Monday, June 30, 2008

Spaniards worthy champions of Euro2008

While the Germans had the experience, the Spanish had the momentum heading into Sunday's Euro2008 finals. Spain took advantage of it and defeated Germany, 1-0, for their first major tournament win in over forty years.

Lead by Fernando Torres' beautiful flick over a diving Jens Lehmann at the 33rd minute, from a perfect pass ahead by Xavi, Spain completed their championship run undefeated at 6-0 while leading the tournament with 12 goals scored. Their toughest game was a 0-0 contest with Italy in the quarter-finals which Spain won 4-2 on a penalty shoot-out. Spanish goalie Iker Casillas and their defense were outstanding, allowing three goals in six games.
Spain 1 - Germany 0
Match stats

Game Photos, Finals, June 29

Spain celebrates Euro win

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Finals-A Preview

The odds-makers are saying Spain, but I am taking Germany in Sunday's final game of the Euro2008 Championship in Vienna, Austria.

On paper the tandem of David Villa and Fernando Torres look like one of the premier scoring duos heading into the tournament. Villa's four goals leads all scorers and Daniel Guiza's two goals place him in the top 10. The Spaniards are first in goals scored with 11 while the German's are tied for second with 10. German goalie Jens Lehmann has appeared shaky at times, especially early in the Turkey game. However Villa is doubtful for the match which puts more pressure on Torres who has not had much scoring success thus far.

The German front line of Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose along with midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and captain Michael Ballack are one of the most talented groups in the tournament. Witness their excellent counterattack during the Turkey game which knotted the game at 1-1 shortly after the Turks scored the first goal of the match. However, they are faced with a formidable task going against Iker Casillas.

I believe that the experience factor of a big game may lie with the Germans. Their starting group in the semifinal match against Turkey amassed over 500 caps. This group played in the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup against Italy while this is the first finals for the Spaniards since they lost to Michel Platini and France in Euro1984 .

My prediction is that the Germans will win the match 1-0 in regular time. Good luck to all! It's been an entertaining tournament.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Turks stun Croatia in extra time

Turkey continued its improbable ride today when they defeated Croatia by penalty kicks 3-1 in Vienna. The game ended in a scoreless draw and the teams played one full period of overtime without a tally. Near the end of the second overtime, Croatia grabbed the lead and appeared to have the game in hand until Turkey countered with seconds to spare. A goal by Semih Senturk scored to take the match to penalty kicks. During PKs, Turkey converted on all three while Croatia, dumbfounded by the turn of events, was only able to manage one penalty kick.

Croatia had previously beaten Germany in group play while on their way to three victories. Meanwhile,Turkey scored three goals within fifteen minutes to erase a 2-0 deficit against Czech Republic which took them from the brink of elimination all the way into the semifinals. The Turks will face Germany on Wednesday in Basel.
Turkey 3 - Croatia 1 (PKs)
Game stats

Game Photos, Germany v. Portugal, June 19 and Croatia v. Turkey, June 20

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Great Eight

The final groupings have been decided after yesterday's matches in Group D. The pairings and the remainder of the schedule are as follows.

Thursday, June 19
Portugal (A1) v. Germany (B2), 2:45pm (EST) Basel, SW

Friday, June 20
Croatia (B1) v. Turkey (A2), 2:45pm (EST), Vienna

Saturday, June 21
Netherlands (C1) v. Russia (D2), 2:45pm (EST), Basel, SW

Sunday, June 22
Spain (D1) v. Italy (C2), 2:45pm (EST), Vienna

Wednesday, June 25
Semifinals, A1/B2 winner v. B1/A2 winner
2:45pm (EST), Basel, SW

Thursday, June 26
Semifinals, C1/D2 winner v. D1/C2 winner
2:45pm (EST), Vienna

Sunday, June 29
Finals, 2:45pm (EST), Vienna

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Group D results

All spots have been decided after Russia bested Sweden 2-0.

Spain clinched a perfect record in group play as they defeated a tough Greece team 2-1.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Group C decided

Holland did Italy a favor as they completed a sweep of Group C after defeating Romania 2-0. A win by Romania would have put them into the round of 8, knocking out Italy and France with whom they tied in both matches.

Holland 2 - Romania 0
Game stats

Meanwhile, Italy survived the "Group of Death" as they soundly defeated rival France in a rematch of the World Cup finals from 2006.

France was required to play a man down from the early parts of the match as Eric Abidal was sent off for a tough tackle on Luca Toni. Andrea Pirlo would score on the ensuing penalty kick giving the Italians a 1-0 lead at the 25 minute mark. Earlier in the game Franck Ribery was carted off the field after a difficult challange against Gianluca Zambrotta and he did not return.

