Due to spending the past eight mornings from 9 am to around 2 pm watching this immensely enjoyable tournament (except this game), I figured I’d give my thoughts on how the last games in group play will shape up.
Czech Republic v. Poland
I don’t think the Czech team has played that well. Definitely not as strong looking as their ’06 World Cup team. Poland will have the home crowd with them and will want to try and impress. I think that they might be able to do well against this team. Will either end in a high draw (2-2) or Poland will win (2-1)
Greece v. Russia
Russia has been surprisingly good (at least in this lackluster group) so I can see them winning rather easily. Probably not a high-scoring match due to Greece wanting to sit back in the box on defense but they’ll be able to sneak at least one or two in.
Russia 2 – 0
Group A Results: Russia wins the group, Poland advances due to tie or win.
Post-game edit: Well that’s some bullshit. Czech Republic played hard and played well and deserved their win. Very sad that the Russians are heading home and the Greeks are advancing, undeserving in my mind (and that of every non-Greek soccer fan out there).
Denmark v. Germany
Germany is in wonderful form and playing exciting soccer. They devastated a very talented Dutch side and even made it look like fun. I think Germany should have a win here but the Danes have come on strong in this Group of Death and could provide a tough match. They need the win to advance as well as beat Portugal on goal differential. That’s a pretty hard task but it’s possible.
Germany 2 – 1
Portugal v. Netherlands
The Dutch have been playing very un-Dutch like and it’s been disappointing to watch. The frontline has been playing as individuals and could learn a thing or two from re-watching how the English and French played on Friday. Benzema and Ribery provided space, passing, and threats on the defense and on the England side there was a wonderful performance from Carroll, Walcott, and Welbeck. Both those teams played as teams and the Dutch need to get that back if they want to at least go home with their heads held high. On the Portugal side, Ronaldo will want to try and redeem his imperfect international showing so far and has talented support. They’ve been playing well but not great. The Dutch, if they get frustrated, will start playing more rough than usual which can play into the Portuguese hands as they tend to go down at the merest tap of a finger. It will depend on the ref and their tolerance for diving if the Portuguese will get big breaks when the Dutch start playing hard (either in frustration or motivation).
Results I would like: Netherlands 3 – 0
What it will likely be: Portugal 3 – 1
Group B Results: Germany tops the group, Portugal advances; I would prefer the Danish to advance but that’s my bias.
Post-game edit: Germany and Denmark played a strong game and the Germans get to advance. Unfortunately, in the second game, the Dutch deserved to lose with their low quality played and, due to how the stats play out, Portugal gets to advance. So Czech Rep. vs Portugal and Germany vs Greece now. Hopefully, Germany will beat the Greeks 10 -0 and say “That’s for the destroying the Euro”.
Croatia v. Spain
Spain will be Spain. I love that even in a big deal tournament like this they still want to do their “intellectual” soccer experiments like playing only midfielders and no strikers. I don’t love that they like to dive every now and then and this won’t bode well card-wise for the tough-playing Croatians. Croatia has looked solid throughout and I think they could really surprise the Spaniards. As everyone has told Spain, 99% possession doesn’t win games, goals do. If Torres has his confidence back due to his two goals in this last game, he could be a real threat along with the myriad other threats on the team. Croatia could pull a Chelsea though and play hard defense with swift counter attacks. It seems to work against the Spanish style of play (or at least Barcelona style, which they’re attempting).
High-scoring game: Spain 3 -2; Defense game: Spain 2 – 0
Italy v. Ireland
I really don’t know what to say here. I would love for Spain and Croatia to both advance but that’s not how the cards have fallen. Italy will win this. The Irish team has played well on every level except one: goalkeeping. The Irish goalkeeper seems inexperienced and makes silly moves compared to the other professional keepers in the tournament. The Irish defense is solid enough but they need a keeper that does his job well to support them when the Italians do get through. I don’t see the Irish strikers being much of a threat against the Italian defense. I can only hope that some crazy Irish magic takes place and they tie Italy.
Italy 3 – 0
Group C Results: Spain will top the group, Italy will advance. I would prefer Croatia but so it goes.
Post-game edit: Croatia was hungry to win this game and played well. Somehow, Spain seemed to be sleepwalking through the match and even when they were near goal only a few people were close by to take shots or pick up ricochets. Hopefully, they’ll be much more hungry in the next match. Ireland played a wonderful defense match against an Italy that was all over the place. “All over place” could probably also mean “all over the pitch” as every time an Italian player was breathed on they fell to the ground. Ireland tried to make the most of it but a ref that never called anything their way, flopping diving Italians, and having a poor goalkeeper (that costs them their first goal) really stood in the way. They didn’t want to pull the trigger despite excellent chances in the first half and more than made up for it with a strong showing in the Italy half in the second. Balotelli came through for Italy in the end with a second, deserved, goal and was very un-Balotelli-like afterward – quiet and composed. Spain advances to play the Group D runner-up and Italy to play the Group D winner. It would be wonderful to have a France-Italy match up again.
England v. Ukraine
If England play like they played Friday against Sweden (the good parts) then they will win against Ukraine. It would be quite a story to see Ukraine somehow overcome England (and, remember, it is England we’re talking about) to advance further but I think they’ll be in good spirits from this victory and the younger talent they have on the field has shown a lot more hunger than was let on in the France game. I’m not a Liverpool fan but I like watching Andy Carroll play. Ashley Johnson, Walcott, and Welbeck all put it out on the field and I admire that. They will get goals and then some. It won’t be a blowout but it will be a respectable loss for Ukraine. If England doesn’t pull an England and don’t play up to their potential (which can always happen after a win like this). England to me is like my alma mater’s basketball team (but without the winning record) — sometimes they get too high on their on victories, overconfident, and let lesser teams win with stupid points.
England 2 – 0
Sweden v. France
Les Bleus played well today against Ukraine. Lots of threats, great teamwork, great passing. They’ll do well against this (I hate to say it) paltry Swedish team and win.
France 3 – 0
Group D Results: France at the top, England in second
Post-game Edit: The England – Ukraine match was great. The Sweden-France result was very disappointing but glad the Swedes get to go out with their heads up after their run in the group stage.