Was it just me, or did you all also get a sense of déjà vu when watching today’s action from Group B? I felt like I was witnessing yesterday’s games all over again.
• Both yesterday’s first game and today’s first game ended 1-0, and yesterday’s second game and today’s second game both ended 2-0.
• Co-host Switzerland played first yesterday and controlled the balance of play against their opponent, the Czech Republic, but couldn’t manage to equalize despite their best efforts. Co-host Austria played first today and the same conditions applied; they dominated Croatia for large periods of the game and had their chances to score, but just couldn’t put anything on the board. In both cases, the favorites were outplayed but still won.
• Portugal and Germany, trendy picks to go far in this tournament, struggled to put their lesser opposition away in the second games of the day. They both won 2-0, but neither looked particularly convincing in doing so. Portugal didn’t offer much going forward at times, and Germany gave up plenty of possession and several chances (mostly from long range).
Austria came out to play this afternoon against Croatia, starting the game in an aggressive 3-5-2 formation with the outside center backs going forward whenever the opportunity presented itself.
They certainly looked lively and energetic, but René Aufhauser went a bit too far in the 4th minute when he took down the stocky Ivica Olic inside the box. It was clearly a penalty kick, and the ironic thing is that Olic wasn’t really in a position to cause much trouble and Aufhauser had no reason to get tangled up in that challenge. New Tottenham signing Luka Modric slotted home the penalty — the fastest converted in the history of the European Championships — and at that point, the only question looked to be how many goals would Croatia score in the game.
Croatia continued to control the game for the next 15 minutes or so but generated very little in their attacking third. Mladen Petric had Croatia’s best chance for the rest of the game midway through the first half when he was wide open on the left side about 15 yards from goal and settled down a cross with his body, but completely wasted it when he blasted the bouncing ball high and well wide.
Austria’s players, to their credit, didn’t hang their heads or back down whatsoever. After Petric’s miss, it was pretty much all Austria all the time. Martin Harnik was dangerous on the right side up front all game and laid some nice horizontal passes for onrushing Austrian midfielders, but they couldn’t get much on goal.
Josef Hickersberger’s three second-half substitutions all had an impact on the game for Austria, and the co-hosts continued to try and ram down the Croatian door. The tournament’s oldest player, 38-year old Ivica Vastic, was dangerous alongside the creative Andreas Ivanschitz in the center of midfield. Croatia had little answer for the Austrian onslaught except to sit 9 and 10 men behind the ball and send it long down field whenever they could.