Later in the second half, Daniele DeRossi scored off a deflected indirect kick which glanced off of Thierry Henry and into the net. This goal would ice the game at 2-0. For his efforts, DeRossi was voted the Carlsberg Man of the Match.

Riding the momentum from Gianluigi Buffon's unbelievable save against Romania, Italy played a good game and the confusion that seemed to occur frequently on the defensive side earlier, disappeared for the most part.

This was hardly a replay of the 2006 final and it is obvious that they miss the leadership and tenacity of players like Zidane Zidane and Fabien Barthez. The French side finished a disappointing fourth in their group with two losses and one tie in group play and it appears their great decade long run of success may have come to an end.

Italy 2 - France 0
Game stats

Group C photos, June 17

Monday, June 16, 2008

Group B results

The Germans secured a place in the next round as they dispatched of co-host Austria 1-0 in a closely contested match. Michael Ballack scored the lone goal for the Germans shortly after half-time. On Thursday, Germany will face Portugal, who was the winner of Group B, in a match-up of two of the pre-tournament favorites.
Germany 1 Austria 0
Game stats

Croatia finished out pool play with their third win as they defeated Poland 1-0. Their surprise victory over Germany last week, vaulted them to the top of Group B. They will face Turkey on Friday.
Croatia 1 - Poland 0
Game stats

Group B photos, June 16

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Group A, final day

Co-host Switzerland salvaged a measure of pride with a 2-0 win over one of the tourney favorites, Portugal. It should be noted that the Portuguese squad rested eight starters in advance of their game in the final eight next week. It was also their first win ever in a Euro tournament game.
Switzerland 2 - Portugal 0

Turkey proved the old soccer adage that the riskiest lead is two goals when they came from behind to defeat the Czech Republic 3-2 after trailing 2 -0. It was one of the greatest comebacks ever in a tournament of this caliber as they scored their three goals in the final fifteen minutes of the game.

The win puts Turkey into the final round of eight as the second place team from Group A. They will play the winner of Group B.
Turkey 3 - Czech Republic 2

Group A photos, June 15

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Group standings and scenarios after two games

Here are the point standings in each group after the first two games. The final games of pool play will begin tomorrow and end on Wednesday (6/18). The top two teams in each group will qualify for the final eight. One team from each group has already qualified.

The first place team from Group A will play the second place team from Group B while the first place team for Group B will play the second place team for Group A. This pattern is the same for Groups C and D. The possibilities listed below are from the Euro2008 website.

Group A
Portugal-6 pts.
Czech Republic-3

Remaining games-GROUP A (Sunday, June 15)
Switzerland (0 pts., out) vs. Portugal (6 pts., 1st place- Group A)
Turkey (3 pts.) vs. Czech Republic (3 pts.)
Portugal have clinched first place and Switzerland will finish fourth ahead of their game in Basel, so the focus will be on the winner-takes-all meeting of the Czech Republic and Turkey in Geneva. After a win and a loss each, the two teams are level in second place on points, goal difference and goals scored, so if they draw over 90 minutes, under UEFA regulations there will be a penalty shoot-out.


Group B
Croatia-6 pts.

Remaining games-GROUP B (Monday, June 16)
Poland (1 pt.) vs. Croatia (6 pts., 1st place-Group B)
Austria (1 pt.) vs. Germany (3 pts.)
Croatia are confirmed group winners so will take on Turkey or the Czech Republic in Vienna on 20 June. However, Germany, Austria and Poland all have chances of earning a Basel tie against Portugal the night before. Germany, two points ahead of their rivals, need only draw with co-hosts Austria in Vienna as then Poland could not catch them on head-to-head record even if they beat Croatia in Klagenfurt. If Austria win they would go through, unless Poland defeat Croatia by a bigger margin to overtake the co-hosts' currently superior goal difference (1-2 to 1-3).

If Austria and Poland finish level in second position on points, goal difference and goals scored, they will be split on qualifying coefficients (points per game) from the 2006 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2008™, and Poland are superior 2.167-1.500 (only Austria's World Cup results count as they did not have to qualify for this tournament).


Group C
Holland-6 pts.

Remaining games-Group C (Tuesday, June 17)
Netherlands (6 pts., 1st place-Group C) vs. Romania (2 pts.)
France (1 pts.) vs. Italy (1 pts.)
Again, top spot is decided in favour of the Netherlands, and second-placed Romania will join the Dutch in the quarter-finals by winning their encounter in Berne. If Romania draw or lose then that would allow either France or Italy to go through by winning their match in Zurich – the only way Les Bleus can progress. If Romania lose and the others play out a score draw, Italy would go through in a three-way head-to-head tie on two points as they would have scored more goals in the games involving France and Romania.

