Chaos in Group A as the turnaround happened with the unfancied sides after the first group match go through at the expense of the teams that were pretty much the public favourite to advance after the said group matches. It provided all the drama and continued to make this a rather entertaining tournament. Though, all the excitement weren’t only from the first of the final group games.
The day before, England and Sweden had served up a cracker with a very enjoyable 3-2 win for the former. May not have been the most technical game you’ll find out there or the best defensive display from any sides, but certainly made for good fun. Shocking defending from an English side against set pieces turned their lead to trailing behind Sweden. First put onside by Glen Johnson, then by non-existent marking, the man who earns his living in the Premier League was to put the country of his income source in danger of losing their first match of the tournament.
That was before the introduction of Theo Walcott who finally gets his first taste of a major tournament and quite and impact he made for a début. A thunderous shot from outside the box caught Isaksson off balance. First impression was that it was deflected but on replay it wasn’t. The loop was rather strange though. Walcott then utilised his pace to very good effect and created the winner for Welbeck. A game that could’ve been won by either side and someone did. All this without their talismanic Wayne Rooney is not too shabby isn’t it.
Prior to this game, the group’s other match saw France delivering a professional job on co-host Ukraine and won by a 2 goal margin. Ukraine were still relying on the 35 year old Shevchenko for the second match running and the legs were unable to respond. Menez, whom I lambasted throughout the match for his laziness and languid style, turned out to be the hero for France when he scored the opener. Cabaye doubled the lead and there was no coming back for the home side.
It was another game which France showed all their smart passing and movement in the 2nd third of the pitch but somehow always seemed to come up short in the final third. Interchanging of passes and shots were taken mostly from outside the box with no one gambling to drive into the box to receive a pass. Teams with a chance to face France in the quarters will do well to play a higher line and stifle France’s game. As for Ukraine, it looks like their best was achieved during the first game.
I didn’t watch the Czech v Poland game as I concentrated fully on the Russia v Greece one. The less we talked about the first half the better. Karagounis may have scored the only game of the game in that half but it was largely a forgettable affair. Russia picked the wrong game to have a collective off form performance while Kerzhakov continued his wonderful aim at the crowd with his shots at goal.
You could see how much it meant to Greece, this match. I won’t be the only punter around who who will smack my head against the wall for not taking a cheeky bet on them to do something. Everyone of their players fought for everything. Samaras looked like a world beater yesterday. Russia couldn’t get the ball off him, the Greek providing an offensive outlet and holding on to the ball when it was necessary to relieve the pressure.
Don’t think I can go any further without mentioning Karagounis. The Greek captain and possibly made Greek God today by his people. Determination, passion and ingenuity. Karagounis had them all. He will miss the next game due to a silly booking. Silly from the referee and not him. The referee thought he dived for a penalty inside the box but replay proved him wrong. That proceeded with a 6 minute of continuous frustration showed by the victim to the referee. I certainly wouldn’t put it past them for another surprise in the knockout phase.
Moving on to tonight’s games and it’s Group B. Germany are already in the quarters and question remains whether they will still field their first choice line-up for this match. Surely match time will be given to the likes of a few like Klose and Kroos. Having seen who the qualifiers from Group A are, I wondered whether Joachim Loew has a different thinking today compared to yesterday. Greece is an unpredictability which no one will like to have.
As for their opponents, Denmark, this is a chance to prove the belong among the big boys. A good opening win over Holland gave them a fighting chance and was just unlucky to lose out to Portugal in a thrilling match. All this while Eriksen has been misfiring, if he comes back into form, Denmark will look twice as good as they are now. Imagine that. I don’t see Denmark winning this game and their progress is very well determined by the other game.
The other game being that of Holland v Portugal. The Dutch has zero points and the discontentment that is coming out from the camp only serves to make matters worse. A Dutch side with squad disharmony is nothing new and in so many ways remains a big mystery why something which is known, is not solved. They need the points tonight and they will look to put out a more attacking line-up. 4-4-2 seemed to work for them when chasing the game against Germany. Perhaps a chance to see Hunterlaar in tandem with van Persie rather than one over the other.
Portugal are one of the teams which has surprised me. They looked very solid in the first two games. A comfortable backline with a combative midfield and wide attackers with genuine pace. Yet, they lack a real striker who could make them favourites. Postiga has stopped being the solution for years but is still the main man. Varela has been the bright spots each time he has played. The country and the tournament is still waiting for their record breaking Real Madrid start to start playing for real. I just hope that won’t start tonight.
Enjoy the games.