And then there were eight
I really should quit prediction scores for football games but I won’t because I love it! I do however wish football fans wouldn’t take predictions so seriously considering no-one; not the even the coach of a team nor a player could ever predict a score accurately every time.
In fact I’m sure very many pundits across the world, including former Newcastle goalkeeper Shaka Hyslop and former Polish-American defender Yanusz Michallik, got many predictions wrong and they are some of the most respected pundits in the world. Both, just like me, predicted that the Netherlands would progress to the quarterfinals along with Germany in group B.
All the Dutch needed on the final day was to beat Portugal and they would have succeeded. The Dutch had the pedigree and have a good record internationally having reached the final of the last Fifa World Cup, so why wouldn’t they proceed. As it clearly panned out though, the team lacked the one most important factor in a football team – team-work.
Clearly the coach had his players who he felt had to play regardless of their form; not to mention rumours of ego clashes in the side. The frustration in their final match against Portugal was evident which is probably why they lost out. Each big player felt he could take the ball all the way into the net himself; and that lack of team-work cost them.
In complete recognition of their achievement though, Portugal were fantastic on the night. Cristiano Ronaldo showed why he is one of the best players in the world and delivered for his country when they needed him most.
Germany’s qualification was no surprise; in fact if I were to make a fresh prediction now, I would bank on them taking the title! They have certainly been playing more convincing football than any other team; including the defending champions Spain. Germany were in the “group of death” and yet they managed to come out as the only team to progress on 9 points!
Spain meanwhile were always going to qualify for the quarters, but their draw with Italy and single goal against Croatia was not impressive. I was also not impressed by their performance against the Republic of Ireland who became the whipping boys of Group C. That said: Spain has always peaked half way through big tournaments. They lost their opening game at World Cup 2010 and went on to win the tournament. I am really looking forward to their match against France on Saturday because I believe the real Spain is about to “stand up!”
Even though I say Spain started off slowly, there is no ignoring that Italy have been in fine form. They refused to be bullied by Spain and a draw against a strong Croatian side wasn’t bad. Croatia came close to qualifying and perhaps this too should have been a “group of death!”
Many pundits predicted that Russia would progress. They started off firing four behind The Czech republic and I certainly felt that they would go far in this tournament. They reached the semis in 2008 and that opening day performance was as convincing as ever! But alas their victims on Day one is still standing today. The Czech woke up that day and never lost a point since. They deserve to be here.
Greece surprised the whole world by winning Euro 2004 and they shocked many by reaching the quarters this time around. They play clever football; football that simply ensures a result. They don’t need to be fancy; they don’t have big superstars, but they work hard and smart. They also have belief! It worked 8 years ago, it might just work again. Unfortunately they meet Germany next so I believe it will be the end of the road for them.
France and England were the last two teams to qualify for the last eight; both unconvincingly. Ukraine completely dominated that final match against England but we unlucky not to score; and Wayne Rooney; even though he got the goal; took a while to settle down.
France on the other hand are just lucky that England did the business for them. Something just isn’t clicking in the French side and meeting Spain; who I can tell are about to peek; next, will be tough. Les Bleues should probably join Greece by packing their bags before the game.
I hope I won’t have to eat my words on any predictions made today but I do congratulate all teams who managed to be part of the "Last Eight Standing!"