If Romania fall by one goal, two goals or by a three-goal margin other than 3-0 and the other match finishes 0-0, Romania would advance as their head-to-head record with Italy would be dead level but they would have a superior overall goal difference (or in the case of the three-goal defeats, goals scored). If Romania lose by four goals or more and the other game ends 0-0, Italy would proceed with a better overall goal difference than Romania. If Romania lose 3-0 and the other match finishes 0-0, Italy and Romania would have to be split on qualifying coefficients, in which case Italy would prevail 2.364-2.250.


Group D
Spain-6 pts.

Remaining games-Group D (Wednesday, June 18)
Greece (0 pts., out) vs. Spain (6 pts., 1st place-Group D)
Russia (3 pts.) vs. Sweden (3 pts.)

Spain completed a quartet of group winners with their last-gasp 2-1 defeat of Sweden and Russia's 1-0 victory against holders Greece, who are now eliminated. Therefore all the focus is now on Sweden's meeting with Russia in Innsbruck. Sweden are ahead on goal difference, so they require only a draw to set up a second consecutive UEFA European Championship last-eight encounter with the Netherlands in Basel on 21 June; Russia must win to go through. Whatever the result of Spain's Salzburg encounter with Greece, they will travel to Vienna on 22 June to take on the Group C runners-up.

Group D results

Spain has sealed a spot in the final eight with a 2-1 victory over Sweden. David Villa's late score gave Spain the win and was his fourth of the tourney.
Spain 2 - Sweden 1
Game stats

Meanwhile, the dream is over for Greece. The defending Euro champions from 2004, have been eliminated from contention with one game remaining after they were beaten by Russia, 1-0.

Russia 1 - Greece 0
Game stats

Group D photos, June 14

You're kidding, right?

The referee that disallowed Luca Toni's goal in the game against Romania yesterday has admitted that he made a mistake on the call. However UEFA had supported the on-field decision in an earlier statement.

Of course this is of little help since the call cannot be reversed. The Italians are in desperate need of a win against France and some help by the Dutch on Tuesday.

Sorry, Luca?
UEFA supports call

Friday, June 13, 2008

Holland slays another giant

The Dutch squad, coached by former great Marco VanBasten, has clearly moved to the front of the line of contenders with their second straight defeat of a favorite when they demolished France 4-1.

France pulled to within 2-1 after a goal by Thierry Henry but Holland immediately countered one minute later with a score by Arjen Robben to restore the two goal lead. By virtue of both wins, Holland has clinched a spot in the final eight with one game remaining in group play.

Game story
Game stats

Group C photos, June 13

Italy still alive for final eight

Italy was able to salvage a 1-1 draw with a difficult Romania squad that is also battling for the round of eight. Once again the Azzurri were the victim of a curious offside call after Luca Toni scored on a header. Later Gianluigi Buffon saved this tournament for Italy when he stopped a penalty kick that he hit with his hand and deflected out of the goal area with his foot in one unbelievable motion.
Italy awaits another clarification
Depending on how you look at it, Italy is either very lucky to still be in it or they did what was required to remain in contention for that final spot.

In order for Italy to qualify, they will have to defeat France on Tuesday while Holland needs to defeat Romania. If Romania would defeat Holland, Italy would be eliminated regardless of their outcome against France.

Game story
Game stats

Game photos

The Don shakes up lineup

Italian coach Roberto Donadoni has inserted Alessandro DelPiero into the starting lineup in an attempt to jump-start his squad in today's match against Romania.

DelPiero to start

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Group B results

Pre-tournament favorite Germany lost in stunning fashion, 2-1 to Croatia. Germany's lone tally came at the 79th minute with the game basically decided. Croatia now leads Group B with 6 points and have clinched a spot in the final eight. They are followed by Germany with 3 points.

Croatia 2 - Germany 1
Game stats

Co-host Austria scored a goal on a penalty kick in the 90th minute to tie Poland 1-1 who had led since the 29th minute. The tie gives Austria hope of moving on to the final 8. They would have to defeat Germany next week to continue on in the tournament.

Austria 1 - Poland 1
Game stats

Group B photos, June 12

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The heat is on

Italian coach Roberto Donadoni has defended his team's performance on Monday while the critics are pointing out many of the team's shortcomings.
Changes coming for second game?

Meanwhile coach and players alike insist that they are still in the hunt for a spot in the round of 8. However such a scenario would require large wins over Romania (Friday) and France (next Tuesday). After one game Italy is down (-3) in the goal differential category.
Italy still in it?

