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Euro 2008: Better Than World Cup 2006 So Far

euro2008_logo.gifI’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.

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  1. eplnfl

    June 15, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Shortly people will be asking how Sven did so well with England! Playing in Europe is not the only measure of greatness as we have all discussed. In my opinion, Sven does have more overall talent with Mexico then he did with England.

    Mexico has for along time now played down for the US but up for South American powerhouses. Sven will tactically frustrate Bradley’s offense. A foreign coach will be necessary for the US to overcome Sven’s tactical ability.

  2. Kartik

    June 15, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Mexico made the quarters in the 1986 World Cup and is far far far superior to the US in talent and skill level. Simply losing to a team as Mexico does to the US doesn’t mean in any way shape or form the US is better.

    Consider this:

    Since 2003 Mexico has beaten Brazil three times. The US has been outscored by Brazil 7-3 in meetings during the same period.

    Mexico has advanced out of the group stage at EVERY single Copa America they have been invited to. 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2007. The US only advanced out once, in 1995 and as we know turned down the invitation to the event repeatedly.

    Mexico has advanced out of the World Cup group stage seven times since 1950. The US just twice.

    Mexico can actually put its top players on top clubs in Europe.

    Even other CONCACAF nations such as Honduras (David Suazo), Costa Rica and Trinidad have had recent success putting their field players on top European clubs, but the US has not.

    We may continue to beat them in cash grab friendlies on American soil but in the real footballing universe, Mexico is a galaxy away and ahead of the US.

    I disagree with Lou though as he and I have already discussed. “Second Choice Sven” as I call him could well ruin that. He knows nothing of Mexico’s culture of football, its tactics, its domestic league. Hiring a foreign manager at this stage is risky. He’s an accomplished club manager who more or less failed with England and runs the risk of failing with Mexico.

  3. eplnfl

    June 15, 2008 at 7:55 am

    I fear Mexico with Sven. Sven has enough tricks to get by in internationals and very good talent with Mexico. Frankly, the talk of the US not qualifing is extreme, it won’t be easy, but should we book South Africa in 2010. Yes. Ok, I am prepared to eat those words and Kartik was right about the New England Rev’s.

    Our days of owning Mexico are over, but then again the US talent pool will keep on growing beyond the ability of anyone in the region to keep up. The superstar of US Soccer may still get diverted to a football field. Ok, here’s one for Kartik, what former Canes football player from the Chicago area was considered a great HS soccer player before he had to follow his dad’s footsteps and switch to Football?
    Yet, the number of of good to better than average palyers for the US will only increase. That is one reason why their is little drop off in talent for the US no matter who is on the field. Were almost all average!

  4. betsy's bolton bum baster

    June 14, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    Mexico doesn’t belong in that argument. They have never made it by the quarter-finals in a WC and the US owns them.

  5. Kartik

    June 14, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    The argument can be made. First off 16 of the 19 strongest teams in the world it can be argued are at the Euros: only Argentina, Brazil and Mexico are missing. In addition, weak sisters incapable of advancing very far like Saudi Arabia, the US and Japan don’t get a virtual “bye” due to their zonal qualifying are not included.

    However, I happen to believe the Copa America in many ways produces better football and better atmospheres than the World Cup. Sadly the club game is ruining all of these events whether you are partial to the World Cup, Euros or Copa. Guys come down run down or in the case of Kaka and Seedorf skip the events entirely leaving second choice players as go to guys, and now second choice managers such as Sven leading teams since some first choice coaches like Aguirre (who turned down Mexico) and Scolari have ditched int’l football for the club game.

    In the US the club game will never have the appeal of the international game so the changes in worldwide viewing and priorities threatens the ability of the game to continue its steady growth here in the states. That and the strong possibility that the US will not qualify for the next World Cup. We caught a break though with “Second Choice Sven” going to Mexico instead of Aguirre.

  6. eplnfl

    June 14, 2008 at 3:06 pm


    It’s always a great time taking in a major sporting event in person. It does add to the importance of the event for the individual. I went to the Outback Bowl on News Year and thought it was great and had a great time. It was maybe the 5th best of the bowl games however.(NCAA football for those who maybe visiting from outside the US)

    Euro 08 has produced some fine football especially by Holland and Portugal. Teams with something to prove. Teams who have done things in the past, Italy, France, and Germany seem less interested. Why should anyone much care about Russia, Austria, and Poland except for their fans. With ESPN now doing all the games in the US, the importance of the tournament seems to have taken on a new significance in the States.

    In reality, Euro 08 may not be the best of the regional tournaments and frankly the endless qualifications are a joke! That is not to say as stated above that we do not see some excellent football, not at all. But is this the substitute World Cup, far from it. Should the worlds sports fans not think ahead to the Summer Gamers as THE sporting event of the summer. no. Might the regional matches in South American and Asia be better overall. Yes!

    It’s good football/soccer and I able so happy to see it all on live tv in the US. It’s not world peace!

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