Friday, June 13, 2008

Earning the (re) cap: The Croatian surge

Photo: Croatia's Ivica Olic (right) celebrates with teammate Luka Modric after scoring his team's second goal against Germany Thursday. (Photo from The Daily Mail).

Breaking down Day Six of the European Championships...

Match XI: Croatia 2, Germany 1

A reasonably shocking defeat for the Germans, given their marvelous form against Poland and Croatia's struggles against Austria. Still, Croatia is a strong side, and one many thought could cause an upset or two coming in. Fortunately for the Germans, the draw between Austria and Poland means they're still in prime position to advance: they only require a draw against the Austrians to advance. Unfortunately for them, Croatia's already clinched Group B (the first tie-breaker is head-to-head results), so it looks like they're slotted in to face Portugal in the quarter-finals. That will certainly be an interesting match.

- "Germany does some soul-searching" (The Associated Press, via The Globe and Mail).

Match XII: Poland 1, Austria 1

This turned out to be a pretty decent clash, with both sides going for it. Austria had most of the early chances, but Poland's Brazilian import Roger Guerreiro then scored on a counterattack that may have been offside, and it looked like the hosts would be doomed to play well without a result again. Fortunately for them, things changed in extra time when Poland's Mariusz Lewandowski dragged down Sebastian Proedl in the box and English referee Howard Webb pointed to the spot. 38-year-old Ivica Vastic stepped up and converted the penalty, making him the oldest player ever to score in the European championships. It will likely mean everything and nothing at the same time: yes, Austria will probably bow out against the Germans in their next match, but they proved that they deserve to be on the same pitch as these other teams, something even their fans doubted before the tournament. Their country has much to be proud of, even if their team doesn't advance further.

- John Doyle's column on the game [The Globe and Mail]
- UEFA supports Webb's decision to award the penalty [Reuters via The Globe and Mail]
- Duane's thoughts on the match [Out of Left Field]

On tap today

Match XIII: Italy vs. Romania (Kick-off: 12:00 p.m. ET)

This should be another good one. Italy will be looking to rebound after their 3-0 loss to the Netherlands, while the Romanians will try to shut them down defensively the way they neutralized France. Interestingly, according to Gerry Dobson on the pre-game show, Italy have the oldest team in the tournament (average age: 31 years, 52 days). It could be close, but my prediction is for offence to beat defence.

Prediction: Italy 2, Romania 1

Match XIV: France vs. the Netherlands (Kick-off: 2:45 p.m. ET)
Can the Dutch maintain their winning brand of offensive football against the tough French defence? Does France have more left in the tank than they've shown so far? These, and other burning questions, will be answered on the pitch.

Prediction: The Netherlands 2, France 1

Related tournament pieces
- Mike's thoughts on the diving going on [The view from the Woods]
- Amrit's take on the tournament so far. [There Is No Original Name For This Sports Blog]
- A preview of today's matches [Soccer By Ives].
- All the usual greatness over at On Soccer [The Globe and Mail]
- Stephen Brunt [The Globe and Mail], Cathal Kelly [The Toronto Star] and Morris Dalla Costa [SLAM! Sports] weigh in on the Italian press conference yesterday.
- David Hirshey and Roger Bennett with their always-interesting take over at ESPN's Page 2 [Two-Footed Tackle]
- Cathal Kelly's usual hilarious tales over on his blog [Star Sports Blog]
- Vastic's goal for Austria won him a lifetime supply of free beer [ESPN Soccernet]. If you can't win the whole tournament, that's a pretty sweet consolation prize!

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