Monday, June 23, 2008

Euro Final 4

Euro 2008 has been a pretty exciting tournament so far. Several of the pre-tournament favorites have already gone home, but I'm hoping Spain can now get shod of their deserved label of underachievers and go on to win it. I've been a big fan of European football for a while, and we've seen some of the best (and worst...Turkey is the new Greece) football in this tournament. Despite the anti-football that Turkey play, they have somehow managed to get through to the semi-finals where they face a somewhat inconsistent, but powerful German side that will be brimming with confidence after throwing Cristy Ronaldo and his fellow Portuguese ballroom dancers to the curb - a beautiful site for this Liverpool fan.

The other semi will see Spain take on the tournament's other over-achieving side in Guus Hiddink's Russia. The Dutch master Hiddink is probably not the most popular figure in his native Netherlands after knocking his compatriots, Marco van Basten's "Oranje", out of the tournament in the quarterfinals. For those who are familiar with world footy, I suppose it's no surprise that Hiddink has led yet another relative underdog into the final stages of a major tournament. The big surprise was the Dutch capitulation to Russia after a blistering start to the tournament. The Netherlands easily won the tournament's "group of death", spanking both the current World Cup holders and runners-up, Italy and France, respectively, by a combined score of 7-1. After their second string cruised past Romania 2-0, the Oranje looked unstoppable.

And yet, Hiddink's Russians looked the more confident team, especially in extra time, and went on to win 3-1 to book place in the semis. Their opponents, Spain, took all of extra time and penalties to knock Italy out last night. It was a deserved win - Spain was the only team trying to win the match in regulation, as Italy was content to sit back and defend (it's what Italians do, after all) - and I'll be pretty excited to see how the Spaniards fare against Russia. Spain has looked very confident in all of their matches so far, and with the largest contingent of Liverpool players, they're definitely my favorites for the trophy. I do wish Aragones would quit pulling Torres off in the second half of every match. I realize David Villa is the tournament's leading scorer, but Torres has a knack for creating goals out of nothing, and Spain could've used him last night in extra time.

Well, that was a nice break from our usual more serious subject matter. I'll try to continue posting my thoughts as the tournament progresses.

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