Group A, the second time around

Portugal assured themselves a place in the final eight when they soundly defeated the Czech Republic 3-1. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a goal and assisted on the final tally for the Portugese. The victory puts them in first place in Group A with six points.

Portugal 3 - Czech Republic 1
Game stats

Turkey pulled of a stunner by defeating co-host Switzerland, 2-1, with the game winning goal scored in extra time. The Swiss were leading 1-0 at one point. It also spells the end of the road for them since they are 0-2 so far with one game to play.

Turkey 2 - Switzerland 1
Game stats

Group A photos, June 11

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Group D results

Spain routed Russia 4-1 in the first game of the day led by a hat trick by David Villa.

Spain 4 - Russia 1
Game stats

Defending Euro2004 champs, Greece were soundly beaten by Sweden 2-0 in the second game of the day. Goals were scored by Ibrahimovic and Hansson.

Sweden upsets Greece, 2-0
Game stats

Group D photos, June 10

Monday, June 9, 2008

Italy embarassed by the Dutch, 3-0

In one of the most lopsided losses in recent memory, the Azzurri were soundly beaten by Marco VanBasten's squad from the Netherlands, 3-0. The Italians had several opportunities early but were unable to capitalize. The Dutch countered later by scoring two goals within five minutes at the 26 and 31 minute marks.

There was some controversy as the first goal was awarded to Ruud VanNistelrooy although he appeared to be in an offside position. The referees allowed the goal and UEFA has since agreed with the decision on the field. The Italians seemed to unravel at that point.

The difficulty is that they are now down three goals in the differential category and it will be tough for them to qualify even if they win their next two. They play Romania on Friday and a win is essential in their quest to reach the knockout phase.

Game story
Game photos
Game stats

Early results for Group C, France v. Romania

France and Romania played to a somewhat boring 0-0 draw. It should be noted that Thierry Henry did not play in the match.

Game stats

Group C photos, June 9

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Italy v. Netherlands, Game Preview

The Azzurri open tournament play this afternoon when they take on the Netherlands in the Swiss capital city of Berne. They are favored to win the match but it will be interesting to see how the team responds to the absence of Fabio Cannavaro who is unable to play due to an ankle injury.

Fox Sports game preview

Day Two, Group B action

Croatia disappointed the Austrian home crowd as they defeated the co-hosts 1-0 on an early goal by Luka Modric.

Early goal holds for Croats
Game stats

Meanwhile, Polish born Lukas Podolski scored two goals for Germany as they defeated Poland 2-0.

Podolski finds net twice
Game stats

Group B photos, June 8

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Opening Day at Euro2008

The opening match did not go as planned when the host team lost to the Czech Republic 1-0 at St. Jakob Park in Basel, Switzerland today.
Czech Rep. 1 - Switzerland 0
Game stats

In other action Portugal defeated Turkey 2-0 in Group A action in Geneva.
Portugal 2 - Turkey 0
Game stats

Group A Game photos, June 7

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Donadoni gets rewarded

For all of the doubters in the world of Azzurri soccer, this may not be the news they wanted to hear. Coach Roberto Donadoni has secured a vote of confidence when he was offered a new two-year contract recently. Speculation was that should his team perform poorly or below expectations, that he would be replaced, possibly by Marcello Lippi the previous Azzurri coach.

Donadoni to sign shortly

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A look at Italy in past Euro Finals

The Azzurri have been far more successful in the World Cup tournament than they have in the Euro Tournament since 1960. During that time the team has captured the championship twice (1982, 2006), and runner-up once (1994) while and winning the Euro championship once (1968) and runner up once (2000) with minimal success in-between.

Past Azzurri Euro results

1960 Did not Enter
1964 Did not Qualify
1968 Champions
1972 Did not Qualify
1976 Did not Qualify
1980 Fourth place
1984 Did not Qualify
1988 Semi-final
1992 Did not Qualify
1996 Round 1
2000 Runners-up
2004 Round 1

Italy arrives in Austria

Italy set up camp earlier this week in Baden, Austria, in preparation for their first game next Monday vs. the Netherlands. Azzurri make camp

Here are photos of the Azzurri while training in Coverciano prior to their departure for Austria.
Training photos

Monday, June 2, 2008

Cannavaro ruled out for Euro2008...vows to be back for World Cup 2010

The Azzurri suffered a major blow to their chances in the upcoming Euro2008 tournament when captain and key defender Fabio Cannavaro suffered an injured ankle in practice last week.
Injury disables Cannavaro

After it was determined that he was out for the tournament, he agreed to stay with the squad and said his plans to retire from the Azzurri after Euro2008 would have to wait. He said he will remain with the team through the World Cup in 2010.
Cannavaro ruled out for Euro2008