Monday, June 23, 2008

From thrills and spills to bore and snore

Euro 2008.
After three exciting quarter finals we were last night presented with possibly the most boring spectacle of the tournament so far. Even France against Romania was probably more thrilling that what we witnessed on Sunday evening. I have lost all respect for the Italians after they refused to come out and play football, deciding to revert to a style you would normally associate with lower league football in England. Before the match had begun I had tried to remain open minded about who I wanted to win, both sides had given us some exciting games in the group stages and I thought that we could have a classic contest on our hands. Instead we were put through the rigger of a stalemate with only the inevitable excitement of penalties keeping me awake.

I have made sure to watch every quarter final all the way through and the closest I had come before last night to channel surfing had been during the Turkey against Croatia game but even then I hung on to see the most dramatic of finishes between those two sides. Looking back now I would rather watch that game all over again rather than be put through Spain V Italy. One of my pet peeves in football has to be sides that sit back and defend for the majority of the game whilst hoping to knick a goal to win it from a dead ball situation. Head this way for another pet peeve of mind.
That’s exactly what Italy tried to do yesterday evening leading me to draw a comparison between them and Bolton Wanderers. Italy are known for their defensive strengths but what Roberto Donadoni did on Sunday night was apply the shackles to his side in the hope they could prevent Spain getting anywhere near Gianluigu Buffon’s goal and it worked very well. What he also did was tell his players to send long balls up to Luca Toni in the hope he would hold them up and knock them down for the Italian midfield. Only problem was this failed to work and as Toni became isolated a pattern emerged of a red Spanish waves crashing against a white Italian wall.

Watching the game on the BBC it was interesting to note Alan Shearer’s utter distain for Italy’s tactics when a lot of clubs from his home nation have started to employ them and he usually doesn’t make such harsh comments as he did yesterday. The phrase ‘the end justifies the means’ seems to have become a firm favourite with some managers these days, hence the Bolton comparison. The comment I did agree with the most from Shearer were his words after Spain had won the penalty shoot-out which were ‘a victory for football’ because Luis Aragones’ side had tried to play football. They were the on trying to wok neat one-twos through the Italian back line or trying to get around the defence. That’s not to say Spain were brilliant last night because they weren’t in any shape or form, I believe that if they had been on form they would have broken the Italian’s resolve and there would have been no need for extra time or penalties.

I was disappointed with both sides because if Italy would have pressed Spain a little more there would have been a good chance they could have broken what looked a very shaky Spanish defence. Carles Puyol and Carlos Marchena couldn’t deal with the physical presence of Toni and with a second striker alongside the powerful forward Italy may well have enjoyed some success. As it was though they decided to rely on set pieces for their chances which were few and far between despite the large amount of fouls given by the German referee. I’m not saying Donadoni’s tactics are wrong because if they had worked then no Italian fan would be complaining and in an age where winning is everything you can see why he went so defensive. At the end of the day I think there was a collective sigh of relief from most neutrals when Cesc Fabregas slide that penalty in because now we won’t have to go through the same thing over again with Italy against Russia and can instead look forward to a cracking semi-final.

As for who will win it well that is a tough call, Russia are playing football which is out of this world at the minute but Spain will have the psychological edge after beating them 4-1 in the group stages. I will stick my neck out though and go for Russia, they just look so good with Andrei Arshavin. If you think Spain will win or believe I’m right get the football odds here

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