’t really been a success for the French. I’ve got a very little violin playing on my shoulder.

The Spanish outplayed the rest of Group D. Could this be the year finally Spain fulfil their obvious potential? Despite the unearthing of a gem in David Villa, accompanied by the impressive Torres, I still don’t see their defence coping with the likes of Holland. Spain qualified with nine points having beaten Greece last night.

Russia had their star (and the player with the best name in the tournament) back from suspension: Andrei Arshavin played and scored against Sweden thus putting the Russians through. Incidentally, the player who would have had the best name at the tournament was the Portugal sub goalkeeper, Quim, unfortunately broke his wrists before the tournament began.

Greece, the current holders, finish bottom of the group with no points having performed abysmally throughout. This completes the quarter final line up with Holland playing Russia and Spain playing Italy.

So, as the tournament approaches the final few matches, we can look back at this Euro Championship with a bitter disappointment that we were not involved but with great appreciation of the quality of football.

If I were a betting man, which I am, I wouldn’t know who is going to win. The Dutch have captured the spirit of ‘88 and seem to be playing unbeatable football. Italy scraped through but have had three terrible refereeing performances so far in this tournament.

Spain have the devilish Villa absolutely on fire but always seem to fall at the next hurdle.

No one can rule out the Germans, although ugly to watch, they do the job with no fuss. Seven days is a long time in football and I don’t know who will be celebrating at the end of them. But I will be celebrating with them.

f you aren’t watching Euro 2008, you should be. For the past two weeks Alan Shearer has had the match analysis graphics out and Alan Hansen has been typically criticising the German centrebacks, even when they aren’t playing, for being too static. This is of course the joy of tournament football, or rather, of continuous sport on terrestrial TV for a month.

The BBC have subtitled the Championships, “who will you support?” but they have missed the point. The football so far has been of such outstanding quality that you don’t need to support anyone to enjoy it. The fact that there has not been the usual frenzy around England followed by the inevitable disappointment is a good thing.

You do, however, end up supporting teams. I drew Switzerland and Austria in my sweepstake. From the outset they obviously had no chance of winning so I’ve been backing all who play them to win. They need to finish outright last so that I get my stake back. At one point I did even whoop for Germany.

Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland has been a pleasure to watch and we already know who has made it to the quarter-finals. Group A has inevitably seen Portugal come out on top, who were joined by Turkey after what has to have been one of the greatest comebacks in Euro Championship history. The Czech Republic were 2 – 0 up until the last 15 minutes until a goal from Turan, and two goals within the last three minutes from Nihat, saw the Turks power into the next round.

Petr Cech, arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, handed the victory to Turkey on a plate with a couple of howlers David James would be proud of. Switzerland, the co-hosts, left the competition with only a consolation victory against Portugal after the Portuguese had made eight changes to their starting line-up.

Group B, the weakest group, had Croatia winning three out of three, being joined by the ever reliable Germans who eliminated the other co-hosts Austria along with Poland. This creates the quarter final line-up from Group A and B of Portugal v Germany and Croatia v Turkey. No easy matches at this stage.

The group of death ultimately lived up to its title. Group C was not the group for the faint hearted or those of a nervous disposition. It was however the group for you if you are Dutch! Holland have been absolutely fantastic beating world champions Italy 3 – 0, France 4 – 1 and even after numerous changes, Romania 2 – 0.

Only six teams had ever managed to win all of their group games before this tournament started, with all previous teams going on to make the semi-final, at least. This year, Holland, Croatia and Spain have all reached these heights. What better testament to the tournament’s quality could there be?

If Romania had won their final game against the Dutch then they would have qualified. Unfortunately it was not to be and with Italy beating France 2 – 0, helped by some very dubious refereeing decisions, it was Italy that made it through.

France finished the group bottom with only one point, have seen Makelele and Thuram decide their international futures are over – again – and now their coach Domenech seems to have his days numbered. All in all it hasn’t really been a success for the French. I’ve got a very little violin playing on my shoulder.

The Spanish outplayed the rest of Group D. Could this be the year finally Spain fulfil their obvious potential? Despite the unearthing of a gem in David Villa, accompanied by the impressive Torres, I still don’t see their defence coping with the likes of Holland. Spain qualified with nine points having beaten Greece last night.

Russia had their star (and the player with the best name in the tournament) back from suspension: Andrei Arshavin played and scored against Sweden thus putting the Russians through. Incidentally, the player who would have had the best name at the tournament was the Portugal sub goalkeeper, Quim, unfortunately broke his wrists before the tournament began.

Greece, the current holders, finish bottom of the group with no points having performed abysmally throughout. This completes the quarter final line up with Holland playing Russia and Spain playing Italy.

So, as the tournament approaches the final few matches, we can look back at this Euro Championship with a bitter disappointment that we were not involved but with great appreciation of the quality of football.

If I were a betting man, which I am, I wouldn’t know who is going to win. The Dutch have captured the spirit of ‘88 and seem to be playing unbeatable football. Italy scraped through but have had three terrible refereeing performances so far in this tournament.

Spain have the devilish Villa absolutely on fire but always seem to fall at the next hurdle.

No one can rule out the Germans, although ugly to watch, they do the job with no fuss. Seven days is a long time in football and I don’t know who will be celebrating at the end of them. But I will be celebrating with them.