Still too tough to call
As every international tournament progresses it gets easier and easier to predict what will happen and how it will all end. The men begin to be separated from the boys and the outcome is pretty obvious. But not in the Uefa Euro 2012™.
Even though Germany still looks like the team to beat; we all know what Spain can do on a good day. We saw what Italy can do and Portugal was on fire in their quarterfinal against The Czech Republic.
Christiano Ronaldo may appear to be like a one-man show but he isn’t. He can’t be or Portugal would not have reached the semis. Ronaldo would not have had all those opportunities to score if he didn’t have a great team behind him. Players like Raul Meireles, Nani, Joao Moutinho and many others impressed too to ensure that Portugal found themselves in the semis.
I had not banked on Portugal getting this far but I was revisiting their World Cup 2010 form. Clearly they have improved in leaps and bounds and are now a force to reckon with in Europe once again. To be part of the last four standing in a European competition is a big achievement in any language. And with the quality of football we have seen up until now; even great teams have gone home.
We have not yet seen the best of Spain I believe. We saw glimpses of their “star” power when they thrashed Ireland 4-0 in the group stage but given that Ireland was a weak opponent, it doesn’t really country. The truth is that Spain can play like that against bigger sides; we just haven’t seen them do it yet in these Euros. But game after game they have ground out the results. France sadly just didn’t turn up to the party in the quarters so I’m not sure how much credit to give Vicente Del Bosque’s side.
When Spain and Portugal meet on Wednesday we can expect fireworks. Already Spain has said how they will mark Ronaldo until he is unable to play. That really is the secret but I hope we can see some great football in the process. Still it’s hard to say what will happen.
Germany have been on fire! But they always are during major tournaments and then they tend to falter at the final hurdle. I remember watching them going all the way to the final in the 2002 World Cup; only to lose to Brazil in the final. In 2006 and 2010 they ended the Worldwide competition in third place. In Euro 2008 they reached the final, only to lose to Spain. So near yet so far but always playing impressive football.
The Germans showed in their 4-2 victory over Greece last week that they can score four even without their current top striker Mario Gomez on the pitch. There is a great mix of old and new and they work well together. (Perhaps Arsene Wenger can learn something from Joachim Leow but that’s personal)
Germany will want to meet Spain in the final to revenge for 2008 but will they?
Well they have that small tie called a semi against Italy to get by first. Again Italy is one of the big European sides who have not performed to the best of their ability. In the field they have a near perfect game against England; holding the ball and creating chances; but they failed in that very important little thingy called scoring a goal! If you look at the statistics of that game I would again ask whether the winner deserves credit or the loser just didn’t turn up.
England were not good on Sunday at all. They kept losing the ball and if they didn’t have such a great keeper in Joe Hart and pretty decent defenders, all would have been lost a lot sooner than the penalty shootout time. I don’t want to be too harsh on the English because I actually think Roy Hodgson did a lot better than expected and he certainly has a good side to build up; but against Italy, it would have been such an injustice if they had won the penalty shootout.
So back to Italy and yes they do deserve credit because they are in the semifinals of a really challenging tournament. I won’t even go into the cheekiness of Andrea Pirlo’s goal not to mention his performance during the entire game; but I will say; Italy has a chance against Germany. Many teams tend to step up just enough to conquer their opponents and I think Italy could do that on Thursday. Do I think they’ll beat Germany? No! But I don’t believe it will be a Deutsche walk-over either.
So four great sides against each other; some seemingly with an advantage over the other and yet I still say: “It’s too tough to call.”