Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Euro 2008 - Update 1

All the teams have played their first matches.

The Group A matches went as expected. Portugal beat Turkey in a very physical match, and the Czech Republic beat co-hosts Switzerland. During the latter match, Swiss player, Alexander Frei, of German club Borussia Dortmund, left with a knee injury that will forces him out of the competition.

The Group B matches Croatia beat co-hosts Austria when Luka Modric drove home a penalty kick granted when Rene Aufhauser committed a foul in the box against Ivica Olic. Germany beat Poland again, without having to march through Warsaw this time. The two goals scored for Germany were made by Lukas Podolski, who was born in Poland. I think there's a Rodney Dangerfield line in there somewhere.

Group C is the Group of Death, matching-up Italy, France, Netherlands, and Romania. The last of the four, Romania, sounds as though they should be the first to be knocked out of the competition; but, in a stunningly boring match they held-on to draw 0-0 with France and sit in second place for the time being. The Italy v Netherlands match was marred by very poor officiating that turned the match (which was one of the premier match-ups) into a bit of a drag. Ruud van Nistelrooj was clearly off-side when he scored The Netherlands' first goal. The tone of the match changed and the momentum shifted wholly towards the Orange. Italy was clearly frustrated through the match and Edwin van der Sar was superb in goal, stopping all of Italy's shots. The other goals were scored by the handsome Wesley Sneijder, who plays club football for Real Madrid, and one of my all-time fave, Giovanni van Bronckhorst (late of my Arsenal).

Officials insist the first goal was allowed correctly and that van Nistelrooj was on-side because an Italian player was laying injured off the field past the goal-line. A questionable analysis, at best.

In Group D, Spain made easy work of Russia, and showed that they may be the most technically proficient team in the tournament. Four goals scored and all the result of a team operating like a well-oiled machine. The 4-1 result does not describe the extent to which Spain outclassed Russia, it the match was never that close! Sweden beat reigning-champions Greece in a match that showed the Scandinavian side to be much stronger than I anticipated.

Led by Freddie Ljungberg, this surprisingly effective side also includes European stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrik Larsson, Niclas Alexandersson, and Olof Mellberg. They might be the best team after Spain.

I originally predicted that Portugal and The Netherlands would be the team to watch, but I am happier watching Spain and Sweden!

The groups look like this, going into today's round:

Group A
Czech Republic

Group B

Group C

Group D

You can see complete coverage at ESPN and BBC.

All matches are broadcast in the United States by Disney affiliates ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, and/or ABC. I plan to see every single match. Even if it means missing hours of sleep each night!

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