EURO 2008 Match Preview
I have a new name in my house. I have now been dubbed the Spectre of Football Death by my partner after my two stunning Quarter Finals failures. She is now highly concerned as her favourites are playing today and tomorrow, so to prevent myself suffering some sort of domestic incident, I have promised to not make any predictions at all for the rest of Euro 2008. I tend to think it’s safer that way for my general health!So who anticipated that finish last night? I have to say I was shell shocked to be honest, I could not understand what on earth I had just witnessed when Turkey equalised in the last second of extra time. After that body blow, it was no surprise at all that Croatia succumbed under the pressure that the penalty kicks brought to Bilic’s side. All power to Turkey though, once again, they were dead and buried and survived. So far in the Euro’s they have only been ahead for two and half minutes of football, yet are now in the semi final. Incredible.Well we’ve a cracking game in prospect this evening and the sub plot of a Dutch manager going against his home nation. Gus Hiddink is surely one of the greatest coaches in the modern era at both domestic and international level; his record is beyond belief across the whole spectrum of footballing competition. A superb tactician of the attacking game, Hiddink loves his times to play a high tempo attacking football and has created the best Russian side in a generation and leading a fourth country to the knock phase of an international competition in ten years which solidifies his reputation as probably the best manager in the world currently employed at any level. He has already declared that this game will be a special moment for him citing his good relationships with several of the Dutch squad and staff. I doubted the influence the return of Ashavin would have on the Russian side, but he was outstanding, ripping Sweden apart with the range of passing he possesses, a superb 90 minute performance from the playmaker and the key dangerman to Holland tonight. If anyone can win the game for Russia, it’s Arshavin.Whilst Hiddink is a managerial legend, No one can doubt the abilities of one the world’s greatest ever centre forwards. Marco van Basten was simply one of the greatest players I ever saw live and his prowess as striker was immeasurable between 86 and 92. Having already announced in February that he would be leaving his post as the Dutch manager to return to the club he made his name at, Ajax, Van Basten possibly came into this tournament free of any of the stresses of his fellow managers. Yet, Holland’s performances coming into the finals had been patchy, the 4-3 friendly victory over Austria when finding themselves 3-0 being a case in point, but since their first game against Italy on June 9th, the Dutch have blown everyone away with their fantastic attacking football.They smashed Italy, thrashed France and then comfortably beat Romania 2-0, their nemesis in qualifying, who came away with 4 points in the group clashes. Instead of the bitty, messy performances of the last World Cup, a new, fast flowing, counter attacking football has mesmerised everyone who has watched them. Van der Vaart, Sneijder and Kuyt have formed a dynamic mix with Van Nistelrooy up front. Engelaar has been a revelation, prowling the defensive midfield role, Boulahrouz looks like a different player and words cannot do judgement to what he must be feeling today.Holland will tonight be wearing black armbands in honour of Boulahrouz and the death of his daughter this week from complications, yet he will start tonight’s game, telling van Basten “I am a footballer and ready to play on Saturday.” Lets hope tonight we have a real feast of football and spare a thought for Khalid Boulahrouz and his family tonight.