Euro 2008: Better Than World Cup 2006 So Far
I’ve finally had a chance to catch up on watching some of the Euro 2008 matches I missed. The jet lag hit me later in the week, so I found myself watching many of the games this week at weird hours on DVR.The one thing about football is that it can be so subjective. Earlier in the week, I found myself watching the 1-0 Croatia win against Austria game on the giant screen TV at the FanZone in Zurich. To me, Croatia looked like a very hard working team in the first half who were playing some wonderful football. Especially impressive was Ivica Olic, the Croat striker who plays for Hamburg, who was a workhouse throughout the game putting in an incredible performance. If ever there was a player who would do well in the Premier League, Olic is it.In their game against Austria, Croatia changed their tactics in the second half, which allowed Austria to press forward more. And it was the Austrians who impressed me, putting to bed all the fears about them being the worst team in the tournament.So I was surprised when I returned to the States and was hearing and reading the comments about Croatia looking weak in their first match. Against Germany, the Croats showed their true strength in their 2-1 win and it’s now Germany — many people’s favorites to win Euro 2008 — who risk getting knocked out of the tournament depending what happens in their final match against Austria.The other thing I found surprising when I returned to the States was the perception among many that this has been a boring tournament thus far. Sure, it’s easier to enjoy the atmosphere and games when you’re experiencing them in Switzerland, but still, the tournament to me has been one of the most exciting football events in quite some time, even more so than World Cup 2006. The France against Romania nil-nil match was horrible, but aside from that, I’ve enjoyed all of the other matches.Speaking of Romania, their 1-1 draw against Italy on Friday was a brilliant match to watch. So much goalmouth action with balls hitting the post or goalkeepers pulling off incredible saves. Buffon’s penalty save, too, was amazing to watch. Romania could have easily won the match in the first half, while Italy showed in this game their masterful technical touches — beautiful flicks, excellent ball control, deft passes and wonderful creativity — something which is desperately lacking in the Premier League and on the England national team.Italy, though, has to feel cheated by the goal that was ruled offside. On replay, it’s clear that the goal should have counted. But when I watched it in real-time, it looked to me to be offside, so I empathize why the referee and assistant referee thought the whistle should have been blown for offside.I’ve been writing about how impressed I’ve been about Holland since Monday and they completely blew me away again on Friday with their 4-1 win against France. In fairness, the French are to blame for this scoreline as they had plenty of chances to score. Just as in the match against Italy, the Dutch took full advantage of the chances they had with their clinical finishing.While Holland and Croatia continue to impress, Portugal can be added to that list. In their first game against Turkey, I thought the Portugese looked very entertaining with Pepe, especially, being a revelation. Portugal also looked breathtaking in the 3-1 win over Czech Republic. So far this tournament, the Czechs have done very little to impress me.For all of the bad press Austria got from the pundits and their own fans before the tournament started, I’ve been more impressed by the Austrians than Switzerland. Austria deserved to get the 1-1 draw against Poland earlier this week, and the penalty decision by Howard Webb, I believe, was a correct one.Speaking of Switzerland, the national team was dealt a cruel blow when Alex Frei was injured in their 0-1 loss to Czech Republic. But in the Swiss 2-1 loss to Turkey, it was Turkey’s Arda Turan who was the relevation. The Galatasaray winger scored two beautiful goals. The first, a beautifully taken header, and the second was an amazing shot in the last minute of the game, which will be one of the goals of the tournament.The one group I haven’t had a chance to watch so far this tournament is Group D because I was traveling throughout the day on Tuesday and missed Spain‘s demolition of Russia and the entertaining game between Sweden and Greece. I’m looking forward to seeing those matches on Saturday.