Saturday, June 14, 2008

Crunch time at the Euro's

Crunch time at the Euros.
As we approach the end of the 2nd round of fixtures at the European Championships we can now see where the tasty games will be in the closing round of the group stage. In every group there is still something to play, whether that is pride or top spot in the group the Euro’s has thrown up a tremendous last round of games. I will have a look at the pick of the games from each group as we look forward to some nervy encounters before we head to the quarter finals.
Group A: Czech Republic V Turkey
This is going to be a good one, both sides are level on points and on goals meaning that if this is a draw we will have penalties to decide who will go through, something which is unprecedented as far as my memory goes. Both teams haven’t performed to their full potential in their previous two games, albeit one of those against Portugal who have been in tip top form. In the other games both sides struggled to dispatch the Swiss and were in fact lucky to come away with a win in both cases. Switzerland can feel hard done by that they aren’t still in the race to qualify but as any manager will tell you every side needs an element of luck.
I have been quiet impressed with some of the play from Turkey who play some nice football and did well to adapt to the aquatic conditions in their last game showing that they have a lot of desire to stay in this competition because they really had to fight hard to get the three points against the Swiss. The last gasp goal shows that they keep going right until the end which is always important and could be vital if it goes to penalties against the Czechs.
As for the Czech side I have been under whelmed by them so far, I expected them to give Portugal a real test the other day and it never really happened. Against the Swiss they took one of only a few chances they created and look to be struggling. It is a much changed side from the last European Championships and it looks as though this tournament has come too soon for the young squad who are missing their regular captain Thomas Rosicky through injury whilst still coming to terms with the departure of Paval Nedved.
As such I have no choice but to back Turkey to come through this game one way or another although it will be very, very tight.
If you fancy Turkey or the Czechs to go through click football betting.
Group B: Germany V Austria
Now I have chosen this one because of the potential it has with these two sides contesting it. One of them are the favourites for this tournament and the others are the hosts who finds themselves ranked behind Mozambique. This is a tie for the romantics out there, for those of us who enjoy the FA Cup because it always throws up a shock and there would be no bigger shock than if Austria beat Germany.
The Austrian’s can count themselves lucky to still be in the tournament after that injury time penalty against Poland but this could be their stage to shine. With the home crowd behind them they have a chance, a slim one, of beating the Germans and qualifying for the next round. But to be honest Austria are going to need to have a very good day whilst the Germans don’t turn up. Lets face it though Austria are not the best team in the world, they have frailties at the back and going forward. It could happen though, who would bet against Robert Linz grabbing the winner to send one of the hosts through.
Well the Germans will be the ones betting on themselves to come through this encounter and if they play to only half their potential then they should come through this game easily. The likes of Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski will be looking to fill their boots with goals whilst Jen Lehmann will be hoping for a quiet evening. Any arrogance from the Germans could spell trouble though because you get the impression that the mark as favourites had gone to their heads. The game against Croatia should have brought them back down with a bump.
As such I’m going to have to go with Germany to qualify, despite all my urges to pick Austria I just can’t see the home nations causing the upset.
Group C: France v Italy
Its not everyday you get a repeat of the World Cup final, although if you French or Italian you may be becoming sick of seeing these two sides play each other after both came through the same qualifying group as well. Now they meet in a game which could be considered to be as important as any of their other previous meetings. Neither side will want to leave the tournament at the first hurdle but one of them will have to. In fact both could be knocked out if Romania beat Holland but this will be the game to focus on.
France have been to cagey for my liking since arriving at the Euro’s, they still insist on playing two holding midfielders when there is no need. That tactic has already cost them once against Romania when you felt that if France had just attacked a little bit more they might have got something from the game. As it has been pointed out the French have an aging squad, you imagine this will be the last tournament for the likes of Lillian Thuram and Claude Makelele and it is beginning to show that they can no longer cut it on the international stage. Even Thierry Henry is starting to show some signs that he isn’t as sharp as he use to be. As such the squad is mixed bunch of has-beens and players who aren’t ready to take to the international stage yet.
The Italians are having their own problems with age after playing the oldest ever team to compete in the finals against Holland. Since then they have looked a bit better, they certainly gave Romania more of a test than the French did. Having said that they would be out if it wasn’t for Gianlughi Buffon’s penalty save this game wouldn’t mean as much. The Italians do seem to lack that confidence in their own ability without a sturdy defence, you no longer get the sense that if Italy went 1-0 up they would see out the match easily.
Having said that I still fancy the Italians to do it and take the three points they need, whether they qualify though is a different matter with Romania in the driving seat for second spot.
Group D: Sweden V Russia
Again this will be the decider for who gets the final spot in the next round after both sides saw off Greece but lost out to Spain. I don’t imagine this one will be particularly pretty compared with some of the football we have seen. Both sides are strong and technically are very good. But they lack a bit of flair and as such I think that whoever goes through won’t get any further than the quarter finals.
Having said that Sweden should never be underestimated and are unlucky not be a point ahead of Russia going into this game after narrowly losing to Spain. Sweden may have an aging team, having to call back Henrik Larsson does smack of desperation slightly and really Lars Lagerback should be building towards the future rather than trying to recapture the past. The Swede’s still work well as an outfit and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front there is always a chance he will conjure something out of nothing.
As for the Russian’s well they are working towards the future with their domestic game getting cash injections left, right and centre a lot can be expected of Russia in years to come. Their current squad is fairly young and this will be a good test of how far Russian football has come with all but one of their squad plying their trade in their home country. The return of Andrei Arshavin will be a big boost after he missed the two opening fixtures through suspension.
Despite Arshavin’s return I can’t see them getting past an experienced Swedish side who still posses that little bit of extra quality to see them through.
If you want to bet on any of the games mentioned click football betting and enjoy the tournament.

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