Sunday, June 15, 2008

Earning the (re)cap: Greece's Achilles heel

Photo: Russian midfielder Konstantin Zyryanov celebrates his goal against Greece, the only tally of the match (Photo from Shanghai Daily).

Breaking down Day Eight of the European Championships...

Match XV: Spain 2, Sweden 1

Spain got it done with an injury-time strike from David Villa, taking a 2-1 win over the Swedes. However, they weren't terribly impressive over much of the match, and some potential trouble spots materialized, especially when they were on the defensive side of the ball. As John Doyle writes at On Soccer, "Spain came out for the second half looking more lively and focused but still manged to play with terrible laidback style. Atrocious defending all over the place. They won it thanks to a very late goal from Villa, easily their best player. Now Spain is through to the quarter-finals, but I'm not liking their chances against a tough, physical team. Brunt and all the others are correct - Spain tease and disappear." I agree: Spain are likely to play impressive attacking football until the end, but their defensive shortcomings may cause them to win the "Spain Award" for underachieving yet again.

Match XVI: Russia 1, Greece 0

Well, the Greeks crashed out of the tournament yesterday with a 1-0 loss to Russia, meaning that a new European champion will be crowned this year. Greece played bravely but defensively, as usual, and it proved to not be enough now that the other teams have caught on. An unfortunate way for them to celebrate the 180th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations with Russia. Ben Knight had a funny take [On Soccer] on one of the commentators mentioning that Greece had players suffering from Achilles problems. Unfortunately for the Greeks, their real Achilles heel proved to be an over-reliance on one strategy: no one's going to be fooled twice in a row by a large wooden horse.

: Knight has another good take on Greece's elimination [On Soccer].

On tap today

Match XVII: Switzerland vs. Portugal (Kick-off: 2:45 ET)

This one doesn't mean a lot in terms of results for either side. Portugal are already through, and they should have top spot in the group locked up as well, as the first tie-breaker is head-to-head results and they've beaten both the Czechs and Turks. Switzerland's already out, but they'll be playing for pride in front of their home fans. Thus, I have to think that they'll at least get something out of it.

Prediction: Portugal 1, Switzerland 1

Match XVIII: Czech Republic vs. Turkey
(Kick-off: 2:45 ET)

This is a crucial match. Whoever wins goes through, but things get messy in the case of a draw. Using Duane's handy chart, the first five criteria don't apply (both sides have scored twice so far and allowed three goals). Thus, this would go to penalties to see who advances. It will be interesting to see if either side plays for a draw and places their hopes in a shootout, a rather likely outcome if you ask me.

Prediction: 1-1 in regular time, Czechs win on penalties due to Petr Cech's goalkeeping.

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